Social CRM: The New Frontier of Marketing, Sales, and Service

Related Topics: Digital Strategy

by Ashu Bhatia – 

History’s first commercial radio broadcast occurred on November 2, 1920. The broadcast delivered the results of the Harding-Cox presidential election, and it heralded the dawn of a new age of mass communication.

For those pioneering companies that first reached out to their customer base via the magic of the airwaves, the marketing potential of the new medium must have seemed enthralling. The new technology enabled companies to reach out to hundreds, thousands, eventually millions of customers and prospective customers with the flick of a transmitting switch.

And yet — in spite of its revolutionary potential — it took 38 years for radio to amass an audience of 50 million listeners. When television came along, it took 13 years to build an audience of 50 million viewers.

Then a few decades later, another revolution in mass communication occurred. It was called the Internet. Something called Facebook was created. And in just 3.5 years, Facebook achieved a user base of 50 million users – not people just passively listening, or watching, but actively engaged.

The Digital Lifestyle

Facebook, of course, is just one component of what has come to be called Social Media. The ability to interact with others digitally in real-time has proven to be an intoxicating draw. People are spending more and more time on Social Media.

That’s radically changing the dynamic between companies and their customers. Customer-centric differentiation has taken on a whole new meaning. And it’s forcing a revision of long-held beliefs about building and managing customer relationships.

The New Paradigm of Social CRM

The Internet, and Social Media in particular, has forged a new paradigm in the way we engage with customers. Where the old mass media vehicles of radio and television were passive, Social Media is interactive.

And just as the means of communication has changed, so have the customers themselves. Today’s consumers are:

  • More Knowledgeable: Online consumer-created content and social networks has put more knowledge than ever before at the fingertips of consumers. Consider, for example, consumers looking to book a vacation. They can access ideas, feedback, and reviews for any destination or mode of transportation they’re considering.
  • More Empowered: Thanks to the resources of the Internet and Social Media, consumers have more power than ever before – and they know it.
  • More Diverse: The Internet is a global presence. Social Media has no geographic bounds. And when serving a global audience, brands must work harder at finding ways to personalize their message.

A Seismic Shift of Power

The instant interactions enabled by Social Media have given consumers far more power.

In general, people trust the recommendations of others. That’s a good thing for companies that manage to win the favor of consumers. But this power can be fearsomely damaging when a brand rubs consumers the wrong way. Brands can be grievously damaged in just hours.

Happy customers, in essence, can become co-owners of a brand. They can become part of the team. Consider the example of a recent campaign conducted by Omni Hotels. They gave guests a Flip camera, encouraging them to create and post content about what they most enjoyed about the Omni brand. (It was the Omni Flips For Summer campaign.)

Social Media fosters a sense of community. Accordingly, companies must interact with consumers as individuals within a community, not as an anonymous mass or as individual consumers.

The paradigm shift is also causing a blurring of traditional departmental boundaries. Marketing, sales, and service must work together synchronistically and simultaneously, using analytics, big data, and technology to enable real-time agility, flexibility, security, and repeatability. Social CRM must also become a component of IT strategy.

Ultimately, Social CRM requires an agile and proactive approach to making the most of this highly dynamic, potentially highly rewarding environment.

The Keys to Social CRM Success

To fully reap the benefits of Social CRM, organizations must move beyond the limitations of traditional marketing and customer service. They must adopt a mindset of maintaining a continuous mode of relationship-building with customers and prospects.

Five key areas of focus within your organization will help to enable the successful transition to Social CRM success:

  1. Cultural Alignment
    • Your company must be culturally aligned with the concept of Social Media
    • Social CRM must have C-level sponsorship
  2. Customer-Facing Strategy Alignment
    • Your Social Media efforts must be aligned with your overall customer-facing strategy
    • C-level sponsors must fully understand the potential of Social CRM
  3. Marketing and Communications Alignment
    • The marketing team must be alerted to the move to embrace social, and must be educated in the channels to be used
    • All communications must be sent to the Social Media team to ensure consistency of messaging
  4. Legal Education and Alignment
    • The legal team must be made aware of the transition to Social Media
    • Legal should contribute policies and guidelines designed to mitigate the risks of Social Media engagement
  5. Website/Mobile Alignment
    • The company website must be updated (if necessary) to serve as an integral component of Social Media interaction
    • The website should serve as a repository of answers to common questions, and should offer a secure channel for private interactions between customers and customer service

It’s also important to put gatekeepers in place as enablers of Social Media execution. Without gatekeepers, the likelihood of realizing serious negative consequences through Social Media interactions will be dramatically increased.

A Truly Revolutionary Medium

The early adopters of commercial radio broadcasting were tapping into a marketing opportunity that, for the time, offered unprecedented potential. But the potential that Social CRM provides to today’s marketers absolutely dwarfs the opportunity that radio provided a century ago.

Though achieving success with Social CRM requires careful, knowledgeable planning and execution, the potential pay-off is limitless. Social CRM is truly the new frontier of marketing, sales, and service.

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