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Integrating Social Media Is a Strategy for Success
Expand your insights with a hub and spoke model.
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At the CRM Evolution conference this summer, I taught a three-hour Social CRM Executive Boot Camp. I never completed my presentation, since participants had so many good questions regarding a key topic we covered: what I call an integrated social CRM strategy. It's time to continue that discussion.

But before we talk about integration, let's start with a definition of social CRM, which I describe as the intersection between social media and CRM. Said differently, social CRM mixes the emotional or sentimental insights gathered from what a customer says on social communities (e.g., what he or she likes or dislikes about doing business with your company) with static customer transactional information coming from your company's back-office systems (e.g., that customer's purchase history) to give you a dynamic and robust understanding of how to sell, service, and market to that customer.

Unfortunately, in an effort to make social CRM work, companies too often run out and create a public social community (e.g., a Facebook community), then try to integrate social insights coming from that community into their CRM system. This is a partial solution at best. When building a public social community, you neither own the data nor have control over the site policy changes. There is limited customer intimacy because it is open to the public, so your customers may be less than fully forthcoming. And lastly, public communities are rarely a destination site for a customer to take an action, e.g., initiate a purchase of your company's products or services. This is not to say that public social communities do not serve a meaningful purpose. They are great for building brand image and sharing company content with public audiences.

A better approach is to leverage both public and private social media community insights and integrate these into your CRM customer profiles. Private social media communities are typically "invitation only" and restricted to customers or prospects. The beauty of private social communities is that you own the data being generated, you control community policies, you have some control over who accesses community information, and you design the communities to meet your company needs. Private social communities are built on social media technology platforms such as Jive, Mzinga, Lithium, and Zimbra (formerly Telligent) and are typically run "in the cloud" and accessible from your company Web site.

Can both of these be used together? Yes. Integrated social CRM strategy purposely leverages public and private social media community insights. An integrated social CRM strategy builds a "hub and spoke" model, where the spokes are public social communities—e.g., your Facebook community and potentially others—and the hub is your private social community (and/or your company Web site, which is your best tool to drive traffic to your private social media community). Social insights gathered from both public and private social communities get integrated into your CRM customer profiles for maximum leverage when engaging with your customer.

For example, you might integrate into your CRM system customer insight harvested from your private social community. Examples might be that the customer has a particular product need that is not being fulfilled and that presents a new opportunity for your company, or the customer has a complaint that has not been properly addressed and is negatively impacting your relationship with that customer.

An example of harvesting insight from a public social community is that of a major financial institution that paid attention to complaints made about it on Twitter, brought the information into its Salesforce.com service module, where it was stored inside the customer profile, then took action to resolve the customer's complaints.

Based on our experience guiding the integrated social CRM strategy for global companies including ExxonMobil, Kraft Foods, the American Automobile Association (AAA), and others, I am convinced that an integrated social CRM strategy is the winning formula that will drive CRM in the future. While not without challenges, an integrated social CRM strategy is a powerful way to take your company to new heights by fulfilling the desire of your increasing "always-on, always-connected" digital customers.


Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM, Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher of The eGuide to Mobile and Social CRM.


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