• March 1, 2009
  • By Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

The Tweet Is Mightier than the Sword

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Can you imagine Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s reaction to Twitter? Credited with the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” in 1839, he might have chosen a different metaphor if he’d lived long enough to see what you could do in Twitter’s microblogging microverse with 140 characters. And who those characters can reach. And how far they can travel.

This isn’t Ed’s world. In fact, it’s not even the one we had just a few years ago. And if your CRM strategy was developed before Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube came to town, it’s time to upgrade: We’re living in the age of social CRM.

Social CRM is not a substitute for traditional CRM. Instead, what emerges is a new, outward-facing dimension that extends the operational areas of CRM. That new dimension is inevitably more successful if you’re building off a strong foundation in traditional CRM.

Social CRM is about joining conversations between customers and prospects while resisting the urge to control those conversations. Customers today have more power over who they do business with, and how that business is conducted. And the Web is totally entrenched in their buying process. So if you’re not on the Web in ways to capture their attention, you won’t be able to compete.

And while cost is a major factor in the buying process—especially in this economic climate—Web-savvy customers expect more from vendors. These social customers want companies to listen to their cares and concerns, to use the social media channels they use, and to actively participate with them in transparent conversations.

In fact, according to the recent 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, 60 percent of Americans use social media, with 59 percent of those users interacting with companies on social media sites. Additionally, 93 percent of social media users feel companies should have a social media presence—with 56 percent of them saying they feel a stronger connection with companies that do.

Twitter’s rise has been dramatic, and many companies use it to communicate with customers and prospects. But none worked as well (or tasted as good) as an unexpected tweet I received from Popeye’s Chicken.
I was twittering with CRMA president Michael Thomas and the subject of biscuits came up. We riffed on the theme for a time, ending with Michael proclaiming his love for them.

Then, out of the blue, I got a tweet from someone going by the handle @PopeyesChicken, testifying to Michael being a “biscuit fanatic”…and that he could really wolf them down. (The “@” sign denotes a twitterer’s handle. Unless you specifically choose to make a particular message private, it’s completely open for anyone to read—and there are Web- and desktop-based applications that enable the tracking of a given word or phrase.)

I wasn’t expecting @PopeyesChicken’s tweet—I’d thought I was in a one-on-one conversation—but I didn’t mind. It actually made me laugh. In fact, I enjoyed that tweet so much I replied to it. I also started “following” @PopeyesChicken on Twitter—which meant I started receiving his tweets all the time, even the ones not directed at me.

This was the best example of corporate tweeting I’ve seen. I didn’t feel any intrusion on our conversation. The tweets didn’t even try to sell anything. All @PopeyesChicken did was find a way to have fun with us, which in turn made me enjoy the contribution to our conversation.

All of this emanated from one short, well-placed tweet. But the real payoff came the next day, as I found myself unexpectedly headed to Popeye’s.

Now, I hadn’t been to Popeye’s in years, and hadn’t been planning on going there. I’d seen their commercials and thought nothing of them. But that tweet—that engagement—got me thinking about biscuits…Popeye’s biscuits. And those thoughts turned into my lunch.

That’s the value of social CRM. Rarely have 140 characters been so powerful—and never have they been so tasty.

Brent Leary is cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials, a CRM consultancy focused on small and midsize enterprises. You can email him at bleary@crm-essentials.com or send him a tweet at @brentleary.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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