More than a few people are referring to enterprise social networking as “Social CRM”. They’re slightly correct but also so far wrong as to distort the picture.
They are right in that CRM can be a consumer of the data gained from organizations’ online interactions with customers. That data can, in the words of Tom Chapman, be used as CRM data usually is: “to make informed decisions on cross-selling and up-selling opportunities [and] to shape marketing strategies and corporate communications.”
Where people go wrong is believing that CRM can, as Tom further says, be “used by marketing and sales teams to listen to conversations, craft appropriate messages, join in immediately with customer conversation”. Sorry, that last part is the job of social networking software.
There are two reasons why.
1. The customer as a ghost in the machine. Ordinary, ‘unsocial’ CRM is misnamed. It’s not customer resource management; it’s customer data management. (I’ve written about this before — see “Attensity, Twitter and Customer Experience Management.)
CRM systems gather numbers about business activity and from them create and manipulate electronic simulacra of customers. The individual real human being is not an entity they recognise.
Numerical models have a place when dealing with customers in the mass but not one at a time. But it’s singly that customers scan a company’s online catalogue, order goods, take delivery and show satisfaction (often by silence at the time but buying again later) or displeasure (increasingly aloud on social networks).
Those latter processes are what social networking software engages with. CRM, by its nature, is dégagé.
2. Social business is not just about customers. Organizations also use social systems to engage with trading partners, with regulators, with government and, of course, with their own employees. And when they do, the interaction is between individual real human beings, the entity that CRM is specifically designed not to deal with.
There is no argument, then, with using “Social CRM” to mean manipulating depersonalised data captured from online dealings with multiple customers.
I doubt that is what many wielders of the term have in mind. Perhaps they are just parroting the latest vogue expression or know no better. It’s even possible they are making a grab for territory. Whatever the reason, they should stop using “Social CRM” as a label for systems that mediate real conversations between real people. It’s not helpful.