Paul Gilliham is Lithium's Director of Customer Marketing, responsible for customer engagement marketing, social media and Lithium's own community, the Lithosphere.
Last week, I was following a conversation on Twitter between bloggers Martjin Linssen (http://twitter.com/MartijnLinssen) and Jacob Morgan (http://twitter.com/jacobm) and felt compelled to jump in and add my thoughts on the subject.
On his blog, http://www.martijnlinssen.com/2010/07/social-hiccup-crm-tools.html, Martjin had put forward an in-depth review of the new Gartner Magic Quadrant reports on Social CRM and had profiled Lithium and Jive (the two leaders in the report) and added his take on what it means – it also used examples from the Social Customer webcast by Attensity and Chess Media. You can see the slides here: http://www.slideshare.net/Attensity360/the-social-customer
One of the main angles that Martjin was coming from was (and I am paraphrasing a little here) that community was unnecessary for Social CRM, especially considering that people were present in Twitter and Facebook already.
Of course, being from a community company I have a different opinion on the topic. Below is a reposting of my response to Martjin. I thought it was an interesting piece on how community plays directly in the SCRM space. Hope you like it. If you have any thoughts and questions please let me know!
You put forward some interesting analysis in your article, and thanks for taking some time to look into the approach of Lithium.
A consistent theme that you emphasize through your article is the notion of ‘meeting your customer where ever she is’. I am fairly certain that all of us agree on the statement, where things get sticky is ‘okay, how do you enable that in a way that is meaningful for customers and scalable and feasible for companies to roll out consistently?’.
The customers that are trying to solve this are all similarly concerned with scale – how DO we talk and engage with those customers meaningfully, without just throwing people at the issue? Not only how do you engage, but how do you discover where people are having these conversations so you can have real interaction with them.
One approach, and the one we at Lithium favour, is to enable companies to foster/nurture their discussion leaders, technical experts and advocates in a centralized location (some call it a home base), while providing integrations back deeper into the company (for sources of customer data in CRM systems) and outwardly providing connection to the places where the social customer is aggregating (ie on Twitter, on Facebook, etc). The presentation you refer to classes this as Creating Mutual Value (slide 13)
This isn’t just a collection of users or fans, a la Facebook, but an evolving, growing body of knowledge, reputation and connections which can help provide the intellectual fuel and foundation for interactions in other social venues.
The broader social web (particularly Facebook which seems the hot topic on people’s radar right now) provides a very broad level of interaction, lots of people, lots of ephemeral connections but provides little to no depth of relationship.
For some people this is perfectly fine, for people engaged in deeper discussions, having a level of trust in the expertise of another user for their review, or answer to a question or thoughts on a topic becomes important. Bottom line is they want to know they can trust the person answering them. A pervasive community can help provide that. This approach isn’t for everyone granted, but if deeper meaningful relationships are important to your organization, you want to grow a strong, knowledgeable group of active advocates around your brand or product, and you need to provide a ‘front office’ interaction system for your traditional back office CRM tools – community gives real results.
Whatever holistic strategy you employ to engage with your social customer, at somepoint you will need a centralized hub point to help manage the inputs/outputs of that audience (the knowledge, the reputation, the interaction history). Some people place this in the CRM, some (like us) put it at the community level - but having that completely distributed, basically means you have it nowhere.
I don’t think that any of us disagree that there is a way to go in this industry as we continue to make customer interactions as frictionless but as meaningful as possible, while at the same time ensuring a scalable, repeatable and valuable solution for companies.
If you want to get deeper into the working of our approach, including gaming dynamics, reputation and Scout Labs please let me know!
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