Social CRM: “Companies” Vs. “Groups of Individuals”

One of the interesting things that popped out at me at SugarCon last week was just how well-received the social CRM track was for a company that is not necessarily selling social CRM tools per se. But from my interactions with attendees, their interest was less about buying a big social software concept, than it was learning about how they, personally, could leverage social media for themselves and for their businesses.

This reminded me of an interesting talk I had at Paul Greenberg and Co’s last CRM Summit in DC. (Or as I like to call it – SCRM Snowtopia ’10) The interaction was with a very bright guy named Mark Tamis (@MarkTamis on Twitter, follow him if you’re not already) and we were talking about how for many customer support reps – they are incented to do well less to help “the company” as they were to establish and further their own careers.

This is not a new concept, at all. But people can now leverage social in a way that enables them to both help the company that employs them, but also create a personal brand for themselves. Case in point -SugarCRM’s own Mitch Lieberman (and Outsiders cohort). Mitch is very much an advocate of SugarCRM, and a great CRM expert. But Mitch has leveraged social in a way that has allowed him to transcend just being a “vendor guy” and is now seen as a generic expert on social CRM – one without a vendor slant or bias.  That is rare and worth noting.

And there are a lot more tools today to help an individual rise above their corporate associations and better brand themselves. I spent a lot of time talking about this with social feedback platform beRelevant’s CEO Randy Hamilton last week (note: I am an advisor to the company). Randy noted that part of the idea of beRelevant is to allow individual users to take the tool and make surveys, enhance their fan pages, etc. It is this type of individualized social CRM that allows the individual to be more powerful than a company in a lot of ways.

Social has revitalized the concept of the individual as it pertains to the way we work, interact, and progress through life. That is undeniable. In the business sense, we as individuals are more agile, nimble and inter-connected globally – moving faster and reacting more readily to market shifts than any corporation could.

To my point in the post title – is the social revolution going to change the way we think about the way products are conceptualized, brought to market and sold? Instead of a “company” creating a product they hope someone will buy, then marketing it to targets – will the norm instead be companies springing up based on like minds getting together, crowd sourcing their product ideas, and marketing them via engaging conversations that create a buying culture?

What I mean to as is, ultimately, will social CRM allow us to break down the barrier between a company brand – revealing it (hopefully in a positive way) as a collection of individuals that are simply trying to create a decent product and a consistent customer experience? Will social strip away all the marketing BS (that, of course, I am guilty of as much as anyone)?

It might be a refreshing change…