And if so, whether it will all end in tears for those that believed something better was about to happen.
In teeing up this argument I want to invoke a little history by going back to the last time everyone got warm and cuddley about customers. This was the time when customer relationship management was yet to be reduced to a three letter acronym and a highly priced piece of software that dumbed down the original insight around customer management to little more than a technical deployment schedule.
At that time, we believed in a new way of relating. The psychology seems sound. Big picture writers like Peter Drucker made the case with conviction. So it seemed happy days indeed and a new era for the customer:brand relationship.
That was of course until it occurred to everyone that the whole thing was being hijacked under the justification of monetising the opportunity. Eventually everyone climbed on board as the freshly minted CRM gravy train gathered speed until dotcom blues fouled everything up.
I see the same pattern about to be repeated with Social CRM or whatever label you like to wrap the whole ‘social’ customer thing up in. As you can tell, I’m not native to the ‘social’ customer thing. It’s not my generation although I get the theology and revolutionary zeal behind the new Magna Carta being proposed. I like it because it picks up from when we last had a purity and integrity of vision.
Anyway that’s the scene setting done with.
The Advent Of Social Commerce
Now fast forward to an important event that happened last week (early October 2010). One of the leading lights in ‘Social’, the Altimeter Group held their first conference. It was about the next big thing: Social Commerce. A hot topic by all accounts and they streamed it live which in the main worked really well. That was cool even at 1.30am GMT as I watched some really smart people presenting. Quite a thrill to see Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang in the virtual flesh so to speak. I learnt lots.
Please watch the re-runs if you can. It’s the real thing. They have promised to upload the sessions soon.
Anyway, the final panel session in the two day event had three, self consciously smart VP/CEOs talking about how they were monetising the social customer. Or ‘leveraging the social graph’ as spoken in the new lingo. It’s either pure genius and the ultimate 1:1 relationship or the most insidious invasion of the ‘social’ customers’ space yet devised. It all depends on whether one is wearing a revolutionary or moneybags hat.
I was fascinated since it was Charlene Li who chaired the session. The very same who has written a couple of radical tracts on open leadership and understanding the new ground rules which has positioned her and her company in a very progressive light. However this time she was absorbing all the tricks being learnt that push virtual shops inside messages to people’s Facebook wall. Yes really. And how to finesse soft sell tactics since the context was still ‘social’ in order to get the business. Oh and how they intend to use that ‘Like it’ button to drive viral selling within people’s trusted networks!
As I said, for some this is just smart marketing, leveraging individual social graph data that obviously should be used since it exists online. Maybe. In one respect I really don’t care. Nor am I surprised by the gradual hijacking of this current vision for monetisation.
But I can sense the anomaly being created and the sheer relief that brands will feel once they realise that they are not in fact being asked to change or actually listen and relate differently to their customers. Instead they are just being asked to pony up for a brand new way of monetising them.
“Thank God. Phew, why didn’t you say! So, how much did you say it was to join?”
T’was ever thus.
Signs are on the door people. The gravy train is now taking passengers and due to leave over the next three months.
A con or just an evolution of the original idea?