Social CRM: Hiring the right definition

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There is a huge discussion going on over at thebrandbuilder blog & on twitter too over the definition of social CRM, especially the Paul Greenberg version as adapted by Esteban Kolsky. There is a nice effort at wordsmithing the definition and this is what Oliver Blanchard concludes with in that blog post:

[Social] CRM is a business function supported by a system and technologies whose aims are to improve a company’s ability to derive insights into customer needs and behaviors by adding to their transaction data the lifestyle data they share online.

Definition discussions, yet again? 🙂



I laud the efforts at trying to wordsmith the definition to make it simpler for the audience in question, but the simplicity is too limiting IMHO & proposes that a (social) CRM doesn’t do anything, just gains insights. Please do not mistake my words to be condescending, but I wonder what good is an insight if it will not be acted upon. Granted you do not say that the organization will not act upon the insight, but I fail to understand who then does anything with those insights? Do you propose that marketing, sales, service do not fall under the umbrella of CRM? Maybe this newly wordsmithed definition is thus unintentionally misleading?

May be this is a chance for me to relook at my understanding of the stuff after understanding, observing, thinking, conceptualizing, designing, architecting, deploying social computing platforms & tools that were hired for various jobs to be done by my organization as well as clients over these past 3-4 years. So I will take an implied liberty of a blog and posit some of my views to help wordsmith the definition again. 🙂

If I were to take a systems view, I would see them as systems of record, engagement & awareness. My idea of Systems of awareness consists of Living Anlytics Adaptive Learning loop and Reality Mining too in addition to all the other BI/social analytics, etc. I am still building on a line of thought that started off with something I call the 4p Steradian view thats absolutely necessary in an increasingly multi-channel world. So please excuse me if I am not so clear in articulating it properly. My point being, lifestyle data shared online by people themselves is just scratching the surface.

But are we right in taking a systems view or should we consider a social computing or complex adaptive system view? Listen to this podcast to understand this question better.

BTW, why are we limiting our models to systems and other computational technologies? Didn’t the first contention center around a strategy & function? So how about considering this field from an organizational perspective?



Taking an economics view at why companies/firms form (The Nature of the Firm by Ronald Coase), social (or should we call digital) technologies and container ships are wearning down the very reasons why they exist (market friction, efficiencies, etc.). Flat world & power of pull talk about these at length of course; my point here is that social networks at play via digital technologies are bringing about disruptions in business models, a level above even business strategies, no?

Organizations are structured into departments & teams (predominantly around functions, right?). And they predominantly act as silos, especially in large organizations, no? Ranjay Gulati in his book Restructuring for resilience talks about the reasons why these silos got formed in the first place (efficiencies) and why they need breaking (innovation, responsiveness, effectiveness). Even amongst the social media gurus it is well recognized/agreed upon that social media response teams need to be cross functional.

Taking a slight diversion, social network analysis (SNA) applied in the context of organizations brought about organizational network analysis (ONA) to better understand the informal structures in organizations. However Value Network Analysis offers a better option to bring better collaboration amongst the silos that Ranjay suggests.

Even if we are to consider the customer relationship management as practiced in the past 40-50 years, they have evolved from a transaction based view to one-to-one to network based views. Social media, online communities and the rise of the ‘social customer’ has only reinforced the need for increased focus on networked relationships. Add to this the realisation about value co-creation and service dominant logic being the need of the hour as against the value exchange and product dominant logic of businesses. There is a heavy tilt in focus towards “jobs-to-be-done” framework.



Definitions will be unique to each individual, organization. They will be the axis around which they will seal their fate, since by nature definitions are limiting in their own quirky way. These organizations might hire us to help them come up with the correct definition conducive to their fate. In which case let us provide them enough data points for them to understand the cosmic relevance and then help them formulate a tightly wordsmithed definiton for themselves.

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