New Thought Leadership Is Needed For Social CRM

New Thought Leadership Is Needed For Social CRM

For the last year, I have tried to engage with the small circle of social CRM influencers.  I have followed many of them on Twitter; retweeted their good content, linked to them from my blog posts and tried to engage with them on a variety of different levels.  Not to debate but to learn.  I am trying to figure out what it is they know that I don’t know. Is there some secret formula to social CRM that’s hidden in their brains that they only share with each other, like the Illuminati?

Perhaps I am not taken very serious. Is it that I am a marketing guy by trade? Could it be that work for a PR firm? Who knows.

Whatever the reason is, here is what I know about social CRM (and I am summarizing):

The social customer is gaining influence (we all know that) and has been ever since Al Gore invented the internet. Companies that used to engage in one way dialogue realized that the social customer was important so they began to engage. Now many of them are trying to solve customer problems via Twitter, Facebook and other networks.

I know that CRM is about managing customer relationships in an organized way; and can help improve operational effectiveness within the organization, easier access to customer data, and improved collaboration between cross functional teams, specifically sales.

I know that “social CRM”, a term often debated by industry pundits, is about putting the social customer front and center.  I have a tendency of over simplifying everything but this is how I see it. Social CRM is a business strategy that helps organizations evolve into a social business.  It is an initiative that considers technology, intelligence and process; so when organizations communicate with their customers they know what to say, how to say it, when to say it and who to say it to in order to provide a more relevant and meaningful customer interaction.

I also know that all this talk about social CRM is much easier to write/blog/tweet/debate and criticize others about than it is to actually implement. I have spent many years working in the enterprise, and while collaboration is improving, it’s still not where it should be. Try to get sales, marketing, support and engineering to all agree on a social CRM project. Good luck even getting them to attend the meeting.

Lastly, I know that social CRM will eventually be integrated into normal business operations (or marketing?) once organizations reign in the chaos, technology catches up and processes are established. Perhaps we won’t even call social CRM anymore, just social business.

Other than expanding on the points above, what else am I missing? What is the holy grail of social CRM that I am overlooking?  Is there a trigger, process or methodology that I have not yet read that sheds some light on this?

I don’t care who coined the phrase. I don’t want debate the definition. I don’t really care if you agree or disagree with my views. I know I am not a part of the inner-circle. I just want to learn. I want to understand.

This is why I feel new thought leadership is needed in this space.

I have spent many months researching this and I am tired. Everyone is saying the same thing. I even searched YouTube for “social CRM” and the content is old dating back to 2009. Is there no more innovation in the space?  Maybe the experts have moved on to bigger and better things; possibly trying to establish themselves as social business thought leaders.

My conclusion is that new thought leadership is needed in this space. No disrespect to the “old school” but if social CRM is about the customer, we need people who are on the front lines engaging with them every single day sharing their views and establishing a point of view.  Community managers, support professionals and others who are solving customer problems and building advocacy are the ones I want to hear from. There is a big difference between telling the world what “they should be doing” than telling the world what “they are doing.”

Certainly there is more to social CRM than just general community management and support. Enterprise collaboration, process improvement, technology, governance also play a substantial part in the CRM process. But guess what, many community managers and others are doing this today.

The landscape is changing so quickly that what works today may not necessarily work tomorrow.  And, while theory is certainly a good foundation, practical application is where the learning actually happens and thought leadership gives birth.

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Robert Madison

    [good post, thumbs up!]

  • Patrick Goodman

    Here’s a questions I have since you’ve spent the time researching Social Business:
    Is there a platform that can help provide a full or near-full social view of a customer or prospect? Think about B2B.  no one likes cold calling. LinkedIn only does so much when many use it simply as a digital resume to sell themselves.  I’m thinking about helping businesses use social media/business as offense (connect, learn, talk, sell) and defense (customer service, reply to complaints/feedback).  I believe there is an opportunity to help business with social data so that they know more about their prospects/customers than full name, address, and phone.  Thoughts?

  • Joey Tanny

    Great Post Michael! Thanks!

    My 2 cents – Digital marketing was a volatile industry – before social media was introduced. It is now the wild wild web (sorry – I had to). No different than any other new marketing medium at the infancy stage, it is going through an evolutionary stage where the fittest survive and the poor ideas don’t make it. Yes there is a ton of garbage, but that’s because there are many people who are scared of missing the train. Another issue exacerbating the confusion – for the first time, a marketing tool is as accessible to small and big companies alike. Never before could mom and pop have the influence of a multi million, let alone billion dollar company. 

    Anyway – winning the social media ‘here today gone tomorrow’ state of affairs, means studying the people who are doing it properly for a sustained period of time, and understanding not what they are doing, but why.

    There’s too much here for a comment….

    – Joey 

  • Jeremy Pepper

    Interesting post – I know some of the SCRM people that you are talking about and while many are quite good, there are others that are known more for noise than qualifications.

    But you brig up two good points that I’ll refute. First, the whole industry analyst industry is built on those that tell others what to do – and throw in Accenture and those firms in to that mix. Second, those that are doing it don’t have the time to pontificate and lecture: they’re doing it. 

    All industries and pundits need shake-ups – including PR and SM – so hopefully we’ll see new voices and faces that are doing and writing, not just writing and pontificating based on nothing.

  • Bruce Wilson

    I second Robert, more thumbs up. This is a fast moving market, solutions are rapidly proliferating and consolidating with other social tools…we need more thought leadership to benefit both users and product managers of these tools.

    Are you volunteering for this role? You don’t actually come out and say so, I noticed. :-)

  • Chris Selland

    Enjoyed this post and share your frustrations. As a CRM ‘veteran’ – let me try this:

    Traditional CRM is about managing INTERNAL data about customers – i.e. the data in your data center, in your apps and databases, i.e. information that is YOURS. Who are our important customers? Who are our most profitable customers? Who has issues? Who is buying and who isn’t?

    Social CRM is what happens when we marry that data, and the functional applications and processes that use it, with the explosion of EXTERNAL data being created every day by customers, prospects, influencers, etc.. on Social Networks. Who is carrying the conversation about our products, brands, key terms, competitors, etc… on Social networks? Who is influential? Where are opportunities for us to engage and improve our standing with individual customers and the community as a whole?

    As with traditional CRM there will be sub-categories of applications & capabilities – Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Analytics, Workflow, etc…

    I fully agree that, at least to date, there have been too many debates around defining SCRM and too few examples actually showing it. That is, however, starting to change – and I’m quite confident that a year from now we’ll have plenty of case studies illustrating how and where SCRM is providing real benefit to companies – and customers. By the time that happens, we may very well drop the ‘S’ as the ‘Social’ part is rapidly becoming so pervasive that it’s no longer necessary to call it out separately.

  • Anonymous

    I like your definition of social CRM. It’s about marrying all the data that is available to come up with  better business solutions. Relying on one source of data means you’re missing out on the bigger picture.

  • Michael Brito

    thank you for  your thoughtful comment, really do appreciate it.

  • Michael Brito

    Bruce – i don’t think I am the guy. No one would take me serious.  It has to be someone like a community manager or support person, IMO.

  • Michael Brito

    excellent insights Jeremy and agree 100%,

  • Michael Brito

    thank you Rober.

  • Jeremy Pepper

    Thanks Brito – also, I fear / know that the term is so overused, it’ll become meaningless, like “enterprise” has nowadays.

  • Tim Gourley

    I agree with everything you say, Chris.  Social CRM is gaining a 360 degree view of the customer.  By combining external data with internal, a customer can be segmented in countless ways.  This segmentation can lead to segmentation overlays that help companies target like customers in their marketing initiatives.

  • Tim Gourley


    The company that seems to be preaching integration between traditional BI systems and digital marketing/social media applications is Adobe/Omniture.  I believe it also recently acquired a firm known for its ability to apply demographic information overlays to existing customer data.  I would expect IBM to do the same once it integrates its recent digital marketing integrations, but that may take awhile.  IBM has an uneven record with its acquisition strategy.

    Just my two cents.

  • Brian Vellmure


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and observations. I have a slightly different view. There is plenty of thought leadership. There are plenty of ideas and frameworks out there. There are plenty of people saying what should and could be possible. There are even, quite frankly, enough compelling case studies and examples to assist those who have ears to hear, and the desire to change. It’s not old and tired. It simply hasn’t even been executed yet. It’s a prime example of extreme cognitive surplus.

    You do a great job highlighting what Social CRM has.  However, I disagree with your conclusion. It’s not more thought leadership that’s needed – it’s “DO Leadership” – good old boring, unsexy implementation and execution. Under the hype is the reality that many organizations haven’t gotten the fundamentals and the transactional layer in place yet. To state it frankly, many organizations aren’t quite ready to “get social”. And, I’m not talking about creating an outpost on the social network of the moment, or executing a social marketing campaign.

    In order to truly leverage the power of the new communication mediums, we’re talking about a reworking of 100+ year old institutions, deeply embedded cultures, and firmly entrenched work patterns and norms. It’s hard work. It will take time. 

    While things are changing rapidly, as you point out, it’s also amazing how slow the market has been to adjust to the quick changing realities. 

    Instead of more hype and rah-rah in the echo chamber – simply thinking about and producing even more ideas, frameworks, and content to share and hype and distribute, what needs to be done is the heavy lifting of culture change, process change, and evolve the way that people interact and participate with and on behalf of institutions. We’re in the midst of that transition, and we’re all learning.  It may be years until we can look back and share what worked and what didn’t.  

  • Garick Chan

    I think Jeremy Pepper should just settle down and become a board member with SMCLA. You already contribute so much to our channel. #justsayin

  • Garick Chan

    Why do adults make things so formal as we’ve grown up?

    Don’t you remember when we were kids? Your social CRM was in your head.. Tommy lives down the block but watch out for his sister, Jimmy’s two streets over and we can play in the driveway till his dad gets home at 5, Molly’s mom makes lasagna on Tues. nights and Peggy’s cat will scratch if you’re not careful.We save up all these little tidbits of information why? Because they’re small points to remember in building deeper relationships with your neighborhood friends. I’ll hang out with Tommy because he’s the closest but Jimmy’s got a cool spot till 5pm so we might go there as an option. I like lasagna so I’ll be sure to visit Molly on Tues and of course I remember to stay away from Peggy’s cat.

    As our memories aren’t quite what they used to be, the dayplanner was invented to keep track of people, telephone numbers, addresses and birthdays. In this digital age, we had moved into CRM systems and we’re now bridging that gap with social once again.

    So it’s nothing new. We just have to remember how to be kids again. 

  • Patrick McKeown

    I agree with Sean. As someone in the social space and crm certified, CRM is and should be customer first. Social, or otherwise. Did we ever call it TeleCRM? Why not? Customers could call? Did we ever call it EmailCRM? No, it’s always just CRM (CUSTOMER) Relationship Management. Social is just a newly added channel that companies need to monitor, the social aspect just means that the customer has a much louder voice to be heard with now and that companies better start listening!


  • Olivier Blanchard

    You should be the guy. Maybe the CRM crowd doesn’t understand what Edelman does, who they work with and how big the opportunity there really is? 

  • Michael Brito

    yes sir. I look at it a little differently. Social CRM .. CRM or whatever is one component that makes up a business. And, in order for business to communicate more effectively internally and externally, they have to operationalize their job functions, change behavior and work together.