Can you do “Social CRM” without Social Media/Networks? Or Without CRM systems?


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Some topics seem to come around again and again.
Whether CRM and now SCRM is really just about the tools is an oldie but goodie. And worth thinking about once again if you’re getting excited about the new social tools, but haven’t changed anything else.

Tip of the hat to Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang of the Altimeter Group for starting the Social CRM Pioneers group. I encourage you to join and participate.

Recently I posed this question to the group: Can you do “Social CRM” without Social Media/Networks? Or Without CRM systems?

There are currently 25 replies from 16 different authors. Take some time to read and think about this issue. Much more useful than reading definitions! Just to give you a taste of the discussion here is my latest post.


There seem to be two lines of thought in this discussion.

On the one hand, some view CRM/SCRM mainly as technology that help manage customer information (CRM) or communicate via new social channels (SCRM). For this group (the majority, I think), it’s hard to see “doing” CRM/SCRM without the tools. Nothing wrong with this, it’s really how CRM was initially defined by Gartner as TERM — Technology Enabled Relationship Management. And that was an extension of direct/database marketing.

Others see CRM/SCRM as a customer-centric business strategy — delivering value that customers care about in a way that brings financial success to the company. If you’re in this camp, you’re probably scratching your head like me as to what’s different about SCRM from plain old CRM. Unless it’s mainly using social tech, in which case you’re back in the first camp.

From several research studies we’ve learned that strategy, metrics, people management, reward systems and design of processes and experiences are what separates CRM winners from losers. Sure, technology is used for most companies, and especially larger organizations. But the mathematics expression “necessary but not sufficient” explains why even the best tools (social included) won’t help a company succeed if the rest of it is poorly done. The non-tech stuff is 80% of the impact on success, by the way.

Three years ago I ran a simple study asking people to answer the question: “What is CRM?” CRM had been around for nearly a decade, and plenty of us had been preaching CRM-as-a-business-strategy during that period.

And yet, 7 years later we found that:

“…only about 20% defined CRM as about delivering value to both the company *and* its customers. And, 28% of respondents primarily defined CRM as only an IT approach, without any mention of expected value to either company or customers. In other words, a process without any stated purpose.”

See for details.

Will this change with SCRM? I sincerely doubt it. Using SCRM tools won’t make companies social/collaborative, if it’s not already part of their strategy, culture and reward systems. We’ll get CRM 1.0 (company-centric) behavior using new tools, and if history serves, it won’t help create more loyal customers nor better business performance.

On the other hand, companies that were already “social” will take advantage of the new social tools. Zappos! is a great example.

A good thought exercise to expand beyond tech thinking is to imagine what you would do to improve customer relationships without spending any money on technology whatsoever. It would force you think about whether the company really intended to be customer-centric and what the people in the organization was motivated to do, from the top down. And you’d have to consider other tools like the phone, meetings, etc.

In the end, there is not one right answer to the question I posed. It’s really up to each business leader.
As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”


  1. The emergence of social CRM seems to be a natural evolution of social media monitoring, and the need for companies to effectively leverage and manage all the information collected. The social media monitoring market is quickly evolving and maturing, and the emergence of CRM within the scheme of things is a sign of a market taking major strides forward.


    Mark Evans
    Director of Communications
    Sysomos Inc.

  2. Bob – The CRM question or now social CRM is similar to the social media question.
    Some call it “Social Media Marketing” and use the new media like they used media in the past. Others leverage the social tools to create a better customer experience, guide their organization to a new culture and evolve.

    CRM is probably the same. Some use CRM only as a tool hoping that it helps to do more sales. Others develop a strategy to do more sales and only use the tool to execute the strategy.



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