I sat in on a session at a conference recently, titled interestingly enough, "The Trainwreck that is the Distributed Conversation." The central theme was that users are participating on our sites, in our blogs and communities, and then leaving in a hundred different directions to continue the conversation someplace else. Essentially, once the message was relayed, it was traveling farther and faster than the original contributor could follow.
While this was problematic for the original poster, it struck me at the time (and still does) as somewhat amusing. Isn't this exactly what we want? It seems like a case of succeeding too well. After all, without the network of users picking up and amplifying the signal, the message would gradually have been lost to attenuation.
I bring this up because it seems to me this is analogous to the broader issue most organizations are facing today with social media, namely that customers are no longer forced to talk one-on-one with companies' support desks or quietly consume the one-to-many messages of brands. Customers today have nearly unlimited opportunities to talk to other customers, and they are taking advantage of it. How can businesses possibly scale their interactions in social media, be it promoting, innovating or supporting products, to keep up with their customers?
Back to the conference session I started at, the final consensus of the group was that the distributed conversation may be distressing, but ultimately its okay - at least it is better than the opposite, which is silence. And in true social fashion the group thought of a clever potential approach - crowd-source the problem! If easy-to-distribute content caused the message to spread, make it easy for users to aggregate the conversations that they have so that others can follow more easily.
With Lithium's newly announced Social CRM suite, this is exactly our approach to the challenges and opportunities presented by the new social customer today. This new solution connects the reach of the social web with the business rules and data gathering capabilities of your CRM, through the amplifier of your online community to create a more integrated, responsive and powerful customer network to take you where you need to go. Or as Paul Greenberg puts it in his recent article, Time to Put A Stake in The Ground on Social CRM:
"Co-creation is the ability of the company and customer to create additional value for each other - what form it takes is not always THE BIG THING. But co-creation, mutually derived value, is at the core of SCRM."
The days of 1-to-1 interactions between companies and customers are not over, they are just no longer enough. Customer value isn't just a measure of how much customers spend with your company, but how they help you sell more products, lower your costs and capitalize on new market opportunities. To achieve this, Social CRM needs to do 3 things:
1. Cultivate a group of active advocates within an online community.
2. Connect them to the broader social web to amplify their actions and grow the customer network.
3. Integrate this customer network into your business processes and data sets through your CRM so you can measure and act on what you see.
Smart companies will work to cultivate and extend their customer network, to help the network to reach were the company can't follow. And in the process achieve the mutual success that each desires.
How are you integrating and amplifying your customer network?