The Social CRM Channel, Or A New Paradigm?


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There are a number of very intelligent people out there who are calling the Social CRM channel a paradigm shift, and not reallychannel. The basis for this argument is simple….

They’ve got software to sell or consulting practices to grow…

OK, not all of them are selling software, as there are some consultants and thought leaders out there who really believe that suddenly, the way people behave is going to be dictated by some mass wave of genetic alteration. Somehow, we are all going to step in line and start doing business differently, at a fundamental level, whether it be work business or personal business.

Even if that were the case, I can’t for one moment believe it would be good for us (people or business). A lot of the energy behind this discussion draws from the idea that customers control the conversation. In fact, Paul Greenberg, author of CRM at the Speed of Light (one of my favorite books) defines Social CRM as “The company’s response to the customers control of the conversation.” In less than 140 characters!

I totally agree with that definition. What I don’t agree with, yet , is the idea that somehow enterprises will survive by inviting the customer into their management meetings and other such nonsense. OK, that’s not what they’re saying? Well, what are they being invited in to do? Heck, they’ll really control the conversation if they’re hanging out at your water fountain!

Before the Dinosaurs and Neanderthals, there was Mayberry

How many of you remember the Andy Griffith show? I’m afraid to say that I was alive during the first run. As I look back at those good old days in a fictitious North Carolina town, I recall places like Floyd’s Barbershop. And wasn’t there a guy sweeping the sidewalk out in front of his General Store? How did these folks interact with their customers?

Many of the episodes featured these venues prominently. The small talk and the gossip. And I’m sure in real America (or anywhere) discussion surrounding products and services ensued. Isn’t this the social business? They really knew their customers because they had a real relationship with them.

Now think about this for a moment. What if there were an episode where one disgruntled town resident gathered up a few of her garden club friends and decided to picket the Mayberry General Store? In the Mayberry customer eco-system 10 people would have been a huge percentage of customers. And given the prominent location of the store, right on Main St, everyone would have come to either see this or hear about it. Right?

So I was reading the blog at Helpstream today and saw the following written directly after Paul Greenberg’s definition of Social CRM:

Exactly where do I find 5 million people that are listening to me? As a part time web marketer, I would love to hear an answer to that question. That’s a ridiculous assumption. Just because Twitter and Facebook are new parts of the new Social CRM channel, doesn’t mean that we suddenly have vast and organized audiences listening to us. It’s just not a fact. In fact, it’s a broadly disorganized set of media and I’ve already seen software companies racing to build an organization layer on top of it. Good luck!

But I’ll bet it’s a fact that’s going to get repeated a lot….

Anyway, paradigm shift(?) just because part of Paul’s definition uses the word control? Sure, customers have more input because they certainly have more options. They aren’t living in Mayberry. Mt Pilot isn’t 40 miles away. They can browse the web and find alternatives. It has forced businesses to react to this and they are.

But, do you really think average people are going to start sitting in front of Twitter clients all day investigating every little thing they plan to do in their lives? Let’s be serious, I don’t have time to do it and I’m more engaged in that world that 99% of the computer users out there.

So what is it really, that makes some believe that there is going to be a paradigm shift? I’m still looking for a solid reason. I haven’t felt it, and I work in this industry. Sure, the customer engagement tools are ultra cool, and I really like Helpstream’s offerings. I guess I’m just no fun, because I see people, who have been social creatures since day one, finding one on one relationships and communication more powerful.

When I think of this paradigm shift, and how everyone will be barking and chirping, and others will be listening and compiling, and how the whole world will be invited into the enterprise, I see…well I see some parallels to what’s going on in politics these days. Come on in, we care….then we’ve got you!

Ok, I promised myself I wouldn’t go there 🙂

Paradigm Shift or a Channel That’s Shaped Differently?

For those that don’t believe in the Social CRM channel and just want to be absorbed into the chaos we currently know as social media, I probably can’t help you. For the rest, let me say that I don’t have an issue with many of the concepts of Social CRM. In fact, I agree that the landscape is changing.

In my opinion, though, technology is where the paradigm shift will occur, because I’m arguing that people are still people. We’re independent, yet many of us go with the flow. Going with the flow doesn’t mean fundamental behaviors are simply going to change just because a software company thinks saying that will support their value proposition. No No No.

Internet marketers use the same tactics that they used on TV when I was growing up, and the still use them successfully on TV too! Nothing has changed in our behavior simply because we can order online. Heck my grandmother got sucked up into the Home Shopping Network and my Dad would get the bill every month. Picking up a phone isn’t that hard when it’s the only avenue.

We’ve had the ability to shout for a long time. In fact, the people we shouted to in communities that span back more than 20 years were probably more inclined to listen. That’s because

  • They knew who we were because we interacted with them regularly
  • It was in a context that they had an interest; i.e. a CompuServe software forum, a newsgroup, an AOL community or any old topical forum.

Today, what is everyone screaming about, and how are they doing it?

  • Facebook – A finite list of our friends. The rest of your growing list of Facebook friends are probably people that are trying to sell you something (i.e. they aren’t listening to you)
  • Twitter – An infinite list of fleshy matter, all with a selfish urge to be heard. But are they really listening? And when you think about how difficult it is for you to follow the noise, how many people do you really think are listening carefully to you? I’m sure the Social CRM implemented companies will be listening, but the whole argument is that everyone else is listening. Nope. They’re just promoting. That will never change.
  • Lithium Boards, Idea Modules, Tagging, Ranking, etc etc.

If you implement one of the current Social CRM channel management systems….oh, there I go again, calling it a channel AND WORSE….management. Command and Control. It gives me the creeps just thinking about it…but let’s face it “the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation” is really just the level of control and the response is really what’s going on here. Isn’t it? To regain control!

But seriously, I know engagement is the current PC term to use, let’s call it Engaging the Social CRM channel. Did I say channel again? I do apologize. WHATEVER.

Is a Software Suite A Paradigm Shift?

If you’re a company that is planning to invest their money in a Social CRM software suite are you investing in a paradigm shift, or just some tools that will enable a broader, or less well defined, channel? What’s paradigm shifting about you investing your earnings into software and technology infrastructure? Are your customers banging on your door telling you exactly what to do? I heard somewhere that they were in control now, and had invited themselves into your enterprise.

Well, what does your Social CRM channel implementation look like. Where’s the textbook on this new paradigm? Do you feel all tingly when you wake up in the morning? I didn’t think so. I’m sure some of the software and consulting firms are getting all excited about building a new revenue stream. Gosh darn, we all have to make money. And don’t you worry, I’m a capitalist, so I’m not gonna try to stop them.

Actually, I believe the shift is going to come from technology. It’s not going to change human nature, it’s not going to have companies roll over on their backs and let the customers take control of the company (by the way, what about the shareholders?). If this were to happen there would be no more business plans, since you would really have to find some customers to tell you what type of factory to build, to make the products that they want. Hell, that would slow things down a bit don’t ya think?

I see shifts coming from things like Google Wave, which is truly mind blowing and also does facilitate many of the very engagement issues that are being addressed in the #SCRM crowd. I think we’ve worked in a tabular world too long and I’m excited about some of the innovative ideas I’ve seen lately.

But, a software suite called Social CRM and being promoted as the solution to impending paradigm shift in how regular old people engage businesses? I don’t think so. It’s marketing and hype. Don’t get your drawers all in a jam. It’s a channel management system.

Once again, I take on the topic of Social CRM and I meander all over the place. In fact, I find it a fitting way to write about such an amorphous topic. And it’s a topic I’m still learning about. Hey, I happen to have a day job (thankfully) so I can’t spend all day deep in thought about paradigms that are yet to be. That’s OK. I’m not a thought leader.

Oh, remember the movie Bruce Almighty? The scene where Jim Carrey was trying to deal with the millions of nightly prayers and he had to come up with a paradigm shift of his own to handle it? Which paradigm shift does that remind you of? It starts with a T. Just thought I’d throw that into the conversation.

What Do You Think?

Do you agree? Or have I totally mangled this one? Don’t be shy, I’m not!


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