User Involvement Is Key to Building a Social CRM Database

What's the best way to get valuable data from your customers? Make them compete for it.

Hosting an online contest or promotion for the sole purpose of increasing page "likes," followers, "pinners," or subscribers may be effective, but it's also shortsighted. Hosting an online contest or promotion to build a social CRM database is much smarter.

Many businesses running online contests and promotions host these efforts to get two things: customer demographic information and user-generated content. Gathering user information—email addresses, zip codes, etc.—will always be important from a traditional marketing and advertising viewpoint. But the value of user-generated content for a social CRM database has only recently been established.

User-generated content is powerful for three big reasons: It's genuine, uncensored information that's actionable; it offers expansive insight into the consumer's mindset; and most important, it's influential. Things like sentiment, advocacy, and social reach go beyond the traditional cookie-cutter demographic data, and have become important metrics to acquire.

By leveraging online contests and promotions, businesses are able to get their hands on the most valuable type of data: information that comes directly from fans and followers. With this intelligence, companies can form a greater understanding of their customers, and, more significantly, they're able to define what online social tendencies are occurring among their user groups.

For example, if you operate a clothing company, hosting a "Design your own shirt" contest can give your business deep insight into the preferences and styles your customers crave from your company. These insights can ultimately encourage new product ideas, as well as help recruit new fans.

With information gathered for a social CRM database, businesses detect trends occurring among their users. They're also able to use their databases to properly segment them.

From online contest and promotion response data, users can be categorized as campaigners, assistants, or side-liners. Understanding these user groups helps businesses effectively reach their online audience through contests and promotions.

Campaigners will go to great lengths to promote their contest entry or earn rewards to win a promotion. They rally their friends and family to vote for them and share information across all their social profiles.

Because these users can really grow a contest or promotion online, the best thing to do is encourage and fuel their competitive drive by offering extra incentives for sharing or by implementing a point system, as opposed to a strictly community-based voting model. Also, making social sharing as easy as possible is similarly effective. One way to do this is to substitute a traditional entry form for a Facebook login option.

Unlike campaigners, assistants may submit an entry or cast a vote, but they're not keen on exposing their online activity to the world—meaning a trail of "I just voted for..." will not likely be featured across their social profiles.

Because online privacy is important to assistants, the best way to get them involved is to emphasize the rules of your contest or promotion in a really clear and concise way, while making them feel good about the security of the information they're sharing.

Another way to increase assistant involvement is to make information fields optional in entrant applications. This is one way to reduce the friction among the users who are interested in participating in a contest, but who are also wary about disclosing their information.

Even though users will be giving up only a limited amount of information, companies are able to use the data they do receive as a means for fostering new relationships.

Side-liners are users who are aware of a company's contest or promotion, but choose not to get involved because the prize or offer is not attractive enough.

To make your contest or promotion appear more valuable to a larger percentage of your customer base, use online crowd-sourcing prior to the launch of your contest or promotion. Something as simple as writing a Facebook post to your users that says, "Hey! We're planning an online contest for our Facebook fans—what do you all want to see for the grand prize? Try to keep it to a $1,000 limit" is a great way to catch the attention of side-liners. When this group feels like they have a hand in choosing the prize they want, they are more likely to want to participate.

Additionally, this tactic also helps create interest for your contest or promotion and helps your fans get involved before the giveaway launch.

The inherent power of running a contest or promotion relates back to the understanding that a social CRM database cannot be built without user involvement. Once strategies are developed to get users to engage online, businesses must then use their social CRM databases as more than just a stockpile for user metrics.

Savvy businesses put to good use the information they receive from their online contests and promotions to build a solid social CRM database, which will ultimately aid in the discovery of new insights into how to build, maintain, and seek opportunities in their user relationships.

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service custom app design tool used to create apps for Facebook pages, Web sites, and mobile Web browsing.

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