Social CRM reality check

Many social networking consultants are ignorant of how large companies actually adopt new technologies. Be wary of these self-proclaimed experts.

Some so-called "experts" apparently believe that enterprise organizations must instantly adopt social networking if they are to survive and thrive. Although social tools such as Twitter and Facebook are useful, that perspective reflects ignorance of how large companies adopt new technology.

Genuine CRM expert, Jill Dyché, addresses this issue in an insightful blog post, subtitled "In which Jill watches Social CRM consultants get naked—and throws them a towel." Here's an excerpt:

I sympathized with the two guys who came in to lead a discussion of how social media can be a strategic game-changer.... One of the consultants proclaimed, “You can’t do CRM without going social.”

Daring? Yes. True? No. You see, the insurance company had already tried enticing agents to use social media. In turn, the agents tried enticing their customers, many of whom they’d known for years. The fact is that social media, bright and shiny though it may be, is still one of many communications channels. In a survey of agents, most admitted that they were available by phone “during 90 percent of the business day, and often thereafter” but they nevertheless tended to use social media “occasionally or when I’m bored.”

The social media dudes advocated enlisting the CEO who, unsurprisingly, was busy doing things like communicating with Wall Street. (And I’m pretty sure that most of those conversations weren’t done using Twitter.) When he was finally asked to publicly advocate instant messaging accounts for all agents and a corporate Facebook page, he e-mailed his direct reports a missive that said something along the lines of the following (although shorter, and a bit more colorful):

"Who are we kidding? Our agents are our channel. We’ll give them every tool they want to engage our customers, but we’re not going to force them to use new tools for the sake of it. They know our customers—it’s their choice."

THE PROJECT FAILURES ANALYSIS

Be wary of those who advocate introducing new technology without fully understanding your company's operations down on the ground. The CEO that Jill described in her post had deep experience with his company's sales force and its interactions with customers. He avoided failure by making a decision rooted in practical realities of his company's operations.

Many companies doom themselves to failure by purchasing technology without fully understanding implications for business "fit," usefulness, and genuine strategic value.

My take. Social networking can become a useful and valuable part of your technology and business infrastructure. However, only buy what makes sense for your organization. Meanwhile, ignore snake oil salespeople, whether dressed in dress suits or cute t-shirts, who claim to know more about your business than you do. A key litmus test: observe whether a social media consultant listens closely before giving you advice.

If the consultant listens, and has sufficient experience to understand your organization's needs, then perhaps consider his or her advice. If not, show them the door and don't waste your time.

Have encountered social media snake oil? Share your experience in the talkbacks!

[Image from iStockphoto.]

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