For small businesses, social CRM all about relationships

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When it comes to social CRM, one size does not fit all.

In 2008, Providence, RI-based software company BatchBlue released its BatchBook social CRM platform, which aims to help small businesses –- half of its clients have 10 employees or less -- cultivate relationships with their customers through social media.

Pamela O'Hara, cofounder and president of BatchBlue, recently discussed social CRM with DMNews.

DMNews: What is your definition of social CRM?

Pamela O'Hara: My definition would be tools that help you understand the relationship that you're building with your customers using some of the social media networks and social media offerings. The traditional CRM really helps you find and nurture relationships with your customers. Social CRM is just using some of the social media sites -- Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Facebook -- to continue the relationship.

DMNews: How does BatchBook bring it all together?

O'Hara: What the start-ups and new businesses are doing is really just sort of starting to understand who their customer is, what is the best way to communicate with their customer and what is the best way to listen.… And part of that, we found, as a small business ourselves, is social media is just a wonderful way to find new potential customers, to communicate with the people who are using our product, we do customer service over Twitter, we run contests on Facebook. We found that it's just a great way to meet and to keep communicating and keep building a relationship with our existing customers. So we decided to build some of the tools for doing some of that into our product. Since we knew it was working so for us, we knew it would work well for our customers.

DMNews: What can we learn about customers using social CRM?

O'Hara: The crux of our product is building profiles of your customers. For every customer that you have in BatchBook, there's a button called “search social media.” So if I had you in my BatchBook account, it will go out and search either on your first and last name or on your e-mail address and see if it can find any of your public profiles out in social media. And it pulls it directly into your profile. Now it shows your last three tweets and your last three blog posts and your last three pictures that you displayed in Flickr. All of a sudden, just from your first name, last name and e-mail address, we've got a lot more information about you, what you're talking about, what's important to you, what you're posting pictures of. It's a quick way to get to know someone a little better.

DMNews: That sounds like it can get overwhelming. But is it more manageable for a small business to do that than it would be for a major corporation?

O'Hara: Yes. Honestly, that's why we targeted small businesses. We are a small business. The customer relationships tend to be more one-on-one in this phase of the business development. It's not sort of aggregating numbers at this point. … The nice thing about the CRM -- and this is where it becomes more than just an address book where you have everyone's name -- you can go in and build reports on some of this information, so you can start to take it to that next level.

DMNews: It seems one day I'll read a column from someone who is skeptical about the future of social CRM, and then the next day read about how much companies are investing in it. Have you encountered any skepticism?

O'Hara: Yes - as soon as you start to look social media as a numbers game. "Wow, he has a million followers. If I could just get Ashton Kutcher to talk about my social CRM, we'd make it." Probably not. Are Ashton Kutcher's fans looking for social CRM or trust him to be the guy to recommend it? No. That's not what it's about. It's about getting to know people a little bit, getting to know what's on their minds, what they're interested in, them getting to know us.… Like everything, if you're looking to make the quick buck, it's going to backfire.


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