Tag Archives: Social Connections

Social CRM: Why companies fail to evolve


Image credit: Flickr

Customer relationship management should be at the core of every business whether you have a great online presence or not.  From the ability to process returned goods in a shop, to fixing customer problems online, CRM is vital for businesses. 

Traditionally looking after the customer was a coordinated approach for companies. 

The Customer service teams worked with the Sales team and the Marketing team to make sure that the customer was sure to purchase your goods, and have a good experience with the brand all along.  If there was an issue with the brand or the service, then customer service would sort it out.

The social customer is different. 

He now has the customer relations team interacting with him and engaging with him on his chosen channel.  Companies can then actively engage with the customer to increase perception about the brand.  Collaboration, engagement and dialogue leads the relationship  so you need to change the way you manage the relationship.

But who is the social customer and why does he need to be managed?

Always connected: The social customer gets his information about your brand online.  They learn about news and carry out research through Twitter and Facebook.  Their networks often have the answers they need.

Interactive: They trust 2 way conversations with the brand rather than broadcasts from the brand.  They are socially savvy.  they are connected

Expectant:  the social customer expects  response.  They expect brands to be listening on the social channels where they are.  At any time, day or night.

Listener: They want brands to be responsive to their queries, responsive to their queries and be in listening mode all the time.  They want honesty. They want transparency.  They want answers.

A recent example of a company with a poor reputation for CRM is one of the train operators in the UK.  Last night there was a huge problem with the rail service that services the south west of England.  Passengers who got on the trains to leave London during the 6pm rush hour had a problem.  They left Waterloo station, only to be stranded for more than 4 hours outside Woking Station in Surrey 20 miles away.

imageSeveral people frustrated by the lack of information took matters into their own hands.  Then several other passengers eventually forced their way out of the trains to walk down the track to Woking Station. 

This caused power to the lines to be shut off stranding 60 trains.  Passengers switched to Twitter to try to get an answer from South West Trains about why there was such a delay (here’s an example if you can’t find anything on Twitter search) and there are several blog posts documenting the chaos.

The thing that jumps out of this debacle is the utter lack of communication from South West trains themselves.  National Rail Enquiries, who provide information about train scheduling were online, active and as helpful as they could possibly be last night. 

Representatives of South West trains were unavailable last night and refused to comment this morning although there is an apology on their site.

Unfortunately for companies with no social CRM in place, Twitter hash tags makes communication between strangers easy.  Communities form for the moment, transient friendships are made.  Companies can no longer hide with fabrication and evasiveness.  The social consumer is socially savvy.

Social CRM necessitates a change in behaviour.  A total change.

Relationship change.  Previously, the passengers on the stranded trains would have been totally dependent on messages from the guard. now they have formed an engaged community of activists, demanding answers in real time.  Communication has been democratised and anyone can help the customer with his issue

Process changes: The consumer is in control.  They control the messaging.  The company now needs to listen and effect the change.

Channel Changes: The customer decides what channels to use.  Twitter tends to be the main channel for instant dissemination of information with blogs used as a follow up

Time changes:  This is not a 9 to 5 world any more.  Companies who want to achieve good relationships with their customers need to be on hand to answer questions whenever problems arise.  Even at 11pm.

Message Changes:  Consumers create dialogue.  Customers want interaction.  They don’t want outbound messages broadcast from the marketing teams.  They want to connect with the customer.

Gartner predicted that by 2010 50% of customers with online communities will fail to manage them correctly as  South West trains have proved.  Even though they haven’t created the community, its there all the same.  And South West and many other companies need to take heed of this and evolve their social CRM strategy before they utterly fail.

Watching the complaints of the many commuters who have no other way to get to London for work still streaming across the social web, I think that they already have…

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.



Online peer influence and its effect on engagement

Image credit: Flickr

imageMarketers try to work out how social interaction and its effect on uses and consumers behaviour and spend lots of time trying to thrash through their social analytics and metrics to try to find the cause of this behaviour.

How does one peer influence another?  How do we capitalise on peer influence and use it to our advantage?  how do we make a campaign go viral?

If you think about all of the digital traces, we’re leaving every day. Think of the amount of data we’re leaving as our digital fingerprint.  Digital traces all waiting to be analysed.  we’re signalling our behaviour on a world wide scale.  Every status we like on Facebook, Every link we share on Twitter leaves a trace of our desires, wants, needs and moods.  Its an amazing digital map of how we behave online. 

Imagine if there was a program that was able to mine all of this data. and understand who influences us in our lives.  To understand how peer influence works.  An influencer to one person might not necessarily be an influencer to another person.  how do we capture this data and more importantly, how do we use this to our advantage

Identifying the cause of the peer effect is difficult.  What influences me at the moment might not necessarily influence me in a few months time.  The latest fad now, might be old hat in a few months. How do I grow and more importantly maintain my list of influencers?  how do I get them to influence their friends?  Influencing the influencers doesn’t necessarily cause them to influence others.  How do I get my message to spread effectively?

Identifying what causes peer influence is difficult.

European Starlings in the evenings flock together and cause amazing patterns in the sky, giving weight to the adage that birds of a feather flock together.  This could also be said of the theory that having fat friends is more likely to make you fat.   We tend to identify more strongly with people like us.  We love those who are like ourselves.  We identify with them.

Is social commerce more engaging that commerce alone?  Consumers shop for, and are persuaded what to buy by the influence of their friends.  How does this work?

    • Friends buy something (depending on the type of consumer they are)
    • They talk to their friends and influence them to purchase
    • Their friends talk to their friends and they buy. 

This last point is an example of 3rd tier influence.  And this 3rd tier has the potential to become viral depending on how influential you are, the product itself, its topicality, its usefulness, or its unexpectedness.  Your initial purchase has got the potential to go viral.  Think about Crocs shoes.  Think about those key rings that chirped when you whistled.  The unexpected can go viral. 

So how do you get your message out so that it does take advantage of the peer influence effect?  Should you use a passive broadcast or an active broadcast.

    • Active broadcasts are more personalised:  They resonate with the strong ties in your network.  The fact that the message resonates is similar to the birds flocking together analogy. We like this because we are similar to you. 
    • Active broadcasts encourage reciprocity: I have personally recommended this to you. You are more likely to recommend this to someone else because you trust me
    • Personalised broadcasts are more persuasive:  I trust this information because its from one of my trusted advisors.
    • Active broadcasts creates sustained engagement: this is because you have personally recommended this to a friend
    • Passive broadcasts are less persuasive: But passive broadcasts can potentially reach more people due to their less targeted approach



Image credit:  Aral, Sinan and Walker, Dylan, Creating Social Contagion Through Viral Product Design: A Randomized Trial of Peer Influence in Networks (November 30, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1564856

Facebook is an amazing place to study peer influence and the knowledge it has about users likes, loves, shares and behaviour is something that Google can never hope to achieve even with its +1 button.  You can analyse peer influence in your own Facebook social graph.  Share a link and note the people who forward different types of links to their networks.  You’ll notice that there are different types of people who are influenced.

According to Sinan Aral at MIT peoples relationship status also determines their susceptibility to being influenced:

    • Single people are 20% more likely to be influenced
    • People ‘in a relationship’ are 50% more likely to be influenced
    • People who are ‘Engaged’ are 60% more susceptible to influence
    • People who are ‘Married’ are 13% more susceptible to influence
    • People who state their relationship is ‘it’s complicated’ are 90% more susceptible

You’ve also got to think of the cost of spamming people and weighing this up against the effects on long term engagement when you consider influence.  If you want your campaign to go viral, there are more things to think about than just a cool video or interesting graphics.  Adding a feature to make it go viral, may just be the additional feature you need.  O2 in the UK managed this with their singing squirrel which appeared in other O2 videos but achieved far more hits virally without any mention of the brand.

Perhaps its just luck after all… Smile



Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Strategic Value of Social Media workshop


Image credit: flickr

I’m delivering a strategic workshop in London showing you how to get your social media strategy up and running and aligned with your business.   So many social media courses focus on the tools used and focus very much on the how to.  I’m going to look at the evolution of Web 2.0 and talk about why your strategy is so important to your business. 

This course will benefit decision makers in your organisation who want to implement social media correctly throughout the business – avoiding the pitfalls and challenges that companies without a strategy have encountered.

This is an intensive session that incorporates subjects covered in my strategy and architecture workshops for clients.  It will give you comprehensive guidance on the steps you need to take to get things right first time.


This session is a one day workshop in Uxbridge and the session price includes a signed copy of my book for every attendee.  Here are the session details:


The Strategic Value of Social Media: Changing the face of customer and partner connections  

Social media is not a fad. This is not something that will pass you or your company by. Social media has far reaching effects that will permeate into every business, reaching all job roles. It is worldwide and pervasive. The new way of communicating will not go away. So what are you doing about it? We will discuss strategic practices from leading companies, review what other company leaders in B2B and B2C are doing today to integrate community marketing and social media to engage, share and drive conversations with customers and partners online. You will gain insights on how to leverage community, engagement, marketing and using social components to drive your marketing efforts to capture mindshare and increase customer satisfaction. We will start to define your outline implementation plan to include advocates and community influencers and consider cross team roles and responsibilities to execute your strategy.

The workshop will cover:

  • How to use social networking as a business enabler to generate business impact
  • Defining your social community strategy and engagement framework
  • Security and privacy,
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Social commerce and Social CRM Issues, reputation management and crisis management
  • Tools and strategies to amplify your brand

Benefits of attending
This workshop will help you achieve your goals using social media and Web 2.0 to find and engage with customers, identify your influencers and gain advocates for your brand. You learn how to improve satisfaction and perception about your brand and create a vibrant community using Social Media to amplify your message and improve the quality of your connection to your customers.

I’m only running a couple of sessions of this class, so I’d urge you to take advantage of this opportunity and leave with a workable and effective framework for your strategy and a social action plan for your business.


Improving your online brand

I’ve been playing around with My Web Career with a view to incorporating recommendations into my online branding workshops in the future.  Often people think that just having a LinkedIn profile is enough to advance their brand.  Unfortunately it’s not.  Its analysis of your brand is fairly comprehensive – more so than some of the other influence tools out there.  It measures your score based on your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Quora profiles and activities on the site.  These are then aggregated into your final score on your dashboard:


In addition to basic analysis the site offers suggestions about how to get your score and consequently your online brand to improve your score and become more easily discovered by people searching for you.  It searches the Deep Web and finds results that Google or Bing might not show you.

You can have a look at who you’re actually connected to – and see your profiles of other online users.  And you can get a new set of graphs from LinkedIn showing who you connect to – the companies your connections work for – and their industries


Deep search obtained data for my search from Slideshare, Scribd, visible Me, Speaker site, Twitter, LinkedIn and lots more social sites.  I noticed links from old stuff from Microsoft – and events going back to 2006.  A lot of data to manage if you’re trying to improve your brand..

So if you want to give your online brand a little bit of a boost, follow the suggestions  for each part of your analysis on how improve your visibility and be discovered more easily.  Then recalculate the data.

It’s a good way to check whether your online brand is a successful as you think it is…


The pulse in your virtual living room

This is an amazing video from TED  Deb Roy talks about how his son learns to speak words and the evolution of the words. For example, he’s recorded every instance of his son learning to say ‘water’ from a very basic Ga Ga.

Deb takes us on a virtual tour of his home – capturing huge amounts of data, capturing infant development.  But he discovers things that show you how online social interaction actually works – and WHY it works.. He looks at social hotspots occur and how the development of words occurs in these hotspots.

What is really fascinating about the video however is how closely it matches social media trends.  As each word is used it is mapped onto a distinct time and place (aka Location based services).   It is tagged and mapped with activities (folksonomies).   In certain locations like the kitchen area, the term water is used more often than in other places (aka hashtags).  Popular words and phrases are used in different locations of the house.  The social communications landscape starts to occur.

This huge amount of data gathered, then allows predictions where new words are lively to be used and will occur.  Think of this as the social media experts – the trendsetters and the hubs who drive our thinking in the way that social media works and is used in our interaction with others.  The language that connects events to words, can then be translated into the world of social interaction e.g TV signals, serials and shows.  You can easily get comments about TV shows on Twitter as folks discuss what is happening.

Suddenly you have huge amounts of data to play with about what people think about TV shows.  This relationships between seemingly random data on the Internet can actually be correlated with the data collected from the TV show. Commentary is linked to content on TV. The landscape of words used in the hashtags can drive the context of what’s actually being used to describe what is being watched.  This allows you to work out engagement measurements and create the social graph to connect them on seemingly unrelated sources.  All linked to content.  Links can be made from the social graph and content on TV.  Paths can be traced, comments made and the relationship between the content originator and its place in the entire social graph.  You can then get, as Deb says, a virtual living room.

How many times do you see people using twitter to talk about what’s on TV with their virtual friends.  Each comment made on Twitter connects the mass media to social media and connect with the connections in your virtual living room.  Capturing these conversations gives you a real pulse of what is happening in real time and the trends of these social structures.  The way that our language is constructed and the way that we interact in the social world.  A really amazing video from the guys at TED…

Where social media impacts the sales cycle

We talk a lot about whether social media adds value to the sales cycle – but we can’t quite quantify exactly where.  We know it allows us to connect and engage with customers – drive product design and development and enhance the customer service experience.  The nice folks over at the Get satisfaction blog have put together this infographic showing where social media has an effect in each part of the sales cycle:

Obviously, stage 4, the action stage needs to be expanded significantly – as sponsors are found, budget is organised, the opportunity is qualified and closed down to purchase stage – but over all, the fundamental points are here… and social media does have a part to play along the whole journey…


Adding Questions and Polls to Facebook

There’s a lot more user functionality in Facebook – and brands are taking full advantage of this change to connect with their customers.  Recently they have added a new Questions icon to their status updates.  Here’s an example of a brand using this to connect: *** Update - and 2500 folks voted for this poll***


You can find this feature in your news feed.  Its known as Question:


Type your question and click the Add Poll Options link

Customise your potential Poll answers:


These questions are much more public than Status updates just shared in your feed.  You share the question with your own friends who could share it with their own friends.  Theoretically anyone in Facebook could see your question…

You can see the answers they have given…


A nice way to poll your network of friends.  A good way for brands to find out what their customers REALLY want.  Great social interaction and good engagement which could be open to abuse if folks don’t read the warning when you initially post the questions.

Looking forward to seeing how B2C brands use this – and creating my own questions for my friends to answer…

Nurph: Twitter Instant Messaging

I’ve just discovered a new tool for Instant Messaging.  This is a little bit different if you’re used to corporate IM or web based IRC.  You don’t need to work at the same company or be online on MSN Messenger or Yahoo! messenger.  This IM chat works and lets your Twitter followers chat to you.

its called Nurph.  Here’s a screenshot


Information is picked up from Twitter – which uses OAuth to get your credentials.  If you shut the window down, you’ll need to use OAuth again.  I like this.  I’m more confident that the app isn’t using my data for other means…

To talk to someone – just type their name ad hit GO..


Now there’s a fair few limitations to Nurph at the moment which Neil assures me he’s working on – but some of these are:

  • An invite button next to the Go button – so I don’t need to leave the web page and go back to Twitter to organise a chat
  • A list of people I follow who are already online so I can invoke a chat conversation
  • Threaded conversation – for busy chatting sessions
  • Pause button – when there’s a huge amount of chatter and you need to respond to questions
  • Sidebar gadget for Vista / Win 7


  • You can’t lurk in a chat
  • You can’t stumble on chats
  • You need to organise chats.

Apart from that I think there’s some potential here – for some community chatting and connecting to people for one off IM conversations outside of the 140 character limit that Twitter imposes on you.


I’ll be playing with it over the next few days – so if you find me online – stop by at my channel http://nurph.com/eileenb and say hi…


Why Dunbar’s number still matters in this Facebook obsessed age

I came across this neat video from Jacquesparys  today on YouTube when I was researching the growth of Facebook and social interaction

Jacques has certainly done his homework over this in his university project.  he talks about the growth of Facebook and uncovers some amazing stats:

  • 49% of Facebook users live in the Americas, 25% in Europe and 27% in Asia
  • Almost 50% of users log in every day for an average of 55 minutes
  • over 50% of users talk to their friends more online than in real life
  • Users would rather walk the dog, go fishing, go for a walk instead
  • There are over 60 billion photos on Facebook
  • The average user has 345 friends but maintains the same ‘inner circle’ of 150 friends
  • There’s sufficient momentum in Facebook for its user base to self sustain and continue to grow
  • We can maintain our relationships with minimal time and effort

Its interesting that research carried out by Robin Dunbar in the 1970’s still applies in this internet obsessed age and out need to be in some sort of community. – even if it is carried out largely online instead of face to face.

But weak ties still count in relationships – and Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with lesser connected people – no matter how infrequently this happens…

It’s about the discount–not the relationship



I found an interesting post on Nasdaq today talking about the differences in what companies think that their customers want, compared with what their customers actually want from them.  IBM carried out a study and talked to more than 1000 consumers – asking them how they used social media.  Company executives were also asked their opinion about why they though consumers interacted.  There are some interesting callouts from the study which seem to contradict the way that we think we use social media:


  • Consumers use social networks to stay in touch with family or friends
  • Consumers use social media sites to find discounts and for purchases
  • Companies feel that they are under pressure to engage with their customers
  • Companies believe that consumers hope to feel part of the community by this type of engagement


This is all very well in the B2C space, where, as consumers we’re searching for the best deals around.  This is how Groupon has become so successful. 

Groupon offers discounts (and earns its revenue by taking a fee of 50% of the Groupon offer price plus VAT).  Groupon has a way of retaining their customers.  Have a look at what happens when you try to unsubscribe! http://www.groupon.com/unsubscribe 

Loyalty, offers, discount and deals matter in the B2C space.  But what what about B2B?

With B2B relationships are important.  With B2B, companies rely on their partner network to sell their services, products and licenses.  I think B2B connections are all about relationships.

Sure, companies can offer their partners suppliers discounts and offers – but I don’t think that’s the only reason that partners connect.  Business partners need information, news, and roadmap knowledge so that they can tailor their own businesses to align with the direction of the company.  If they don’t have this early information, then a partner could invest in creating a solution offering which could be aligned with a product that is about to be sidelined or sunsetted.  An investment error like this could be a significant issue for a small business – much more than a potential partner service, discount or free offer.

Customer connections matter.  Relationships matter.

If you’re only aiming for a light touch or one time engagement with your customer, then a special offer will work wonders.  It will initially get people through your door.  It’s the relationship that you have with the customer after that first contact that might keep them coming back.

And that’s all about how you make the customer feel.  Part of a community that receives discounts might be the relationship that keeps them coming back to you.  Ask Groupon…

Image credit: Flickr