Today, part of a brand’s job is to act like a town hall meeting, a secular and informal public meeting. Everyone in the community is invited to attend, not always to voice their opinions, but hear responses from others.

We have come full circle, making communication on the Internet more human, and less fragmented, with a rich flow of interactions, like you would find in a large city, but more on a granular level like a small town or village, the most important element being spontaneity of free human exchange. They evolve through an ecosystem that includes your technology, potential customers, and employees.

Almost by definition, a brand’s Social CRM can be great only at the expense of a company’s employees, executive leadership (all should have the vision to realize its ROI), and competitors who are less effective at branding and collecting their customers’ social interactions. Money can buy a great SCRM platform, but it cannot buy a brand’s social interactions off the shelf.

So, how can a brand gain control of its consumer data, marketing, customer service, and PR efforts in light of the widespread use of social media? Social CRM (SCRM) is one answer (Facebook likely to be the largest), but it can be expensive technology, and still evolving.

At the present time, it is an evolving technology that effectively manages a brand’s demographics, preferences and communications with its audience. It involves fully integrated real-time listening, engagement and measurement workflow process to collaborate with customers, prospects, influencers and employees.

Let me briefly take you through the evolution of the CRM to the SCRM. Earlier CRM’s were involved in social media monitoring and research, and physical listening of digital conversations. These CRM’s could also capture a brand’s social presence and gather research. It helped build a brand’s social presence by helping companies figure out where and how to engage socially on platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It also supported the development of SEO strategies, customer services and marketing channels, while building brand attraction, helping control attrition, and stimulating customer conversations.

Social research was also a part of a CRM’s functionality, as was the business of gathering intelligence, social research sentiment (what is being said or talked about online) activity, and the use of dashboards that captured sentiment activity from different digital communities known as (Buzz Metrics).

Third party data analysis from research companies such as Nielson could also support a company’s CRM by measuring issues of reputation, customer service and influential power of online. With this information, a brand can better understand how customers communicate, and then create a plan to act on it.

So where are the CRM’s now? Social CRM’s are using technologies that include all of the above functionalities, as well as the following. It can now take socially produced data and bring it to the customer, while grouping this information into personal customer preferences, auto making data (making it presentable), and integrating analytics into its processes. Current SCRM’s also allow for social data augmentation of your services, as you can work with third party firms for added value.

Lastly, there is social business process management workflow, which means taking information from the web, understanding and translating, and acting on it in an organized way.

Let’s take a deep-dive into a SCRM’s functionalities; they normally contain following three main components, 1) strategy, supporting product development, customer service, marketing, and the opening up of communications with customers; 2) technology, social media monitoring that helps to glean data and understand text data, and platforms, which can come in the form of community forums. Community forums are good social sources from which a brand’s SCRM can gather data. A brand has greater control of their social digital information when it originates from within its own private digital space.

Finally, social monitoring and workflow are also part of the SCRM’s technical capabilities, and it can be described as how a brand manages its data processes; 3) Data, that comes in the form of text or comments about how the public describes your service or product. These come from public and private platforms such as the web and Facebook. You can also improve your understanding of a brand’s social data by partnering with social monitoring firms.

Current trends are taking SCRM’s in the direction of having all your digital information residing in one single database, rather than several connected ones.

With technology changes and company purchases such as buying Radian6, your marketing and PR staff should develop a better understanding of CRM’s, SCRM and customer analytics now that CRM 3.0 (SCRM) is on the way.

Companies such as Dell and Gatorade (Pepsi), have set the gold standard for social media listening command centers of excellence, and have paved the way for the need and use of the next generation of SCRM’s to process socially derived digital data.

Dell’s center will track on average more than 22,000 daily topic posts related to Dell, and mentions on Twitter. This information will be sorted into topics and subjects of conversation, sentiment, share of voice, geography and trends.

In the end, your client or company should place considerable value on socially derived data, and its ROI, for the benefits of this technology to be fully realized; otherwise an investment in a SCRM may not work.

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