Thursday, 4 March 2010

What does Social Media and Marshall have in common?

One word - Amplification!

Let me explain.

I have been working with CRM for some 15 years now. During that time I have helped major clients implement what were, and in some cases still are, state-of-the-art customer management platforms. I have also seen CRM fail, and fail spectacularly for a whole host of reasons, too many to go into here. If I were to draw some kind of conclusion I would say that people still remain the key component to the success of any CRM-related initiative and in particular the cultural alignment and desire of the business in question to be truly customer-focused. Anyway, that discussion and debate is for another day along with topics which still rage; like Single Customer View and Multi-Channel. In particular, the multi-channel story is one that continues to prevail as customers find more and more ways to connect and demand information from their service providers.

It is with this thought that I ponder the impact of Social Media and the evolution towards what is being described as Social CRM. I use the word evolution in this context because I believe that Social CRM is not an isolated or silo-oriented thing, it is a natural evolution from something that was, and still is, but is leaner, smarter and better equipped to survive in a rapidly evolving customer-driven ecosystem.

If we look at the impact of social media first it is very clear that it has driven a sea-change in the way that people communicate and the way that information is shared. As a pure media platform it has made 'shooting' stars ('shooting' as such fame often shares the same trajectory and fleeting wonder of a shooting star) of very ordinary people doing, at times, extra-ordinary things.

There are not many people in the western world who didn't hear about Susan Boyle - within 48 hours of appearing on a British talent show to some 8 Million TV viewers she was transformed into a global phenomenon with over 100 Million views of her performance on YouTube. Amplification.

Twitter as a media platform is a further example of how information sharing has been amplified through social media. Forget about all  the horrible Z-list celebrities there for a second, Twitter is a bloggers paradise. Twitter has allowed like-minded bloggers to share their thought-leadership, form communities and drive important debate and discussion and have such content amplified through the wonder of the 'Re-Tweet'. Not a bad way to build a bit of personal brand-awareness.

In all of the social media hype though I often wrestle with the following pseudo-philosophical questions:

"Has Social Media resulted in an overall increase in creativity?"
"Are there now more genuinely creative people in the world or have they always been there but without the means to be discovered?"

Now, just for a moment or two, consider the implication of those questions. I am asking specifically has more creativity happened because of social media or merely the discovery of creativity that already existed. Does social media, in itself, represent a platform for innovation and creativity, or is it merely a platform for amplification? Answers on a postcard (or comments) please ;-))

And so to CRM and Social CRM. How can businesses begin to cope with the Social CRM challenge thrust upon them by these new 'social' channels.

If we accept, and this may be difficult for some business models to accept, (e.g. I now work exclusively in Financial Services) that the customer is in control then the amplification of customer experiences and peer to peer exchange of information is both powerful and dangerous. Managed well it can enhance positive sentiment towards a Brand, managed poorly the negative connotations can destroy a reputation.

Both myself and my good friend Laurence Buchanan recently experienced completely separate "success" stories by using social channels to provoke a satisfactory response after giving up on the companies traditional communication channels. You can read the blogs here - Jamie's BlogLaurence's Blog

Though the outcomes may have resulted in eventual satisfaction (though eventual being a key word in my case) what it did highlight was the isolation of these channels in terms of pure Customer Experience Management. Whilst we eventually received either the answers or the service we were looking for from the respective companies the actual resolutions came from the fact that our messages became amplified through the Social channels before someone stepped in to resolve, more as a damage limitation exercise I suspect than evidence of a truly customer-centric organisation. Certainly neither could be upheld as examples of Social CRM.

Two recent posts (or RTs) on the #scrm channel on Twitter caught my eye today as both seemed to underline a very key point. The first is by Natalie Petouhoff (or @drnatalie on Twitter) - title The Social Customer Economy. The second is by Prem Kumar Aparanji (or @prem_K on Twitter) - title Dumbing down Social CRM. To me, Social CRM represents an extension of CRM. It cannot work in isolation, it needs to be part of an overall multi-channel, cross-channel, CRM strategy where a customer communication can begin in one channel and seamlessly transfer to another at the convenience of the customer. 'Integration' of social channels is therefore the key to success than merely the channel alone.

As a footnote to the post I want to say that having heard various definitions of what SCRM entails over the last few months we need to ensure that, as a community, a consistent message evolves that is understood by all and not fall prey to the misconception that a 'social' tag on the front of CRM represents an isolated, channel specific, customer-management strategy.


  1. Firstly, this is another excellent post.

    I believe the answer to your first question is yes.

    The reason I say this is that SM has enabled those that might never have tried to tap into their creative side to do so.

    As a consequence this has resulted in an explosion of creative juices being let loose on the web. Now, one might then question if this creativity which is being unleashed was better locked away in a very dark cupboard. but then one might view the statue of David as art and another a piece of rock and not worth spending 5 Euros on when there is a nice gelato to be had outside :) mmm it was very tasty (sorry uncultured Aussie)

    In terms of your second question I would say they have always been there....and the great thing about living on a wired planet of 6 billion is no matter what you’re into there is a chance you will be able to find a tribe of likeminded people willing to pay for your creativity.

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