Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution

Last month, I wrote  “Unleashing the Value of Social CRM: Where to Find the Biggest Return”.

Towards the end of the article, I posed this question: “Which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?”

The comments section and some referring posts provide some great discussion from some of the greatest minds in the world of CRM including Graham Hill, Natalie Petouhoff, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, and a host of other minds much smarter than mine.

In the end, I walked away with the following conclusion: We collectively don’t know yet. Social Media and Social CRM are still in their relative infancy in delivering solid, proven value. However, there seems to be the strongest argument (and early data from companies like Helpstream, and Lithium) from those in customer service and support functions, and I can’t really argue with them.

In my closing blog comment, the last question I ended with was: “How do you justify the investment – time and money- in Social Media? Where do we have the greatest chance of success (profitability) starting out?”

Yesterday, Bill Band of Forrester Research asked a similar (and very important) question on Twitter: “CRM Evolution Conf. all about social phenom. But, my data shows less than 10% of companies have customer communities now. Too much hype?”

This, undoubtedly sprung from his recent research shared in his recent blog post: “The Extended CRM Application Ecosystem: Value, Risk and the Future of Social CRM”.

Band draws the following conclusions in his article:

“While “Social CRM” solutions have captured the imagination of decision-makers at many organizations, it is the tried-and-true technologies that offer the most certain return on investment.”

“The business value of social solutions is yet to be proven. Interest in “Social CRM” solutions is growing rapidly. But, mainstream companies are watching for evidence of success by the early adopters. Although enterprise feedback solutions, customer community platforms, and customer forums are viewed positively by the respondents in our survey, none of these three are considered “critical” to success. Therefore at this time, business value discounted for uncertainty is low.”

Many, at this point, recognize the potential for using Social Media to transform customer relationships, but the uncertainty factor still weighs heavily.

A study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law titled “Embracing the Opportunities: Averting the Risks” found that Social media  can be critical to company growth and sustainability.

  • 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients
  • 81% agree it can build brand reputation
  • 69% feel such networking can be valuable in recruitment
  • 64% see it as a customer service tool
  • 46% think it can be used to enhance employee morale

However, 51% percent of these executives fear social media could be detrimental to employee productivity, while 49% assert that using social media could damage company reputation.

Much of senior management’s direct experience with social media appears to be reactive versus proactive, concludes the report. 72% of executives say that they, personally, visit social media sites at least weekly:

  • 52% to read what customers may be saying about their company
  • 47% to routinely monitor a competitors’ use of social networking
  • 36% to see what their employees are sharing
  • 25% check the background of a prospective employee

There clearly needs to be much more education. That’s where those of us who regularly interact on Twitter following the #scrm hashtag come in.

Society is making a giant transitional shift because of Social Media. This “change” transcends the conversation of Social CRM and even business as a whole. The world is changing, and rapidly. For some staggering statistics that will make your brain spin, watch the video below:

For the enterprise and business community, things  are still really just beginning. Early adopters will (and some already have) capture the first mover advantage. However, they will also face the obvious risks of venturing into this new frontier first. InfusionSoft has literally saved millions by adopting a Social CRM strategy.

David Alston, Radian6’s VP of marketing and community said in a recent PR week interview:

“We are just scratching the surface in terms of how social media will transform the (PR) agency and the enterprise. The nature of social media – its accessibility, transparency, and its ability to build relationships – is challenging the processes and structures within companies, many that have become too rigid and siloed to react to the new Web 2.0-empowered consumer. I believe we are where CRM was 10 years ago.”

Change is upon us. The question is not whether Social Media and Social CRM will become an important strategy/tool/channel for your organization, but rather, when?

So what should you do now?

1. Learn as much as possible related to Social Media and Social CRM

2. Talk with your best customers, and most importantly, LISTEN

  • What are they doing with Social Media?
  • What do they wish you did better as an organization?
  • What can you do to improve your value offering to them?

3. Begin to experiment with  Social Media for your business

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Twitter
  • Community Platforms and Forums
  • Social Networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Social Media Monitoring

Perhaps best-selling author and Founder of the The Altimeter Group Charlene Li said it best:

“Mistakes in social media are inevitable – after all, you’re building relationships and what relationship is perfect?”

Advertisements

Unleashing the value of Social CRM: Where to find the biggest return

Social CRM is gaining traction quickly. I would argue it continues to gain ground at a dizzying pace. If you are new to the term, or are still getting up to speed, please check out the articles here to provide yourself with a little background.

The Social CRM community has identified 4 primary key areas where Social Media and Traditional CRM are intersecting:

1. Sales
2. Marketing
3. Service and Support
4. Public Relations

CRM magazine did a great job of building the Social Media Maturity Model which lays out where things are and where things are going in each of these functional areas. It is a work in progress to be sure, but a fantastic template that helps to visualize how to harness the power of social media across the enterprise for companies large and small.

ROI stories are beginning to emerge from some of the Service and Support vendors like Helpstream and Parature. Lithium just released their Social CRM platform which promises “untapped value through amplified word-of-mouth marketing, improved customer service, and accelerated innovation”.

Sales and marketing folks are clamoring at the possibilities of marketing to and engaging with thousands of twitter followers, and facebook fans. Coca Cola has added more than 3 million fans on facebook in less than a year, and continues to do so at the clip of a few thousand per day

Traditional Press Releases are being transformed into interactive engagement platforms by companies like Pitch Engine and PR firms and departments are beginning to invent new ways to stir up 3rd party endorsements in the Social Sphere.

Customers are beginning to harness the power of Social Media by sharing their experiences good or bad. United Airlines took a huge hit when an upset passenger created the video below. As of the time of this article, it had been viewed more than 3 million times in just over a week.

So then, the Groundswell is moving and growing. Bottom lines are being affected significantly, positively and negatively.


Here is the question I pose to you:


Where should a company start? Which department should embrace Social CRM first? More specifically, when the dust clears, which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?

I have my own thoughts, but want to hear yours as well. Fire away – this is your platform! I look forward to the debate.