Context is queen, especially for Social CRM


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I am sure you have heard of the adage that the Content is King and also of the addendum to that adage that Context is Queen. If you haven’t well then think about it a moment and then continue. We are not talking about media alone, but for everyday, normal walk of life. The content of what we speak means differently in different contexts. The context could be the situation or event at which we are speaking or the context could be the past experiences of the speaker & the listener (prejudices?).

Content alone doesn’t provide as much value as it can with proper context. And this is true in Social CRM.

In social CRM we are predominantly looking at conversations. Why? Conversations give us a measure of the connectedness of the parties involved. In addition to the friending/following on social sites, the conversations (and transactions) are a proxy to measure the networks too. And it is fairly easy on the social web to figure out the conversations happening between the people. For the social web is all about the easy creation & sharing of content & connections at a very low cost and high speed at that. How long does it take to capture the video of the scene on the street, outside your window and post it on youtube? And if its a darned interesting piece, and some how gets viral (BTW, we can’t always predict virility, ask Duncan Watts about it, not Malcom Gladwel – the tipping point is toast), how long before it spreads to become a meme?

But connectedness doesn’t really mean a good relationship. The content of the conversations matter too. But as we all know, when it comes to human conversations, context is very important too, we can’t just rely on the content always.

So … how do we get our systems to figure out the content and the context? Sentiment analysis & text mining have come made some strides, but they are not yet robust enough to make good judgments all by themselves. Heck, even we humans make mistakes. Haven’t we had more than the number of misunderstandings we ever wanted in the first place? All because the context wasn’t understood properly by both parties? So we can’t leave every thing to HAL or R2D2 yet.

But these are challenges for the longer term. Computer science needs to advance a lot more, so does study of human beings.

We can certainly take charge of correcting one mistake related to contexts. Especially when we are talking about integrating social media/networks or communities with our corporate content / business applications. Isn’t that how you can look at Social CRM at its easier maturity levels?

Jeremiah Owyang is spot on when he is measuring the effectiveness of the Social CRM vendors walking the talk by figuring out the contextual integration of their communities with their product pages. You should read the justifications for the community integration aspects on their google docs page.

Creating a community around your offerings is big task, not in terms of setting up the community site/platform, but in terms of building the community of users, enthusiasts, loyalists, fans (short for fanatics), etc. But more important is to engage the community in the right contexts, which predominantly means – in the right places & the right purposes.

Community can be latched on to your site like how ebay does (disclaimer: my employer, Cognizant, serves ebay as one of its clients). Or it could be integrated in context of the page (of this I don’t have an example, if you have one, pls share). It makes a lot of sense to integrate portions of the community discussions, members, groups, tags, etc. which are relevant to your porduct/service/legal/corporate policy/management/etc. page by mapping them properly. The community manager & the content manager need to work together here, with the IT, to help integrate the content & the community in the right context.

It also makes a lot of sense to integrate the community discussions, members, groups, tags, etc. with the needs of the visitor/prospect/lead/customer who is trying to get some product/service/company information or trying to get some opinions or trying to make a decision or trying to resolve some issue or trying to contribute her feedback/inputs to the business. This needs a lot more sophistication than the previous context of place. This is the context of purpose. Here the community can help better than software. But the community is made up of people and as the Freakonomics guys say – people need the proper incentives.

Theres probably a lot of information on why people create/contribute/share selflessly to communities in general & online ones in particular. Look no further than the contributions made towards the free/libre & open source software. Or sites like Yahoo! Answers. Or your personal community on facebook/twitter that helps you with answers whenever you ask something.

But we can still increase the ante by providing incentives to the community. It could be badges like on Foursquare or Or it could be points/reputation/rewards/monetary compensation/etc. But all in the context of why the community formed in the first place. Giving a badge to the code contributors of the Linux would not be as big an incentive as a karma rating for the forum members of any product users cum support community.

So whats the context of this post? Well, for me its a learning from one of the projects we are bidding for. And I wanted to share this with you all in the interests of furthering the horizons of the Social CRM field, and get your inputs/feedback too. And its been a loooong time since my last post, which was all theory and heavy for many. 😉

Not sure if I’ll post another this year, if not, then happy new year & seasons greetings! 🙂 2009 is the year it got nailed as Social CRM and defined too, all thanks to Paul Greenberg and the accidental community of #scrm. Hope 2010 is very good for Social CRM and you too. 🙂

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


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