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Social CRM: Measuring Relationships (the Wrong Way, and the Right Way)

by Sean Howard  |  
March 10, 2011
  |  11,333 views

In this article, you'll learn...

  • What role social CRM plays for an organization
  • What not to measure in social CRM
  • Key questions to consider when measuring social CRM

I can't tell you how many things—magazine articles, email newsletters, Facebook updates, tweets, blog posts—come across my desk every week that purport to be about "social CRM" (customer relationship management) measurement tools.

Actually, I could.

I could make a pretty little chart and break it down by type of article, and even by source.

And it might look something like this:


I think we could all agree that the value of this chart is questionable, at best. It's pretty, and if we tracked it over time, we might even be able to find some insights. We could use it as an indicator of how much interest there is in this topic. Some might even use it to predict growth in this area of marketing.

But no one would propose we use this method to determine the value of the relationships I have with the topics I'm measuring.

So why are so many brands using tools just like this to measure social media engagement?


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Sean Howard is the VP of digital at Thornley Fallis Communications in Canada and writes intermittently on his blog craphammer.ca.

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  • by Dhana@Loyaltics Thu Mar 10, 2011 via web

    Nice article, Sean !. As the chart indicates, twitter related apps are increasing day by day, and digital marketers are just overwhelmed.

  • by Gapun Thu Mar 10, 2011 via web

    The challenges in measuring Digital and Social marketing results never get easier. Your direction in trying to measure the dynamics of advocates is quite enlightening to us.

    Have you done any projects on trying to separating Positive and Negative comments, so that the chart will look even more closer to truly useful.

  • by Tofan Thu Mar 10, 2011 via web

    Great article Sean. I'd like to know how would you suggest to measure the last point you mention on your article (measuring the everyday people who don't have high rate on Klout). Thanks a lot

  • by Sean Howard Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Dhana: Thanks for the comment and I hear you. I can't keep up and it's sort of my job to keep up! ;)

    Gapun: Hi. First, thanks for leaving a comment. And yes. We are indeed working to separate positive from negative sentiment. I have found that this needs to be a manual exercise as without being able to train a system within a particular domain, every automated sentiment I've tried has proven too inaccurate. So we are then left with two approaches. Track and log every mention or use a sample based methodology. Regardless of the method you use to track sentiment, I suggest that knowing who is speaking on an issue of interest to you every month (negative or positive) is highly valuable. That said, you are dead on. I would only add that we need to move beyond positive and negative mentions to identifying who is supportive vs. opposed. Sometimes someone can be negative but over-all be taking a supportive position.

    Tofan: Hi Tofan. Thank you and this is a great question. Step 1 is to start to identify who these people are. What is really neat about social is that if you can generate a list of twitter handles that are consistently engaging on an issue over time, you also have access to information on these people. There are a growing number of tools that will give you geographic, demographic and other insights. But at the most basic level, I am interested in how connected they are, who they talk to, where they are talking (if these people we are tracking are in blogs, forums, etc. vs. twitter) and what they are talking about.

    I will often look to run a Klout on them as well.

    The differentce is that I am starting with people engaged on an issue vs. going to Klout or any other influence tracking service to find a list of highly "influential" people that may or may not give a rats ass about my brand.

    uh oh. Am I allowed to say "rats ass" on Marketing Profs??? I hope so! :)

  • by tofan Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Hi Sean, thanks so much for the reply. Reading your reply I bet in this situation Sherlock Holmes would've said "My dear Watson (or Tofan in this matter), it's all elementary". Nowadays with overwhelming tools for measurement available, most of the times we forgot to first identify those who care for us, then run a check on them later; just as you suggest. I guess all this time I had done it the other way around. Thanks again for your reminder :)

  • by Sean Howard Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Well, said, Tofan! And kudos to you for seeing it so clearly. It's easy to get caught up in what's possible with all the tools everyone is touting/selling and lose track of the relationships. Sort of ironic. Or wait. Is that true irony?

  • by Ann H. Shea Thu Mar 31, 2011 via web

    One of the rewards of being in the social space long enough is when you start to see some of your friends pop up, like Tofan! and glad to meet new ones, Sean! Sometimes we have to forget about metrics and tools and get back to basics, which have to do with acknowledge and recognition on a personal basis. But when you get to the point of having some impact, it's becomes so much harder to take the time to engage on a one-to-one. I'm thankful for those who not only have time to keep up with the tools but to report on them, through their blogs and the occasional webinar. It's interesting to see how the best brands really cannot separate the loyalty of their followers from the personalities of their social media managers. For after all, it's the caring that comes from attentive attention on a human scale, and the essential listening and acknowledgment given to the individuals within the brands audience, that really make for die-hard loyalists.

  • by Sean Howard Thu Mar 31, 2011 via web

    Hi Ann,

    Well said and I couldn't agree more. In a world of brand valuation driving up to 50% of market worth, I think it's easy to dismiss the individual voices required and responsible for building the one-on-one relationships brands will be quite reliant on in the near future.

    Personally, I'm hoping we see more measurement tools that take this into account.

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