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Time to Stop Being Anti Social

She had been on my case for nearly two years. For some reason she decided to take up salsa dance classes and the expectation was that I should be participate. On Sunday I finally relented and joined my wife for a night of bachata, merengue and cha cha cha steps. I don’t understand why it has become so prevalent in these parts where I live, but pretty much everyone in our circle of friends was involved and I was the hold out. The classes are one part dance lesson, one part aerobics, and three parts social time. It was finally time for me to stop dragging my feet (pun intended) and also stop being anti-social. This rare Sunday evening event did not conflict with my travel schedule, so I relented.

Have you been dragging your feet too? Acting anti-social? It was not very long ago that I made a presentation on CRM trends to a client where our stated position was that Social CRM was a trend worth keeping an eye on, but maybe not something to take action on quite yet. I have officially changed that presentation – it is time to take action and get social.

The statistics are hard to argue with. Half of those business professionals that utilize social media sites are there seeking to access thought leadership. More than a quarter of business users are researching business decisions. B2B commerce is being performed within the cloud and your company is involved, whether you are there or not. Your customers are talking about you; your prospects are asking about you; there is priceless feedback being offered up for your R&D; and very possibly, there is a firestorm eroding your brand value. There is no industry or type of company that is left out of the dance – anything from a lemonade stand to NASA is in play.

Yes, it is true that from a CRM perspective we are breaking new ground, but that does not mean that we have not learned what is working. Here are some things that we know: first, social media is not a new function – it is just another channel through which all functions can reach and engage your customers. You have to weave it into how you attract, acquire, and retain customers, like any other channel. The difference is that this is a channel that they control. And that is the second major learning – social media is extremely democratic. If you don’t provide value with it, your attempts at engaging won’t work. This leads to the third major learning – in order to understand how to provide value, you will need to listen well. The conventional wisdom, if we can use that term with such a new business phenomenon, is that the most effective way to get started is by monitoring your customers’ activity. Learn from it and then act upon it.

Social media is technology that lives in the cloud. It is very accessible, which is why it has become so prevalent. But, that is also the risk, because it also very easy to just start doing stuff. And the technology is advanced to the point where it truly delivers. The most consistent piece of advice I have seen from all the research I have conducted on this topic, and my own experience supports it, is that the very, very first thing a company should do when deciding to attend the social CRM dance is to build a strategy first and only then jump into the technology. You must decide what business outcomes you are chasing before charging down a path that may be fruitless at best or become a branding disaster at worst.

So, if you listen to the advice on how to get started from the early adopters it goes something like this:
1) Define your targeted business outcomes
2) Identify how social media will be utilized within your existing customer-facing functions
3) Establish the capability to listen and analyze
4) Engage customers or prospective customers in a limited capacity
5) Repeat

Everybody seems to think that this is crawl, walk, run territory. And that means if you have not embarked on the social CRM path it is time to at least crawl out to the dance floor. I learned that it is hard to dance the merengue the first time out, but getting started is everything. And, iIt does not hurt to have the right shoes.

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