6 Degrees of Social Interactions


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I penned a post yesterday, on the CRMOutsiders, blog titled Are all Interactions Social Interaction? The post was a little more sarcastic than my usual rants and I think it caught a few folks who do not know me a bit off guard. I start the post with the following:

“SugarCRM is holding its annual customer, developer and partner conference, April 12-14, in San Francisco. The venue is the cool Palace Hotel. It is going to be a great event, with some really great presenters, panelists, as well as an awesome evening event at the California Academy of Sciences.”

I went on further to suggest that I did a little bit of a ‘bait and switch’. I even posed a question to myself: “is what I did appropriate?” My idea was to draw people in with a topic intended to create some conversation, but was it really a marketing message in disguise? – not a very Social thing to do. The post was prompted by a question posed by Bob Thompson, the CEO of CustomerThink. The question is: “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?” In order to answer that question, first the question of what determines if an interaction is a Social interaction needs to be answered.

Is every Interaction a Social Interaction?

The conclusion I reached, possibly prematurely, is “No” not every interaction is a Social Interaction.  The post did have some back and forth with people willing to share their thoughts. I may need to retract my conclusion, or at least alter it. It it not really binary, it is a continuum, and there are degrees of social. Phil Soffer, Vice President of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies wrote a great post which I think gets to the heart of the matter. Phil suggests the following:

“a more rigorous definition of the forms that Social CRM interaction takes. I’m not talking about channels here: Facebook versus Twitter, or whatever. I’m talking more about norms and expectations that govern the interaction.”

Phil went on the discuss the Typology of Social CRM Sociability. I agree with the concept, and even some of the specifics. I would like add a bit to this and state the following, the intent of an interaction speaks much more to the Sociability than the channel used. I can broadcast a commercial on YouTube, do nothing but send spam links on Twitter just as easily as I can pick up the phone or send an email to a group of people – which is Social which is not?

The 6 Degrees of Social Interactions

Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interactions from the Customer perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the customer is becoming a Social Customer.

  1. I said what I am said, really not hoping for a response, just action – monologue
  2. I am talking, hoping for acknowledgment, not necessarily a response, but might be nice – venting
  3. We are talking, but the conversation is a bit one sided – skewed
  4. I am actively asking for information, will not be happy until I get it – social pressure
  5. We are engaged in a conversation and others may join in to push things forward – objective
  6. A community of conversations Many to Many – icing on the cake

Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interaction from the Business’s Perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the Business is becoming a Social Business.

  1. Here is my press release, look at me – broadcast
  2. Register and Download my whitepaper – broadcast with bait
  3. We are listening, but I am really waiting to talk – pretending
  4. We are blogging and hoping the message makes it out untarnished – comment, nicely please
  5. The Facebook Fanpage is set up, I hope everyone is nice – <fingers crossed>
  6. A community of conversations Many to Many – objective

Is 6 Degrees enough? Probably not, the title sounded cool though. This is analog, not digital. How does this play into Social CRM and answering Bob’s question? Share your thoughts, mine are still gelling and I will share my thoughts in my next post. The short answer is yes, Social CRM can be done without Social Media/Networks, because Social CRM is as much about culture and other soft – but important – change management ideas.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mitch Lieberman
Finding patterns and connecting the dots across the enterprise. Holding a strong belief that success is achieved by creating tight alignment between business strategy, stakeholder goals, and customer needs. systems need to be intelligent and course through enterprise systems. Moving forward, I will be turning my analytical sights on Conversational Systems and Conversational Intelligence. My Goal is to help enterprise executives fine-tune Customer Experiences


  1. Mitch, this is an interesting approach, and I like the fact you’re defining degrees of being “social” without necessarily referring to the use of social media.

    I’m afraid this refinement will be lost in the broader market. Based on the replies to my question “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?” I think the answer is (paraphrasing heavily here) “Maybe, conceptually, but if you’re going to do SCRM on any scale, you need social media.”

    And since the main driver for SCRM is the customer’s use of social media/networks (as Paul says, “the response to the social customer”), SCRM is mainly the use of social media/networks to join that conversation at some level. Inviting a customer to a party or to play golf is not really what people think of as SCRM, despite the fact these are very social activities.

    The defining characteristic of SCRM that seems to be emerging is not being “social” but rather the use of social media/networks (tools) with CRM systems (more tools).

    Maybe I’m making too fine a point here, but I think we need to be pragmatic about what Social CRM really means, which is why I asked my question in the first place.

  2. Bob,

    I agree that scale is a very important part of this conversation, technology will play heavily into a companies ability to manage the complexity, (also the customer, and the interactions). Businesses are changing because the customers are changing, in some ways, it is that simple. In Paul’s definition it is about the customer’s ownership of the conversation. I believe this points to one of the fundamental changes from (or extension to) CRM, the change is being caused outside-in, thus SCRM will be more Outside-in – it needs to be, that is part of what I am trying to address. What is the intent of what your customers are trying to do.

    The ownership issue can have slightly different interpretations, and on a large scale ownership equals control. The fact that people can have very public conversation about you does suggests that we need a way (processes and workflow) to ‘deal’ with it. Take the recent examples from the press. The part that technology would play, would actually be very little at first. Monitoring, yes, but after that, human intervention is more important. Yes, then back to the Social tools to try and respond. A balance.

    People get very caught up in the channel, and some channels are more important than others. To your point, in order to scale, Social CRM will need to include Social Channels, thus technology, thus tools. Being a vendor in the space, it is possible that I work too hard to make it not be about technology….

    But, back to some of the ideas which I am trying to address here. Using Social channels does not necessarily mean it is a Social Interaction. As more and more people begin to use Twitter, Facebook, and other means to communicate, they may simply be using the medium they are comfortable using. The interaction could and should be handled simply, as and email or phone call would be used. While SCRM does introduce new channels and cultural elements, let’s not just toss out the past 15 years worth of learning. In order to scale with the technology, the people and processes can look very similar to what has been done.

    I also believe that on the company side, that the use of Social Media tools and technologies will be a very big part of the companies ability to be social. But do not throw out traditional tools as being capable of integrating into a Social CRM strategy. I tend to place things at the ends of the spectrum, it helps me with clarity, possibly confusing others. Email and an IVR should be a integrated (yes, they are technology) into the Social CRM approach. We have all seen the statistics, 90-9-1, another challenge for Social CRM is how to involve those int he 9 and 90 category?

    What Social Media is making more clear than anything, is that “The response to the problem is often a bigger problem than the problem itself”.

    Mitch Lieberman

  3. Hi Bob,

    Bit of a tricky question: “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks.. When I read it like: Can you do Social CRM without Social Media, I would answer: YES you can, but it’s likely very difficult.. If I read: Can you do Social CRM without Social Networks, the obvious answer is NO..

    I do think though e need to take it from the start: The Social Customer is not (only) about customer’s use of social media.. The Social Customer is too about being more knowledgeable and vocal then ever before.. The Social Customer is increasingly trusting it’s peers’, not the companies, stories etc etc.. The Social Customer demands transparency.. And they will get it, if not through “old fashioned” channels, then via Social Media escalation, TV-shows dedicated to Customer misery, or even combined law-suites.. If the Social Customer things he has a right, and he cares enough, he will get just that, and he will use all channels available, including Social Media.. 🙂

    So, if Social CRM is the Companies answer to the Social Customer, it cannot do without Social Media nor any other other channel for that matter.. But: adding the channel will not guarantee you to be successful in your answer to the Social Customer.. (hence, Social CRM) It only takes Nestle and many others prior to that case, to understand just that.

    Last but not least: if I would name the one defining characteristic of Social CRM it would be Collaboration/Co-creation with Customers, not a set of technologies..


  4. Hello Mitch,

    I am going to take a different pov and say that I don’t think we can do Social CRM without Social Media or without Social Networks. Having said that, I agree with you that Social Media is not what defines SCRM – it is the engagement with the social customer and the social mental-modelthat defines it. In other words, I agree with you on most of the other things you mentioned.

    I am a relative “newbie” to Social CRM, but have created roadmaps and executed on traditional CRMs since 2000. When I look at all this debate on SCRM, I am a bit amazed because in my mind SCRM is not much different than traditional CRM. All the processes, principles, tools, infrastructure, and skill sets of traditional CRM can still be leveraged for SCRM — only now it needs to be augmented with certain emerging technologies and a certain mental-model shift to handle social customers. Executing on traditional CRM, I dealt with value segmentation, collaboration, touchpoint alignment, customer data management, sales force automation etc. — and I think every one of them is still absolutely valid in the case of Social CRM.

    Now as to what my thoughts are on SCRM and why I think social media/social networks is an essential component. As mentioned,I see SCRM as an extension of the traditional CRM — the key difference being that in SCRM we have an additional layer to handle today’social customers and engage them on their turf of preference (whatever their preferred social media channel is) so as to improve their experience and provide targeted value-adds. So from this perspective social media is important since we are dealing with social customers; however, social media is not the key driver in SCRM. The key driver – which would determine success – is how effectively one builds the structure and processes that enhance collaboration with these customers and create synergy between the traditional CRM channels and the social networks.

    Anyway, that is 2 cents on this topic for whatever it is worth. Please feel free to punch holes in my thinking if you disagree or if you feel I have a flawed assumption.


  5. Wim,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! As you point out, it is a tricky question. As we are all seemingly driving towards, it is the proper blend of technology with the people using it, to support whatever it is they want to get done. Some is about “Me”, some is about “You” and some is about “Us”.

    In this post, I am trying drive a little deeper and focus on the type of interactions people are having. I am driving down this path, as the 90-9-1 rule tells us, only a very small percentage of people are comfortable using “Social Channels” – thus the loudest voice often wins. Social CRM needs to balance that through standard channels to support true Collaboration (as you suggest at the end of your reply).

    Mitch Lieberman

  6. Ned,

    No holes to punch! I appreciate your comments and your points are spot on. I am not going to add a “But”, rather extend my interpretation of what you are saying.

    The Social Customer is crucial, and we want the social customer to engage. Traditional channels might just be one area where they would like to engage. That does not make them any less social – well maybe a little – but it does not make their input any less valuable.

    As you eloquently state – and I would like to restate here to simply highlight the value, hoping others will read:

    “social media is not the key driver in SCRM. The key driver – which would determine success – is how effectively one builds the structure and processes that enhance collaboration with these customers and create synergy between the traditional CRM channels and the social networks.”

    Great stuff!

    Mitch Lieberman


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