An Open Letter to CRM and Social Media People


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Over the past few months (and perhaps more so over the past few weeks) I’ve noticed a growing tension between the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and the social media folks. In some instances this has led to direct name calling in public mediums – which is rather unfortunate. The advent or evolution of CRM into Social CRM is merging disciplines together; chiefly CRM and social media, this is causing a bit of a clash between the two camps (in my opinion). Bickering, arguing, name calling, and ignoring one another isn’t going to help anyone. Many of you might disagree with what I say and some of you might leave me angry comments in the comments section. I know if I don’t say this nobody else will…

To the social media people:

I understand that you are passionate about social media and have a lot of great ideas on how to do things. However, it’s very important to understand that CRM is an integral part of how many businesses function and acquire and retain customers. If you were to ask me 2 years ago I’d tell you I was a social media guy (today I’d like to say I’m somewhere in between). I’ve developed global social media strategies, presented executive training sessions, spoke at conference, etc. But I was not at all involved with CRM. Over the past year I have tried to get as much involved with CRM as I possibly could. Both from a practical and theoretical standpoint. There’s A LOT more learning that needs to take place but I can say that what I’ve learned so far about CRM has dramatically improved my understanding of how organizations work and how a social “anything” needs to fit within an organization. Without an understanding of CRM I truly believe that many social media efforts are from from being up to par.

Most social media consultants in the world are marketers, content creators, and technology aficionados. There is A LOT that can be learned from the CRM guys in the world who have been working with these same organizations for over the past 20+ years on building and developing customer engagement strategies and business processes. The reality is that CRM guys understand how businesses work better than social media guys, I’m sorry but that’s just how it is and the sooner it’s accepted the sooner collaboration can begin. I’ve witnessed (several times) first hand how social media people discuss social CRM without understanding what CRM even is to begin with, this is not right. I think for the most part the social media folks have a far larger public audience and reach more than most folks in the CRM world which is why I think it’s so important to really help readers understand exactly what some of these topics are and how things really work.

Please work closer with and learn from the amazing CRM guys in the industry. They have an absolute wealth of knowledge that will make you more effective and valuable to your clients. Please try to talk to them, respond to their comments (because they bring up some very compelling issues), and try to understand where they are coming from. Remember they are just as passionate as you are.

To the CRM people

I understand that you have been working with organizations on business process and customer strategy far longer than most social media people have. However, social media guys have a VERY solid (and better) understanding of how to reach customers online in various social channels and how to build these solid customer relationships. Believe it or not, these same social media guys are the ones running these global social initiatives for virtually every company in the world (that is involved with social media), so many of them clearly understand what they are doing from the social side of things. Social media guys can actually be a great business source for CRM guys and vice versa. CRM guys (and yes gals too) are faced with an interesting challenge of adapting and changing their existing ways of doing things to keep up with the change in customer behavior along with the changes and evolutions of social channels. I hate to say it but the social media guys understand social channels and how to reach customers far better than most CRM guys; however as I mentioned before, the CRM guys understand businesses processes and strategy (perhaps not so much the tactical side of things on social channels).

I’ll be the first to admit that the CRM group feels a little bit like an “old boys country club” sometimes. Maybe it’s just me but online it feels like a tightly guarded close knit community of people that really focus on talking to each other. Hey I’m being honest. I think the CRM community needs to do a much better job of “opening up” so to speak and to make things a little bit less intimidating. I learn more from the CRM crowd that I can possibly explain but the learning has always come with its fair share of scrapes and bruises, which I don’t mind at all but perhaps others will find this quite discouraging. I really respect a lot of the people in the CRM community and the work they all do. I feel like the CRM community is much more conservative than the social media community and perhaps that causes some sort of tension as well. The benefit of the social media community not understanding CRM is that they oftentimes can ask questions that really get to the heart of certain issues or perhaps bring up points that CRM guys just didn’t think about before. I know it’s frustrating to see a lot of social media consultants talk about social CRM while neglecting the very foundation of CRM but it’s not usually out of slight that this happens.

Again, the social media guys are just as passionate as the CRM guys and I think it will become just as important to understand the back end business processes as it will the front end tactical and customer facing execution pieces that many of the social media consultants are so good at.

So that’s my letter to everyone. Take it as you will. Perhaps you don’t agree with anything I said but that’s fine. The whole point of what I’m trying to say is stop bitching and building up this barrier between the two disciplines. Both CRM and social media professionals need to work together to make this happen so start learning from each other (I’m trying). It’s not about arguing or name calling or trying to own a piece of a market that isn’t anywhere near maturity. It’s about a shared understanding and a collaborative business evolution that at the end of the day has the clients best interest in mind.

What say you? I welcome any discussions below but please refrain from pointless attacking remarks; there is no right or wrong here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


  1. Great post. The point that I would echo is collaboration is key. The social media and CRM companies that collaborate well together will take a “complete” solution to the market place and they will ultimately have the most success.


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