Businesses are starting to understand the value and importance of a social media approach to CRM, if the calls I’ve been taking are any indication. That’s good, but sometimes I feel that for some people, the terms we use—social media, social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 and the rest—are just words hung onto a concept, their meanings ignored.
While letting “social CRM” exist merely as shorthand for a broader concept—like Paul Greenberg’s excellent and tweetable definition, “the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation”—I prefer for the concept to remain grounded in the words that describe it. In this case, the best definition of social itself is from Merriam-Webster: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society; tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind.
It’s great if your company is engaging its customers and partners in conversation through its own social networking tools. It’s beyond great, it’s necessary in most cases. But there must be more. You’ve got to reach out beyond your own circle, and start exchanging ideas with new people and organizations, ones in whom you don’t already have a financial interest.
This is not to say that you should abandon any current social efforts. Just make sure you’re sticking your corporate nose into somebody else’s as well. I’m not talking about corporate espionage—that’s bad. I mean participation in timely and topical discussion groups (the Answers section of LinkedIn is an excellent example), attending Webinars, and just letting your people explore where their interest takes them.
If our hunter/gatherer ancestors hadn’t been willing to meet other bands of like-minded people, we would never have gotten beyond tribes and clans, warring with one another for access to water, hunting grounds, and abundant vegetation. (You could make a decent argument that we still haven’t gotten beyond that, but I’m feeling generous to our insane species today.) Communication with “the other” brought trade, exchange of ideas, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing what those guys in the next cave are up to.
It’s no different in modern society. Looking for new ideas and new associates to share them with is a major driver for the modern, socially-aware business. Does your desire for partnership and creativity outweigh your fear of competition? It should; competition is healthy. Social interaction means business doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Your competitors may glean some ideas from you that they might otherwise not have, but you will do the same. You will each innovate, raising the standard for all. You will allow your entire industry to serve the customer better.
Take the next step. Get your company onto somebody else’s social network. It’s only natural.