New School or Tried and True: Are We Making Too Much of a Big Deal About Social vs. Traditional CRM?

New School or Tried and True: Are We Making Too Much of a Big Deal About Social vs. Traditional CRM?

Contributed by Lena L. West, Founder of


Is social CRM just traditional CRM turned on its ear? Or is the small business community simply fascinated with yet another buzz term?

But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the uninitiated, CRM, is shorthand for Customer Relationship Management and Wikipedia defines CRM as “a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.”

Simply put, CRM is a way to keep up with existing and potential clients in order to provide a seamless client-care experience and when clients have a consistent experience – a task that is not easy for busy small business owners – they stick around longer and make referrals to other ideal clients.

Clients and customers are critical to any company; in fact, without them, you don’t have a business at all. So it only makes sense that small business owners would want to deliver consistent, quality communication and interactions with their valued client base.

The challenge in today’s business environment is most communication and interaction takes place via social networks, and unless a business owner has superpowers, it’s hard to keep up with all the streams of communications coming at you on a daily basis – which is why the most popular CRM systems now come bundled with social channel “hooks” or tie-ins.

The evolution of CRM systems to include social media connections has raised a bit of a debate within the small business and CRM communities; should business owners seek out a CRM tool that’s heavy on social functionality or should they stick with a tried and true CRM system?

Loretta Jones, VP of Marketing at Insightly, a leading web-based CRM application, thinks the small business community is over-processing the social vs. traditional debate, “I do think it’s yet another catch phrase because these days 90% of CRM applications have social. So when I see [the phrase] ‘social CRM’, I’m wondering what’s the difference between social CRM and a CRM system with social hooks? And, so far, out of all the things I read on the Internet, no one has a good answer for that question.”

Jones is super clear about what she thinks, but, I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are some of the chief points of differentiation between traditional and social CRM, what do you think?

  1. Communication vs. Process – Historically, businesses have used CRM applications to implement and adhere to certain processes whether it’s how to manage leads or projects, CRM has, for a long time, been driven by tasks. One of the foundational rules of marketing and sales is you can’t make a client buy anything, the best thing you can do is be top-of-mind when they decide they’re in the market for what you’re selling. And, social conversations provide a great way of staying top-of-mind so it only stands to reason that more and more, today’s CRM apps are mining the social sphere and helping small businesses to develop a process around putting themselves in and around their client’s conversations online.
  2. Individuals vs. Communities – For many companies, CRM apps function as a way to store and quickly access contact information and data about individuals. Social CRM will put your brand at the center of a community and allow you to identify and track the social conversations of the usual set of stakeholders while also tracking and engaging the “unwritten” gatekeepers as well as entire communities of influencers. This allows you to connect with people where they “hang out” online and thus have a better chance of getting on their radar.
  3. Actions vs. Content – And, of course, traditional CRM systems provide a means to keep up with any number of actions you’ve taken in relates to a client: sent email, details of phone conversations, potential deals in the pipeline, etc. With the added layer of social CRM you can catalog actions, especially your company’s responses and replies to frequent questions and requests. Your business can then turn those responses and replies into helpful social media content such as a “Did You Know?” series of updates for your Facebook Business Page or as a starter question for a hosted Twitter chat.

The increased attention social CRM is getting is definitely warranted – the additional data, conversation entry points and content generating and participation capabilities are all gold to a small business looking to grow. But, in a way, I agree with Jones, above; instead of using our energy to split hairs about social versus traditional, let’s take that energy and direct it toward taking advantage of and leveraging the additional opportunities social CRM offers.

Lena L. West is the Founder of, home of the Influence Expansion Academy, the only social media learning academy created SPECIFICALLY for women entrepreneurs. Membership starts at just $5/mo. Really!

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Carolyn Crummey is a business and technology strategist and the owner of VirTasktic (, an agency dedicated to providing high-level virtual services to small businesses and entrepreneurs. A lover of technology and small business, Carolyn has built a career on the intelligent use of technology to increase business efficiency and productivity, which ultimately leads to greater profitability. Carolyn works closely with her clients to understand their challenges and helps them integrate the best technology solutions into their businesses so they too can enjoy great successes. You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at @CarolynCrummey or @VirTasktic.

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