Social Customer / Social CRM / Social Business: snake oil or great medicine? (Part I)


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Recently I have been thinking about and diving into ‘social’ and that includes reading David Weissman’s book ‘A Social Ontology’. It is not bed time reading – I will share my thoughts with you in due course. One thing I can share with you right now is that our current set-up is based on an atomistic ontology: people as particles rather than people as waves – think about how electrons show up in experiments. I’ll come back to this at the end of this series of posts.

This week the organisers of a social customer engagement conference – The Social Customer 2012 – London, 29 March – approached me with an offer. An offer of 3 tickets (1 for me and 2 for you) in exchange for me promoting it through this blog. I value education so I took up their offer. To keep myself honest, I am making all of these tickets available to you (the readers of this blog and the Twitter followers of this blog) – if I go to this conference then I will pay.

Given what has been showing up in my living, I did some bed time reading: trawling through the internet to get to grips with ‘social customer’, ‘social CRM’, and ‘social business’. Why? To figure out whether all the ‘social’ speak is snake oil or great medicine. Let’s start.

The Social Customer

I get the term ‘customer’: an entity that buys a product/service and makes a payment in return.

I get the term ‘social’: usually a person that spends time with people, enjoys/thrives on the company of people, actively contributes to people by taking an interest in their lives is called ‘social’; there are spaces that we designate ‘social’ where ‘socialising’ occurs, for example the cafe in Paris; and ‘social’ only means something when you have something to compare and contrast it against, specifically the designations ‘non social’ and ‘anti-social’.

‘Social Customer’ is just a meaningless phrase to me. Which makes me ask the following questions: what kind of a creature is the ‘social customer’? What are its defining features? And importantly is this creature mythical like the unicorn or real like a dog? Through my research I came across this article, the author sets out the following as “defining characteristics of social customers“:

  • hyper-connected – by this he means they carry a smart phone everywhere and have access to the internet;
  • readily reach out to peers and influencers (through social technologies / media);
  • are constantly researching (on the web of course)
  • share what they think of you (the business);
  • expect brands to engage them; and
  • control the purchasing cycle.

Read through the defining characteristics and then ask yourself how many customers fit that description? A very small percentage – a tiny percentage. Is that why Tops give ‘social’ a wide berth? If you were the CEO how much attention would you pay to the ‘social customer’ if it strikes you that only a tiny percentage of your customer qualifies as ‘social customer’? Or is it simply that ‘social’ was lost from the Tops vocabulary a long time ago, soon after they entered school? My take on this: I can forget about the ‘social customer’: by this definition / requirement, the ‘social customer’ is like the mythical unicorn – captivating yet unreal.

The Social Customer Manifesto

Then I came across the Social Customer Manifesto – it is on the right hand side of the website page, you might have to scroll below the fold. I took a good look at this and then I dug into my lived experience of my fellow human beings as human beings and in their ‘customer’ role. Here is my zen like take on it:

I’ll leave you to decide whether my view fits in with your lived experience or whether the view set out in the Social Customer Manifesto is a better fit. From where I sit, the writer of the Social Customer Manifesto, has an understanding of human beings (in their role of customers) which is radically different to my lived experience. Please do not point out Wikipedia, Apache, Linux etc to me – those were born out of a completely different context: a context of contribution to a noble cause – almost the opposite of commercial reality which is to enrich the Tops and their masters the financial analysts that work the stock markets.

Want to win one of the 3 free tickets?

If you want to win one of the 3 free tickets then please read the following carefully:

What you need to enter the competition for the free tickets? You need to send a tweet that conforms to the following specification:

“I’d like 2 attend The Social Customer 2012, London, 29 March #MzIq | {give a reason here}”

Who will choose the winners? Me.

How will I choose? The three tweets that make the most contribution to me: put a smile on my face; make me laugh; put something into the world by giving your time or some other resources to a worthy cause.

And finally, I thank you for the privilege of your listening and the contribution that your comments, your emails make to my living. YOU inspire me to continue speaking and sharing my authentic voice through what you share with me and how you share. I am grateful that you exist.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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