ATLANTA — Who would have ever guessed how important a hash tag would become? Thanks to Twitter, the hash tag has evolved into something much larger than a symbol. According to Brent Leary, the founder of CRM Essentials, Twitter hash tags now denote full-blown communities. Leary told attendees at this week's Sage Summit that when he started using the hash tag #SCRM, it was mostly for personal reasons. He wanted to be able to categorize his own tweets. Soon enough, however, strangers -- now some of them friends -- started marking their social CRM posts with the same hash tag, bringing those tweets and Twitterers under the same umbrella.
In a room full of Sage SalesLogix CRM users, Leary talked about the larger social trend of social media and what it means for customer relationships. He used Barack Obama's presidential campaign as a running example of how effective uses of social media can yield winning results.
Traditional CRM has for years been characterized in these buckets, Leary said:
- marketing automation,
- sales force automation, and
- customer service.
Although it's called CRM, in many companies it's viewed more as customer information management, Leary said. This is driven by the need for:
- operational efficiency,
- centralized customer data,
- activity management, and
Although these are all important things, Leary said the aforementioned activities seem to forget about the customer. Given today's customer's desire to have relationships on the Web, interact with their peers, and use new technologies to communicate, companies need to reshape their CRM goals.
Social CRM is about:
- listening automation,
- content automation,
- community facilitation, and
- transformation management.
With those goals in mind, Leary broke out the steps to social CRM into four steps, using the acronym LIFT:
Listen: Leary advocated "Listening as a Strategy." "This is probably the most important thing a company can do to start its social media efforts," Leary said.
Inspire: Give your customers something to talk about. The Obama administration officially released 2,000 YouTube videos during the campaign season. However, there are about 442,000 user-generated YouTube videos submitted from those outside the campaign team.
Virtual phone system provider Grasshopper created an interesting marketing strategy in order to rebrand and get more attention. Grasshopper identified 5,000 influential people and sent them each five chocolate covered grasshoppers. The plan resulted in user-generated videos and photos posted of people eating the treats. The company's own YouTube video reached about 160,000 views within two months and it exponentially increased its fan base on Facebook. Why? "They inspired people," Leary said.
Facilitate: Businesses need to be asking, "How can we help the influencers and people who trust us?" Leary said. In order to be successful in the social space, they reorient thinking and convert content into conversations and extend conversations to collaborative experiences.
Doing so means serving as the bridge for customers to connect. Mobility is key to conversations," Leary said. In fact, 35 percent of book sales on Amazon are now for the handheld Kindle reading device. Barnes and Noble's Kindle-like device called the Nook takes mobility to a more social level and allows users to share books.
Another great example, Leary said, was brought forth recently by in-flight wireless internet provider GoGo. The company is currently running a promotion that lets subscribers share free sessions with friends over the social network of their choice. Socialtwist.com facilitated the offer.
Returning to the concept of hash tag-formed communities, Leary pointed out that Twubs.com allows people to register hash tags and make communities official.
For more full blown communities, Leary mentioned community platform provider Lithium, which demonstrates on its own site the power of the community. On the vendor's community forum, a member posed the question, "Is Lithium worth the money?" Another community member -- not a Lithium employee -- responded to the post, listing reasons why it beings value. The person who originally asked the question then posted again, saying he was convinced and was converting to Lithium. The company won a customer through facilitating conversation on its site. "If your company is in scale-up mode, maybe scale up your customer community before your employees," Leary offered.
Why do these work? Because they are facilitating conversations among people that trust one another.
Transform: "This may be the most overlooked challenge," Leary admitted. "This stuff is new."
Social networks and tools don't immediately all work together, Leary said, bringing up a photo of a disassembled car. Companies often try to get social without having a strategy. Maybe they choose to join Twitter because they heard it on the news or saw their competitors doing it. In order to do social CRM right, transformation must occur within and shape business processes. Leary gave another Barack Obama example in which campaigners were able to effectively reach citizens. The campaign send emails to contacts two hours after the Republican National Convention when Sarah Palin spoke. Literally within 24 hours, they raised $11 million. "Not without a foundation," Leary said. "They had CRM and contact management in place."
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