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Type ‘social CRM’ into Google and you get around eight million results, most of them using a different definition of the term. 

But what can social CRM really achieve? And how can this potential be quantified?

In an ideal world, social CRM would give us the ability to integrate a brand’s existing customer data with their social media interactions.

In theory, social CRM should provide detailed information from a number of different sources and make the info available to whoever needs it.

A Community Manager would know what a customer has bought, when, and any issues they might have had in the past and whether those issues affected their buying behaviour. This provides added sensitivity that helps them respond in the most appropriate way.

Arguably this information is more revealing and valuable than a log of telephone calls they made last June or a missed bill payment in 2002.

It can potentially provide greater insight into their behaviour, likes, proclivities and, most interestingly, their influence among their peers. 

It might be that a customer who’s had a repeatedly bad experience needs to be escalated to a dedicated customer team. Or a customer who’s become an advocate for the brand is given VIP treatment as a reward for loyalty.

Add geo-location to the mix, and you have a technology-based system for spotting customer issues and resolving them with minimum fuss. Complaints can be prioritised, managed and resolved, instantly. Positive testimonials can be spotted, acknowledged and advocates can be empowered to help shape the future.
The technology is already there to achieve this. I had an interesting conversation with Stuart Gardner of Comufy, a company that offers (among other things), social CRM tools that gather social data on individuals from channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Customer data can be segmented by the obvious things like age, gender, and location, but add social channels into the mix and you can add in things that let you segment and target customers more effectively, like interests and social influence.

Where it gets really interesting is in the ability to hook into legacy systems (like Salesforce) to give a brand a much more rounded view of the customer, by adding a social layer to existing information.

That lets you do interesting things like target people who’ve had a negative experience with tailored messaging, down to an individual basis. 

Early adopter brands are already starting down this road. But full adoption, when all major brands fully embrace social CRM to give them a complete view of every individual customer, could be further away than you think.

Integrating social CRM with legacy systems can create a mental block. Is it worth the hassle and expense?  How can you quantify the benefits? What is the business case?

It’s possible now. The technology exists. But to do social CRM well requires a clear customer strategy based on more than just sector, demographic and region. It means seeing every customer as an individual, not part of a segment.

It takes more planning. And the social content plan has to be more detailed to provide a more refined and segmented approach.

When brands see their competitors benefitting, and more case studies emerge, and more robust metrics are developed to gauge social influence, the case will become ever more compelling. Companies who are embracing social CRM are performing well.

It is no coincidence. ‘Knowing your customer’ has never been so accessible. With knowledge comes power but brands will need to be careful not to become intrusive in their messaging (see Target example).  

But once it happens, and it will, social will revolutionise the way brands deal with customers and ‘social CRM’ will simply become ‘CRM’.

Steve Richards

Published 5 March, 2012 by Steve Richards

Steve Richards is MD of social media agency Yomego and a contributor to Econsultancy.

31 more posts from this author

Comments (4)


Mark Bower

Hi Steve,
Nice to see you highlighting Social CRM on Econsultancy.

You are right that there are lots of options out there - but mainly for B2C businesses. We think there is a gap for B2B businesses like Financial Services, Legal, Accounting, Consulting etc.

We are a young British startup planning to make big dent in this market. We ended 2011 being named one of the Top 20 Startups of the Year, and have started 2012 being named as a Company to Watch by Index B.

I'd love you to take a look at what we are doing and give us some feedback. (http://cubesocial.com) Let me know via @markbower or @cubesocial.

Thanks for your time,

over 4 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

It would be really useful to see a full discussion of the legal/privacy issues around holding social data on customers.

over 4 years ago


Arthur Huynh

Excellent post, Chris. As engagement strategies become more evolved it'll be interesting to see how social CRMs change to suits those needs. I'd love to talk to you in a similar fashion as your chat with Stuart and discuss your thoughts on the the social data captured by all of the social channels. In particular, I'd like to discuss the measurement of influence and the type of data that can be extracted through examining how communities interact.


over 4 years ago


Chris Bucholtz

One of the hazards in Social CRM thinking is to view it as just another way to collect data on customers. "Social" is not a direction toward more data - it's direction toward a new way of communication and behavior, for businesses as well as for customers. The component that's missing from so many discussions of Social CRM is around how the business chooses to engage - with which customers, with what messages, with how many assets internally and in response to what kinds of conversations. So much Social CRM discussion comes to a screeching halt here, where the business itself becomes social - because this is the hard part. Scraping data off Facebook and LinkedIn is easy - actually participating in a coherent, strategic manner is difficult.

over 4 years ago

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