By now, it is obvious social media will affect CRM—but questions remain as to how to process the largely unfiltered data, and how to build meaningful relationships through the various platforms. Many companies are having success with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, but mining the information is still difficult, mostly because these services didn’t originate as business tools.
Small businesses have a definite advantage when it comes to using social media as CRM tool; since their customer bases are smaller and more refined, SMBs have an easier time understanding these people, and how they use these social devices. Large businesses expect CRM methods to be scalable, and social networks are difficult to scale. Messages must specifically target an audience, and unstructured data is much more difficult to sift through when it’s coming from a large number of people.
Another advantage small businesses have in the social media game is that they are more likely to have trusted relationships with their customers—not that their products are necessarily better, just that the numbers they deal with are more manageable than the ones large enterprises handle. Small businesses are therefore strengthening existing customer relationships while larger ones flounder a bit to build similar intimate connections.
Yet another problem with focusing on social feeds for information: a lot of the customer conversations businesses would like to see are under wraps, or simply don’t take place. Many companies are building presences on Facebook (and shifting mostly to brand pages), but the conversations there regarding their brands are pretty sparse. This is partly because a lot of Facebook conversations are private, but also partly because just as business managers are having trouble using these social tools for business, customers are not entirely willing to let these leisure sites be about business.
This isn’t to say information gathered from social media is useless, but it will be interesting to see how CRM vendors cope with and manage it—especially since the general consensus is that social networks are here to stay.
[Photo courtesy of flickeringmyth.]