Selene Chin
Oct 18, 2013

Why Social CRM doesn’t mean what you think it does

Your social-network fans may not be your customers, and treating them like they already are could be hazardous for your brand's health. The acronym 'social CRM' risks short-changing your business in more than just letters.

Chin: "customer and social are two different databases"

Acronyms offer efficiency but maybe we should cut down on the proliferation. In my opinion these short forms seem to be short circuiting when it comes to clarity and understanding.

There was a reason we gave things names. But acronyms tend to gloss over these meanings, such that the acronym becomes something altogether different from its original intent.

Consider the term Social CRM. It’s thrown around as a buzzword to manage relationships with your fans/followers in the social space. It is, apparently, all the principles of CRM just applied to social media.

That sounds reasonable enough except that CRM actually stands for Customer Relationship Management. And if you think about it, social customer relationship management—at least the way it is meant when it’s spewed out nowadays—has many mis-assumptions.

For one, your fans on social networks may not be your customers. Your biggest advocate who follows you around on Twitter may not have bought anything from you before. In the social space, content, not RFM (there’s another one (!) which stands for “recency, frequency, monetary” in this instance) is your engagement exchange. So if you are forced to fit your fans into the same RFM model you have for your customer database, you’d actually find it quite a tough fit. And along the same arguments, if you don’t detach social engagement with customer engagement, your contents will invariably be centred around products and services. While that isn’t always wrong, it could make for quite a boring conversation.

The gurus of CRM are big on creating profiles. This is often quite a difficult thing to do in the social space where potentially one could be chatting with a student or a CEO, often with little way of confirming which. If you can’t put a demographic ring around someone, what do you do? In the social space, there are things you just have to take at face value. What you post should be based on the platform. Just for the sake of argument, your Pinterest fans would be fascinated by things very different to your Twitter followers.

I think the customer and social are two different databases with quite different metrics and profile categories. We can co-relate the two, but these two are fundamentally different sets of engagement, aimed at doing different things.

From now on, I’ll talk about the practice of weighting our social followers and applying differential treatment based on that weight: social influence management. Maybe we can also call it SIM if we must…

Selene Chin is the managing director of Dog Digital.


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