Listen first, tweet later

By Richard Hughes on May 10, 2011

I had the pleasure of spending Friday in London at the Social CRM 2011 conference. Many of the Social CRM thought leaders were there, along with a very attentive and engaged audience.

I presented Five Reasons Why You Need A Company-Managed Social CRM Platform, describing why engaging just on public social networks like Facebook and Twitter isn’t enough, and how your “own place” can greatly enhance the quality of customer engagement. (We’re probably going to run a webinar on the subject soon).

My first reason was deliberately provocative:

Of course, at this point, Social CRM aficionados everywhere throw their arms up in horror – the first lesson in Social CRM is that you need to realise that you have already lost control of the conversation.

My point, however, was that just because you have lost control, doesn’t mean to say that you lie down and be trampled over. Paul Greenberg, in his much-repeated Social CRM definition, says Social CRM is:

the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation

And I particularly enjoyed a recent article by Peter Kim, Chief Strategy Officer at Dachis Group who said that:

Customers aren’t in control… At least not in the way that the social media cliche would have you believe.

His point is that brands actually have more control than is being suggested. Not complete control, no, but some. And my contention is that it is easier to exercise this control on a company-managed Social CRM platform than on Facebook or Twitter. So three slides later, I corrected my first reason to this:

But three slides is a long time in the twittersphere. My initial “control the conversation” point had been tweeted by people in the room, and retweeted and disputed by people who weren’t there to hear me develop the point. By the time I sat down after speaking, I had to set about explaining my presentation in 140 character soundbites to people who had been given a small fraction of the story. A lie is no longer just halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on – it’s been round the world several times.

What I found beautifully ironic about this whole incident was that the Social CRM mantra from many of the speakers was “listen first, engage later”. Sound advice indeed.