Phil Soffer is Vice President of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies. He has held a number of positions at the company influencing the direction of the platform, most recently running Product Management.
He is active on Twitter as @phsoffer and is a regular contributor in the Lithosphere where he is PhilS.
Every time Mitch Lieberman writes something, I want to write something in response. Sometimes I tweet. Sometimes I write a comment in his blog. But I always feel I have more to say. Mitch, you make me feel like blogging!
Mitch's latest post asks the provocative question, when is an activity "social" in the Social CRM context?
He suggests, and I agree with him, that any action involving two human beings is "social" by definition, therefore you need to include channels such as face-to-face and e-mail in your Social CRM playbook. It's hard to disagree with this, if for no other reason than it's hard to envision a world in which these forms of communication didn't exist.
Mitch's post makes me want to think out loud about a more rigorous definition of the forms that Social CRM interaction takes. I'm not talking about channels here: Facebook versus Twitter, or whatever. I'm talking more about norms and expectations that govern the interaction.
A rough typology of Social CRM Sociability might be:
One-way - a communication is offered with no intention of dialog. I was originally going to call this "spammy," but most corporate web sites and many corporate blogs are one-way without being spammy.
Dialogic - a communication is offered with the expectation that there can be a reciprocal communication in response. If Mitch writes a blog post with a comment field, he is engaging in a dialogic relationship with his audience. His intent is to broadcast his point of view, but he's open to listening, so there is a possibility for dialog. If Mitch's company issues a bunch of Tweets that it has no intention of responding to, this is one-way rather than dialogic even though the medium supports dialog. Transparent - a communication is transparent if it is an exchange between people that other people are free to listen in on or participate in. This one is tricky, but quite interesting. The difference between Comcast supporting users on Twitter and supporting those same users via e-mail is transparency. Comcast is engaging in an implicit bargain here: we will have this conversation out in the open and get the benefits of customer goodwill that come from that openness. In exchange, we will be held accountable in public.
Transparency has a long and honorable tradition outside of Social CRM, of course. In government, we say "sunshine is the best disinfectant." Joel Salatin, the grass farmer hero of Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," has called for all slaughterhouses to be sheathed in glass so consumers can see what's going on inside.
The categorical imperative of transparent SCRM would be something like, "Only have a conversation with a customer that you would have in front of all of your customers."
Collaborative - a communication is collaborative if there is an expectation that all of the actors begin on an equal footing. Mitch's blog hosts a dialog, but ultimately it's Mitch's blog. Twitter, forums, and other such media offer a potential for collaborative communication, though of course there are ways of communicating in those media that are not collaborative at all. It's the intent that matters here.
If pressed I would argue that an effective SCRM strategy has room for all of these communication styles, with different mixes depending on the circumstances, goals, and social maturity of the organization.
Do these descriptions make sense? Are they helpful? Should there be more? Or should I just resist the impulse to dialog when I read something Mitch writes?