Social Media - Customer Relationship Management

Publishers always want text to fill in the space between headers. I find that a strange and kind of useless convention so consider this minor diatribe as me acceding to the convention. Now to the real stuff.

In General . . .
For starters,what am I calling social media? It varies,really.

Some of the social media are tools,like blogs,wikis,and podcasts. Some of the social media uses are organized around user-generated content (UGC),such as reviews,social tags,social bookmarks,comments,rankings,ratings and photos,and videos. There are even levels of sophistication in the use of particular social media. For example,you can use tags as referenceable categories or you can use them for the creation of folksonomies—organic tag groups,which,oddly,can simplify the tags. In other words,what you can call social media vary widely in both types and the levels of sophistication with which they are applied. That’s why it’s not so simple.

In early 2008,Forrester Research did a study of 333 interactive marketers of either midsize or large corporations on their interactive spending levels for 2008 despite poor economic conditions.The results are telling:

  • Increase investment in social networks–48 percent
  • Increase investment in user-generated content–42 percent
  • Increase investment in e-mail marketing–41 percent
  • Increase investment in blogging–40 percent
  • Increase investment in search marketing–38 percent

Yet only 10 percent are increasing spending on display ads and 40 percent will cut back spending on the same.

You could infer from this data that we are in the somewhat early stages of an exodus from the world of traditional marketing—and to some extent you’d be right. But don’t fall for the trap here. This doesn’t mean much more than companies are becoming aware that they have to change how they are interacting with customers. They aren’t necessarily doing it.

In fact,most of them aren’t doing it,even if they’re considering what their options are. Kathleen Reidy of the technology analyst firm The 451 Group released a study at the end of May 2008 that polled 2,081 IT and business professionals. She found that when it came to the use of social media (which was defined for the purposes of the report as blogs,wikis,and social networks) only 24 percent of the respondents were using the social software needed to build or use those communication media.

But then there’s this third study. In February 2008,IDC found that 14 percent of all the enterprises polled already had social networks and by year end that number was expected to be an inverse 41 percent—meaning that white label (private label) social networks (and communities) entered the mainstream.

So whom to believe?All of them and none of them. First,don’t be fooled by the 451 Group number. If 24 percent were using social media,that’s about 24 percent more than three years ago. If 41 percent had social networks by the end of 2009,that is a 300 percent increase within the year itself. The Forrester Research indicates a willingness to keep spending on it—except for IT departments.

In Brief . . .
These social tools,technologies,and features can be confusing and are not at all clearly a part of a traditional CRM strategy. Of course,we’re not talking about a traditional CRM strategy in this book,so that’s understandable.

In this section,I’m going to give you brief business definitions,just mention some of the best tools available for the specific media and give you a short use case for Social CRM. For each tool,a short list will summarize its upside and downside. The idea is to get acquainted with these tools. The social tools most important for CRM also have their own chapters in the book—blogs,wikis,and social networks—but by the end of this chapter you’ll have at least enough acquaintance with them to incorporate them into your engagement strategy.

One reminder before we go on: These are tools. They are not substitutes for engagements with customers;they are not substitutes for strategy. They have their own benefits and problems,and they should be used judiciously and notjust because they are there or are cool.

You think that’s ridiculous? A little history,maestro. Play that funky music,tech boy.

The biggest battle those of us immersed in the world of CRM have had to fight was with our clients. Why?Because the vast majority,without a scintilla of exaggeration or irony,saw and still see CRM as a technology. Despite the protestations by many that CRM is a strategy enabled by technology,the myth of “CRM the technology” persisted to the point that practitioners would cripple themselves by implementing CRM before they even had a plan for their customers.

In retrospect,part of the problem was that despite all the protestations of the industry,for the most part it consists of software and SaaS vendors—and they wanted to (and still want to) sell their products and services to their customers. As the good old Edelman Trust Barometer for 2008 indicated,they are also in the most trusted industry of all—high tech. So even when the vendors would say,“CRM is not about software;it’s all about people,”let’s just say they weren’t trying to sell you people the following morning.

Do you think that mindset has changed much in the past three years? Nope. Not a bit.Realistically,the inclination businesses have is to throw tools and technology at what are human issues and hope they automate the issues out of existence.

Notwithstanding,there is a growing recognition that beneficial customer interactions are governed by trust,transparency,and personalized experiences. Four years ago,the answer was to throw sales,marketing,and customer service applications at the interactions. Now the answer seems to be that you should throw blogs,wikis,and social networks at the interactions—perhaps with some sales,marketing,and customer service applications.

This is,once again,the wrong approach. Take my advice,please. These are tools that are meant to be used as enablers,not drivers,and more to the point,not substitutes for anything at all,except maybe sugar.

The inclination to use the tools is going to be because:

  • Everyone else is.
  • They are really cool and fun to play with.
  • As drivers,they are an apparently easy out for developing a customer engagement strategy. Truly,that thinking will cost you big time.

Pretty much like everything else in life,if the tools have real value,then they are worth using.Not that complicated,really. For example,if your customers are senior citizens over 75,it is likely those tools would be a useless addition to your engagement arsenal,no matter how much fun they might be for you to play with.

Now,grab my hand and let’s start walking.

Blogs are the most prevalent form of social media and the most mature. They are among the best entry points for an incremental social media plan because they are the easiest to understand and have the most commonly available tools. But that doesn’t make them easy to do in a corporate environment. Because they are still viewed somewhat uneasily,there are only 12.2 percent (61) of the Fortune 500 blogging as of April 2009 according to the Fortune 500 Business Blogging wiki . That’s not so good.

Most simply,a blog is a web-based journal. It is a running account of events or thoughts or ideas that can be authored by one person or sometimes multiple people. Typically it is used by businesses for branding or to reach out to customers or internally to discuss ideas or as a team document. The business blog is defined typically by a specific focus,subject matter expertise,or a particular ongoing message or environment that the company either wants to push or allows to happen.

Best Tool
There are two companies that are the undisputed leaders of blogging tools—Six Apart and Word Press. Each of them has millions of adherents;each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Word Press is more laser focused on being a platform for blogging,while Six Apart’s central products,Movable Type and to a lesser extent its hosted version,Typepad,are more in the vein of a product set built to the center of acommunity platform—a social publishing platform.Six Apart and Movable Type are my Superstah!. With my criteria being what is most representative of Social CRM and the chapter,SixApart was the hands-down victor. Check it out.

CRM Use Case
There are multiple uses for blogs in an engagement strategy:

  • They offer direct access to senior management for customers (such as General Motors FastLane).
  • They are a place for customers to collaborate on ideas.
  • They provide a place to deal with customer service issues that invites customers to help solve problems. (For example,Comcast Cares is a Twitter microblogging outreach site. More in next Chapter on Twitter.)
  • They offer a way to link to and collaborate with business partners and sales channels.

Blogs Upside

  • They encourage conversation with customers and employees.
  • They break down social/corporate barriers—
    make the previously inaccessible,accessible.
  • They provide a relatively nonintrusive place for customers to present ideas without fear.
  • They become a forum to answer questions within hours that would otherwise take weeks.
  • They can be a huge plus for the company’s brand image.

Blogs Downside

  • They can inadvertently expose you to liability.
  • They can be a public relations nightmare if perceived as inauthentic.
  • They have had issues with IT perceiving it as a security problem—though less than in the past.
  • They can be perceived as hype if the voice of the blogger(s) doesn’t come through clearly.
  • They can cost quite a bit if you consider labor time.

Podcasts are odd.They can provide a truly viable platform for content delivery and a real opportunity for unique branding. At the same time,while there are millions of podcasts and hundreds of millions of episodes,their adoption as a business tool is erratic.

A podcast is an audio file that uses RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to distribute the broadcast to subscribers or allow them to download it to computers or portable music devices. The content is usually specific to an interest or some other kind of theme.

Best Tools
There are no specifically great enterprise-level podcasting creation tools. Any major music editor such as Bias Peak Pro (Mac) or Adobe Audition (PC) will work well with the creation and editing of a podcast. Most of the latest incarnations incorporate podcast publishing tools as well. Good microphones (the Electrovoice RE20 is a popular choice for professional use) and good mixers (such as Mackie mixers) are imperative and it can go up from there.

CRM Use Case
Podcasts have certain somewhat limited but important advantages:

  • They are superb learning tools .
  • They can support a marketing effort that is focused around mindshare and thought leadership.
  • They are useful for internal education and for do-it-yourself information
    (such as Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Continuing
  • They reach tech-friendly (not even savvy) audiences that might not otherwise be reached.(Just look at iTunes’ available podcasts. You’ll get the idea.)

Podcasts Upside

  • Because they are audio or video files,attention paid to the material is considerably higher—all the standard studies on how much people remember when dynamic rich media presentations are done versus static PowerPoint presentations apply.
  • Podcasts (video and audio) encourage different types of learning,and in portable formats so the listener can control their learning experience—thus increasing both information retention and improving brand image and reputation of the company because the company is providing the capabilities.
  • The enterprise manages the podcast production process from end to end so that the company has enormous command over the presentation and choice of material they make available and the frequency and length of the episodes.

Podcasts Downside

  • Podcasts can be labor intensive and,thus,time sucking.
  • Even though podcasts are expected to be informal and authentic,there is an expectation of professional production values—driving up the costs of the effort.
  • Inconsistency in length or frequency,not just bad content,is often punished by listeners by leaving the show.

Enterprise Wikis
I’m devoting a short but entire chapter to wikis,but in the spirit of this chapter,here we go. I’m not dealing with communitybased wikis here but only the pertinent type of wiki—the enterprise wiki.

I’m going to use the Wikipedia definition of wikis,mostly for the tasty irony of doing that:

A wiki is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content,using a simplified markup language.Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.The collaborative encyclopedia,Wikipedia,is one of the best-known wikis.Wikis are used in business to provide intranets and Knowledge Management systems.

This definition is actually pretty lousy on its own.So I’m going to throw in the Wikipedia definition for corporate wiki:

A corporate wiki is a wiki used in a corporate (or organizational) context,especially to enhance internal knowledge sharing. Wikis are increasingly used internally by companies and public sector organizations,some as prominent as Adobe Systems,Intel,Microsoft,and the FBI.Depending on the size of a corporation,they may add to or replace centrally managed content management systems. Their decentralized nature allows them,in theory,to disseminate needed information across an organization faster and cheaper than a centrally controlled knowledge repository. Wikis might also be used for project management (better collaboration) and even marketing purposes (wikis for customers).Better.

Best Tools
There are dozens of free and inexpensive wiki applications available to anyone who cares to use them. Most of them arenot industrial strength and I would be loath to recommend them. pack chief is Socialtext ,which is also my Superstah!. For small businesses,I would recommend PBworks ,which went from cheap to expensive in 2009,but is still good,and Wetpaint ,two hosted wiki services.

CRM Use Case

  • Wikis drive collaboration between customers and employees which in turn drives innovation (IBM,Innovation Jams).
  • They are a uniquely flexible tool for project management.
  • They can be a repository for a manageable yet still dynamic knowledge base and even an on-demand content delivery system.
  • They allow you to tap external resources for knowledge and insight (SugarCRM’s Sugar Developer Wiki).

Wiki Upside

  • There are numerous stories about increased speed of innovation and collaboration from wikis—internal,external,and both.
  • Wikis constitute a dynamic tool that is controlled by its users.
  • Technology companies are making serious strides to integrate wikis into the enterprise system and Web 2.0 tools (e.g.,social tagging) via standard web services,making it less of a headache for IT.
  • Enterprise-level wiki technology allows all the necessary security,scalability,and administrative control.

Wiki Downside

  • There are no guarantees about the veracity of the material provided.
  • Adoption is often slow.
  • Open editing leaves some susceptibility to serious cyber-attack.Some.

There isn’t much else wrong,really.

Social Tagging and Folksonomies
Social tagging is something you see ubiquitously—most often on the social sites that allow you to share content such as YouTube,Facebook,Flickr,or Slideshare. But when it comes to both clear differentiation between it and taxonomies or categories,and when it comes to business value,it often seems to be much murkier. Between this section and the mini-conversation with Thomas Vander Wal late in this chapter,you should be able to not only understand the difference but figure out the business value. If not,I will cry because I will have failed. I hate failing. Don’t make me cry.

A folksonomy—a term coined by Thomas Vander Wal—is a socially constructed classification scheme,unlike a taxonomy,which is a hierarchically constructed one. The difference is that when hierarchically constructed,the constraints of the scheme—the category you are given—is imposed on you and you are forced into choosing the category that’s the least of evils. A folksonomy uses social tags—keywords that you as a consumer or producer of content can create. This is not like the categories you are used to and the taxonomies that organize them.

For instance,you’re adding an entry to a baseball wiki (what else?) and the category imposed is “NY Yankees.”Even though your real subject is the Mickey Mantle 1956 Triple Crown,you are going to have to use “NY Yankees.”So all generic information and specific information about the Yankees and players and events are lumped under this one category,which loses any capability to provide rich insights. If it’s hyperlinked,it might link you up to someone who has an interest in only Don Mattingly’s eight consecutive game home run streak.

However,if you tag it “Yankees,”“Mickey Mantle,”“1956 Triple Crown,” or a string that encompasses all of those elements:

  • It provides much richer insight into what is of interest to you.
  • It allows you to find the other Mickey Mantle lovers out there (me and probably the entirety of all living baby boomers from NY).

Best Tools
Social tagging tools may seem like a weird idea,since social tagging is pretty much just an advanced set of hyperlinks,but a Mountain View,
California,company,Connectbeam,has an integrated appliance with a sophisticated social tagging engine. On the software side,so does IBM’s Lotus Connections.

Social Tagging Use Case

  • Tagging fosters the growth of communities organized around common interests and viewpoints (IBM and Oracle has internal communities for this—sorry,no URLs).
  • Tagging gives you the ability to do highly focused or broadreaching topical research (Slideshare).
  • Looking at tags or tag clouds provides valuable insight into how taggers qua customers are thinking.

Social Tagging Upside

  • Tags can be shared—knowledge through aggregation. Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody,calls it market
    logic—“individual motivation,group value.”
  • That aggregation provides information about the specific interests of the individuals doing the tagging and the descriptors they use provide insight into their thinking. This is a rich source of knowledge that no traditional CRM system has ever had at its disposal—nor are they programmed to capture it.
  • Meaningful concepts for individuals are in their own vernacular and thus highlight what can be important to specific customers in their own metaphor. Once again,out of the scope of traditional customer analytics or business intelligence.

Social Tagging Downside

  • The tags can provide inaccurate information because they are perceived as poorly worded or misleading or are at different levels of specificity. So for example someone might tag something “homes” and someone else tag the same thing “neighborhood.” Or someone might tag something “old house” and someone might tag it “18th century Georgian mansion.”
  • Traditional indexing doesn’t work well with social tagging. Syntax and rules structures are antithetical.
  • Different behavior on different days can alter the nomenclature used in the social tagging. So if I’m in a good mood,I might tag a photo I’m uploading to Flickr,“sunny day in arcelona,”but if the next day I’m in a bad mood,I might tag the same photo,“Barcelona partially cloudy.”The tags are personal but not necessarily precise to someone trying to decipher them.

Social Bookmarking

This is a derivation of social tagging that’s focused around sharing and annotating different URLs and content associated with that.

Social bookmarking is the sharing of information typically through hyperlinked site references. For example,I can use the outstanding social bookmarking tool,Diigo ,to highlight content on a web page and then tag the URL,the name of the content,and some or all of the content—and annotate the content. Then I can either keep it privately or share it with all my friends,the public,or a specific group that I’m a part of,while inviting comments to the content I tagged or the annotations I wrote.

Best Tools
The best enterprise-level tool for social bookmarking is IBM’s Lotus Connection,which I cover in detail below. They call their social bookmarks “dogears.”Not my name for it. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Social Bookmarking Use Case

  • It can be used for team collaboration.
  • It can be used for research.
  • It can engage communities and special groups in sharing knowledge and best practices.
  • It can be used for customer service knowledge bases so that the customer’s actual knowledge can easily be incorporated into the company’s best practices.

Social Bookmarking Upside

  • The bookmarks can be aggregated and shared and commented on—which provides an organic community of like-interested people who are engaged to create an outcome.
  • Here’s one from social media guru Chris Brogan : “Social bookmarking means that entire groups can learn of new articles,tools,and other web properties,instead of leaving them all on one machine,one browser,for one human.”

Social Bookmarking Downside

  • The aggregated bookmarks can get cluttered with meaningless or useless detritus without some self-policing and constraint going on.
  • Can be complex to organize and maintain as the number of bookmarks increases.

Social Search
This is a new area that’s been around. That contradiction is actually the reason why there is a lot of promise for social search,but at this stage,the CRM-related use cases are primarily related to sales,though certainly there are going to be many others as it evolves.

We all know what “search” means,since I doubt that anyone reading this hasn’t Googled something,but social search involves more than that. On the one hand,Google search provides a somewhat disorganized but always important useful and fast (a.k.a. down and dirty) way of getting what you need. But social search takes it a step further because,when used appropriately,it can combine corporate structured data with external unstructured data,such as profile information from Facebook or customer feedback from external forums,and make it into useful knowledge.

Best Tools
Please don’t confuse the tools. There are enterprise search tools like Coveo which can find CRM data that you have internally and tie it to ERP data so that,for example,you can not only see the sales history of a customer but also the payment history. There are also social search tools that are focused on the consumer side like Retrevo ,which finds consumer electronics products and then conveniently breaks out its search results into information buckets like Forums & Blogs,Reviews & Articles,Manufacturer’s Info,and Shopping so that you find what you want—and it even has tag clouds.

But those aren’t what we’re talking about here. Companies like SAP have strong social search engines that can do this. If it’s sales-related data,the Oracle Sales Prospector application has serious capabilities. On the standalone side,InsideView has a product that combines social search and some analytics called SalesView Team (the enterprise version of Sales-View) that provides you with not only thecorporate data that you expect from Reuters or Hoovers,but also information like who has moved to another company,who has been promoted,what acquisitions are made—and has integrated it into the respective or SugarCRM dashboards,among others.

Social Search Use Case

  • It can deliver not only the normal static data from Hoover’s and so on,but also business intelligence from social networks and other less standard sites that can decrease the lead to closing cycle time (such as Rearden Commerce using SalesView).
  • It mines internal and external data that will provide you with the insights you need to decide what the best product mix and approach would be toward a prospective customer (for example,Breg,Inc.,using Oracle Sales Prospector).

Social Search Upside

  • The sales data is dynamic and provides information that gives you insight into a lead,prospect,or existing customer.
  • The information is integrated into your CRM dashboard and the transactional databases.
  • The tools are relatively easy to use and take little training to be up and running without a master’s degree in information technology.

Social Search Downside

  • The information is substituted for judgment—a not-infrequent problem with social search.
  • The search is inaccurate due to the terms defined by the searcher. Wrong decisions made based on the information that was right in the context of the wrong search

Special Notes
There are a few things that bear mentioning—either due to their ubiquity or their importance they are given coverage elsewhere at length,but still need to be noted here.

User-Generated Content (UGC)
UGC is the actual content being created by the customers/constituents/members—in other words,human beings—who are then sharing that content with others,often through communities,social networks,websites,or even cellphone transmissions.

The forms UGC takes are almost endless. Here is a partial,by no means conclusive,list to give you a taste:

  • Comments on blogs and social review sites
  • Ratings
  • Rankings
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Social tags
  • Social bookmarks
  • Wiki text—original or modification

If you think about it,much of this kind of content has been around since Babylon and Mesopotamia. After all,if you’re an over-50 baby boomer,I’m sure you remember 8MM movie reels? No? The ones that show you and your annoying little sister at the beach bouncing beach balls off of each other’s heads? Yep. Those.

The key difference between the 1958 analog video and the 2009 user-generated digital video is that the latter is shared with others and can be embedded on others’ sites.Sharing is why UGC is so important and so prevalent. For example,there is a site powered by Neighborhood America’s enterprise social network engine at Home and Garden TV (HGTV). It’s called Rate Your Room. The idea is that an interested party can upload photos of their newly refurbished,newly decorated,or recently built kitchen,bedroom,patio,or whatever they care to. They are open to being rated from 1 to 5 stars and commented on by other visitors to the site who have registered. Those that have the highest rank through the ratings are driven to the most visible positions on the site. This has proven to be so popular that page views on the HGTV website went up fromthousands prior to the creation of Rate Your Room to millions shortly thereafter.

This sharing of content controlled by the creator of the content,and content that can be communicated and created on demand,is the power of UGC and one of the most potent reasons for using that power as part of a Social CRM strategy.

Social CRM=Social CRM Strategy,Not Just Tools
Customer strategies just a few years ago were primarily based around internal factors. What kind of processes do we need to allow us to reach out to the customer more often and with greater effectiveness? What kind of tools do we need to make sure we have an accurate record of our individual customers’ activities so we can develop programs or campaigns that will be optimal for varying groups or,if really sophisticated,individuals? What do we do to increase the customer’s commitment to us? Transactional strategies ruled the day. The strategies have moved from transactional to interactional. That means the involvement of customers isn’t just important—it’s vital to how you improve customer commitment and thus improve your acquisition and retention of customers.

All the tools we discussed above can play a role in the execution of your strategy. Note two things,though—they are tools and I said “can” not “will” play a role. Their purpose is to provide communication pipelines with your customers so you can have a conversation with them regularly. But each tool needs to be evaluated the same way you evaluated the internal CRM tools—though if past practices I have to deal with are any indicator,maybe that’s not a smart thing for me to say. Actually,first you need a purpose. Then and only then,you select the tools that fulfill that purpose. Don’t do what so many traditional CRM implementations did—buy the tools and try to create a purpose (otherwise known as an excuse for using them).

Much more later on this,but now let’s look at what I think is the best integrated enterprise social toolset out there. Music,please. Perhaps a little of indie rock band Criteria’s “Connections”:
And it’s rational that it’s logical
There is no point in denying
Give yourself a chance,you might like it
We must make connections
We must make connections
We must make connections
We must make connections

Let’s hear it for our Superstah! Lotus Connections!

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Customer Relationship Management Topics