Social CRM Takes Center Stage

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Companies should avoid isolating social media as strictly a marketing tool and instead incorporate it more seamlessly into sales and service. This was a key takeaway from the keynote panel on the second day of the CRM Evolution conference.

"Most companies are still using social [CRM] in a reactive way, without truly integrating it into business. Companies are using it to push and protect their brand, but use it for very little else," Microsoft Dynamics CRM Corporate Vice President Bob Stutz said. "We talk about social and marketing, but who talks about social and sales or social and customer service?" he asked.

Other panelists agreed that social collaboration must be separated from marketing because no department owns social exclusively, and proposed that senior leadership must set the example. "If your senior leadership isn't social, your company will not reach [its] full collaborative potential," Joe Hughes, managing director at Accenture, said. "It's important for them to find a quick win with these social initiatives and then keep the momentum going."

Echoing this sentiment, Alan Rosenblatt, a partner at Turner Strategies, urged companies to embrace their social networking stars and cultivate their participation in promoting the company's brand and message.

"We're always talking about cultivating...relationships with customers, but what about our employees?" Rosenblatt asked. "If you know what your employees are doing on social media, you can approach them as collaborators and form a mutually beneficial relationship," he said.

Employees should be strategic partners in social media, Rosenblatt asserted, so companies must train all of their staff on social media. They should create user groups to explore best and worst practices, provide tools to facilitate cross-company sharing, and prompt their staff for coordinated actions, like a tweet of the day.

"Once these tools and suggestions are in place, employees can choose to participate voluntarily. They don't necessarily have to do this, but the easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to become advocates for your brand," Rosenblatt said.

As employees embrace social media and social networking stars emerge, Rosenblatt said companies should monitor their activity and influence. "The impact will be immense," he said.

In many ways, social media has actually taken business backwards, but that isn't bad, Mike Fauscette, group vice president of software business solutions at IDC, suggested. "Social media has given brands the tools to make company interactions personal again."

Still, ultimately social CRM is not about technology. It's about mindset. "Companies are not logos. Companies are people. Social must be aimed at better understanding and knowing people," Stutz said. "At the end of the day, technology doesn't solve problems. People solve problems."

Technology, especially analytics, can provide valuable insight that should be harnessed properly, according to Hughes. "You can use text analytics to go through tons of data and might only find a few actionable insights, but those insights could potentially mean millions," he said. "We're all going to have to become well-versed in text analytics in order to mine the data effectively."

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