When is an Interaction a Social Interaction?

In two and a half short weeks I want to explore this topic in person, with as many of you that care to join me. SugarCRM is holding its annual customer, developer and partner conference, April 12-14, in San Francisco. The venue is the cool Palace Hotel. It is going to be a great event, with some really great presenters, panelists, as well as an awesome evening event at the California Academy of Sciences.

So, back to the question

Wait, was that a bait and switch? Did I just market to you with the pretense of being “Social”? How did you get here, to this page, to this blog? Did you follow a Tweet? A ReTweet (a pseudo recommendation from a peer)?  It is a blog, does that make it Social? ( I read a blog that said blogs are social) If SugarCRM is using Google Analytics, like the rest of the technology world, where will you go from here? Is this a Social Interaction, or just you reading a blog? Let’s call a spade a spade, the first paragraph is a marketing message – no escaping it – does that make this post anti-social?

Wait, hold on, it can be Social, or pretend to be anyway

See that box at the bottom – the one that says “Leave a Reply”  and “your comment”. Please leave a comment, let me know what you think. At SugarCRM we have topnotch sales folks and great partners, I promise, that your email address will not prompt a direct message <snicker>. If you leave a response, I will feel better, and since I am writing, this is all about me, right?  If there is a little bit of back and forth, I can tell the powers that be that my post was a success, because I engaged and we had a conversation – maybe they will even stop by and comment. If you sign-up for SugarCon, they will like me even more.

After you leave your comment, maybe, just maybe I will be gracious and say “Hey thanks for stopping by”. Is this a social response, or just good etiquette? When I call up my bank, or insurance company they always start the call with “How are you doing today sir?” and end the call “Have a nice day?” Is that a social response, or again just etiquette? If someone writes something that is highly inappropriate, what action should I take?

Is every Interaction a Social Interaction?

The question was prompted by a question. Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink asked a question on a Social CRM forum where I participate as well. The question is: “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?”. Further on in the discussion thread, Chris Selland made the comment “the use of social tools doesn’t necessarily imply social interaction” – I agree with that comment. Mike Boysen, made a comment as well “Developing a framework to align your business to your customer takes real interaction and real relationships” – I agree with Mike too, where does that leave me?

Here is where I think it leaves me, I am almost convinced, but  I do want feedback so you can tell me I am wrong. If social tools do not imply a social interaction, then traditional tools should absolutely be part of your Social CRM strategy – Quid pro quo. Professionals, from the CEO down the chain are humans. We all go to bar-b-ques, cocktail parties, birthday parties, conferences, etc… We interact with friends and peers all over the place (I will mention golf too). My point is that we have been Social since the beginning of time – Face-to-Face, Phone and dare I say, Email (taboo, I know) are important Interaction channels in your Social CRM strategy.

(BTW – your email will not be shared, I would like you to come to SugarCon, and I have no predictions for the final four)

17 thoughts on “When is an Interaction a Social Interaction?

  1. Mitch, excellent chicken v. egg thoughts on Social Media and Networking interactions and philosophy. I agree that the presence or implementation of tools alone do not certainly indicate social interaction, though I would make the case that they should. Too often, we have jumped on the Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin/etc. bandwagon and used these applications in the same traditional metaphor as blogs, press releases, and other pronouncements from our companies. We should use these facilities to engage and INTERACT with our clients, prospects and other audiences, not just as another channel for one-way communication.

  2. Mitch,
    As I said over on the marketing community, there are plenty of “social” tools we’ve been using since time began. How many salespeople have expense budgets that cover golf outings? That’s not social? Yes it is. Can you ask specific and direct questions and get specific and direct responses while you’re having this one on one engagement? Sure you can – it’s why you’re there – and there’s a purpose that’s reproducible.

    There are a lot of social media types that want you to get all excited because the word social is on the front of something traditional like CRM. Well, golf is social, so do we now have to call it social golfing? Or is it business golfing? Wait, maybe it should be called Business CRM? Do we need to create an entire new market around social golf clubs? You know, the ones that have social media apps built in so you can tweet your golf score and your convo as you’re playing? No, because no one has a job that this will benefit.

    The bottom line is that a strategy is something that evolves as the business landscape changes. Do we need to reinvent the word strategy each time what it describes changes? No. The social stuff that everyone is talking about is an attempt to create a market around tools a bunch of inside out entrepreneurs have created (for sale). It’s not a paradigm shift (the social golf club would be though).

    This whole conversation about social this and that and tools misses the entire point of what a business needs to do – develop a customer centered strategy that recognizes that things change – so build monitoring into it so it recognizes change – and build a culture that is willing and capable of changing.

    I don’t blame the social media people for trying to grab attention. They don’t get the whole customer-centric thing. They live in a broadcast world – “see my tool, see my tool? You can play golf in the cloud now!”

  3. Lisa,

    OK, first the social and professional thing to do – thanks for stopping by :-). I really do appreciate it, as comments on blogs I have found are great ways to push the conversation forward. I completely agree with your thoughts, translating a bit into my own tone; If we want to be social, we need to act social. Engaging does mean a dialog, not two, one way, conversations. I think as more and more people adopt technologies, we will not get away with just being able to treat the new channels the same way we treated the old ones.


  4. Mike – I just wanted to chime in and note my agreement. As I noted in my “Things I Think I Know About Social CRM” post a few days back, if you are not “social” in your business, I am surprised you are still IN business.

    I find it ironic that people stop conversations to tweet about them. What I mean is, the new “social” is less social than what we once thought social was…if that makes sense.

    It is great that we can leverage tools like Twitter and facebook etc. to reach more people with relevant engagements. And to boot, it is a lot cheaper to tweet than it is to invite a prospect to your club for a round of golf. But we can not pretend that we are now MORE social than before – we only have increased our reach and made tenuous network connections that are only as strong or valuable as your last tweet or blog post (and, vice versa applies – for all your re-tweeters out there!)

    Anyway, good thoughts, and I hope to see/hear more of you on this interesting little forum Mitch and I have stumbled upon…

  5. So, to extend the conversation further, I am going to take some of Phil’s comments and put them back here. After all, I want to control the conversation, right. Isn’t that the goal? This is besides the point that Phil’s comments are really good, despite the fact that he put them on his blog.

    Joking aside, I want to share the high-level thoughts which Phil explains in more detail, so please take a look at the link above. The fact that Phil and I are having a cross blog conversation, along with a somewhat off topic conversation on Twitter with some others, is just illustration of one of his points, collaboration.

    Phil makes the following points: “A rough typology of Social CRM Sociability might be: One-way, Dialogic, Transparent, Collaborative.” After some great supporting examples, Phil goes further (but you need to check his blog for the details) and says “If pressed I would argue that an effective SCRM [Social CRM] strategy has room for all of these communication styles, with different mixes depending on the circumstances, goals, and social maturity of the organization.”

    I hope people realize that the control of the conversation was a bit sarcastic. Social is about engaging with customers and all parts of the ecosystem on their terms, where they are comfortable talking. This is social, after all, not command and control.

  6. Mitch – a bit tough to tell where the sarcasm ends and the serious questions begin – but it’s pretty apparent there were a few different ways to ‘hear’ Bob’s question – since ‘social’ is a broad term.

    I’m not sold that ‘SCRM’ is, in and of itself, a particularly meaningful term – or a particularly important or noteworthy development for the industry. From my perspective the importance of Social Networks is that it allows customers to more easily interact with each other – and of course it’s where customers are increasingly spending their time.

    But does it really change how enterprises interact with them? I’m not so sure. Certainly if you’re paying attention (as you should be) you have more to react to and more data to analyze – but I don’t see this is revolutionary so much as evolutionary. Very much equate it to the ‘eCRM’ bubble of a decade ago (as I stated here a few months back – http://siliconangle.com/blog/2009/12/14/is-scrm-09-the-same-as-ecrm-99-buzzword-bingo/)

    In any case, I do appreciate the thoughts and the mention. I look forward to more discussion and interaction and would love to hear more about what you and others think.

  7. Mitch, great post.

    And now that I’ve left a reply, you can sleep better knowing that you’re being social. 🙂

    Your question reminds me of the question like “is a company customer-centric?” The answer is that only the customer can answer that question. If the customer thinks you’re customer-centric, then you are. If not, then you’re not. It doesn’t matter how hard you try or what you do, if the customer doesn’t perceive you’re being customer-centric (and that means delivering value they care about in products, experiences and even pricing), then you’re not.

    Perception is reality. So getting back to your question, and since social implies at least two parties, I’d say that an interaction is social when *both* parties agree that it’s social. Seriously, it’s like getting engaged. Can you get engaged with someone unless they agree?

    In the end, the exact nature of the interaction is not what matters. It’s the perception of the parties involved.

    So if we really want to know if something “social” is going on, then we’d better ask the other party. And they should ask us.

  8. Chris,

    Apologies if the sarcasm as a bit too much.

    I do agree with you that this (CRM –> SCRM) is an evolution, not a revolution in technology, from the company perspective. I do however feel that it is a bit more from the customer perspective. I am not going to go as far as call it a revolution, that remains to be seen. Yes, Social networks do allow what you suggest, and the companies cannot do anything about it – thus the customer control of the conversation. This is the hard part, how can companies take part in, or learn from, all of these ‘informal’ conversations?

    I have read article on the eCRM bubble (and lived it too). I did try a couple times, but the link above did not take me to the right spot. eCRM was very much about trying to make everything efficient by moving it online – and it was very much company driven. I believe the difference now is that the customer is driving it, and we are trying to keep up.

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  10. Thanks for sharing your excitement about SugarCon with us Mitch! I’ll even tweet it if you wish, so that you can RT it – now were getting some real interaction going 🙂

    Let’s just say we now have the opportunity for interaction through other means – and one that allows us to talk to “people like me” and possibly to your company if I deem it interesting enough to do so. The main differentiator is that we are no longer location bound – I don’t need to be physically present to interact and have a social exchange with you.

    Social is about people engaging with one another, and if they’re talking about your company, you now have an opportunity to join that conversation and help shape it (collaborate if you will) and add your $.02 and even learn something.

  11. Hi Phil,

    Good to see you actively participating in the conversations around Social CRM 🙂

    Just to a social pain in the a**, I’m cross-posting my response to Phil who wrote a post in response to your post here. If you want the context, read this http://lithosphere.lithium.com/t5/Social-CRM-Matters/What-s-Social-About-Social-CRM-Communication/bc-p/5611#M113

    Things that need to be taken into account are content, context and intent (which you do mention at the end). Mitch’s intent was in particular to provoke his peers (context) into responding to his content about the term ‘social’ – of which he did a perfect job! With this remark I would just like to say that there is much more depth to an exchange than just the fact of just having one.

    Also, you mention Dialogic and Collaborative in the above. IMHO collaborative is not only about being on an equal footing – although this may facilitate the collaboration – but also whether you’re working towards some desired outcome. This can range on how to defeat an end-of-level monster in an FPS, collaborative innovation for product enhancement, or simply solve an issue _with_ customer service as friction-less as possible.

    One thing we all seem to be missing is the fact (?) that 99% of the people that go into the online communites do not actually participate, but rather observe the interactions between those that do an form their opinions in this manner. So even though this would not be typified as “Social”, their passive participation does shape their expectancy of the experience if they were they to become a customer, and also what opinion they would propagate if solicited in another context (conversation at a birthday party, church gathering etc.).

    This last notion brings me to note that the “social” part in Social CRM is actually not only about social media interactions, but rather _any_ of the ways of communicating – and that we need to get a better understanding of the overall picture put into context. For example, did the customer rant on twitter because the call center rep was incompetent and his 10 emails had all been unanswered? etc etc

    To finish up, I agree transparency generates customer goodwill, but from the business’ point of view, the value proposition goes and needs to go beyond that – answer questions what the real drivers are for engaging with clients. Their are many varied reasons that build the business case ranging from understanding the customer and their jobs-to-be-done, improving the customer experience, innovation sourcing, better customer segmentation, improving employee satisfaction, using this as a change agent to becoming a customer-centric business and so on. The key here is that “being social” should be win-win for those that chose to engage; customer, company, employees (and by extension partners and suppliers).

    I probably should’ve put this in my own blog but this way it is easier than having to switch from one to the other 🙂

    So, did I rant to much, or do I have some valid opinions here?

  12. Mitch – no need to apologize – I was being a bit cheeky myself.

    In any case, my eCRM analogy wasn’t precise but more to indicate a parallel major customer shift (’99 – to the web, ’09 – to social networks) but I agree they’re not identical.

    Companies can listen and learn but I believe it will be a mistake to attempt to control. As with any technology change – we can make predictions as to how things will play out, but as we see (hopefully) widespread adoption we will learn too.

    Have a great weekend,

  13. Mitch – do you do all this thinking when you have something stuck to the ground up there where you live. Inside joke.

    Anyway, I enjoy that you create such entertaining discussions, but to your question I believe there is but one very constricting answer which has been hit upon in several posts. It is completely based on intent. Let’s look at this another way.

    If I invite you to a party so we can hang out and shoot the breeze and you come to the party because there is something you need from me, then your interaction with me isn’t social even though I invited you to a social event.

    Following that same thread, if I come to your facebook to hang out with my friends and shoot the breeze and a company shows up because there is something they want from me, then their interaction isn’t really social. They are more like a party crasher that has come for the free food.

    If the venue (context) doesn’t dictate whether the interaction is social, then what does. I don’t think it is the language (content as someone pointed out) as the whole point of marketing is to change the language to entice the audience. The only thing left is the intent.

    So for an interaction to be a social interaction I would suggest that it is an AND’d condition. Social && Social = Social, everything else turns out not to be Social.

    The value to companies (IMHO) of social networks is that it gives them access to feedback and targeting criteria at a fraction of the cost it would traditionally. The point of social marketing should really be to target influencers by understanding their feedback and get them to engage socially about your company not with you but with their friends.

    To revist the analogy,
    If I now invite you to my party to shoot the breeze and this time you show up to shoot the breeze, but while we are talking you tell me about this company you love that treats you well and you think I should look at, then the company being talked about has had a successful “social interaction” without being part of (controlling as said above) the dialog of the conversation. They have chosen to influence you because they know you are someone who likes to engage others in discussion and has an affinity for their products by “mining” the social information about their company and that is really SCRM. Influencer based CRM. Hey, iCRM is what we should call it 🙂

    Take care Mitch and hope you and the family are well.

    • Donald,

      Hey, thanks for coming by, and no, my tongue is not stuck to the lamp post, thank you very much. As a matter of fact, I think you got more snow this winter than I did.

      I agree with your comment 100%. As a matter of fact, here is what I wrote in a discussion on the very topic. Which I also began to explore on a follow-up post at CustomerThink (http://www.customerthink.com/blog/6_degrees_of_social_interactions):

      “To bring the thinking further – In order to respond, engage and work
      with our customers – we need to understand whether they meant to say
      something – Explicit, or it just sort of happened Implicit. By
      understanding these ideas, I believe we are in a better position to
      implement the 18 Use Cases. If I tweet something like “Hey, @Verizon,
      my phone service is awful” makes a statement both what they say and
      where they are saying it. Should this be treated any differently from
      an email that says the same thing?”

      Hope to catch-up soon – Mitch

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