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Ed. note: This is part of a series of excerpts from The Social Customer, the new guide to social customer acquisition, monetization, and retention by Adam Metz. For the first entry, go here.

This installment begins Chapter 12: The Methodology. Adam shows his roots via Li and Bernoff.

The Social CRM methodology all comes down to six letters: l, P, O, S, T, and m. The m and l are lowercase, but you really can’t forget them. That’s about it. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff developed 66 percent of this concept, the POST methodology, in their seminal 2008 book Groundswell, which is the root of the overall methodology. Groundswell was really the first great book about the enterprise and the social Web.

The term POST was first referenced in Charlene Li’s speech at the Forrester Consumer Internet Conference in 2007. In terms of cultural significance, for social customer and social media measurement, I would equate this talk with Jimi Hendrix’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock. POST was the first time that anyone put a coherent structural vision to the mess of social technologies that has been moving onto the market since 1997. (Yes, people were blogging in 1997.)

POST METHODOLOGY

P Stands for People

When it all comes down to it, Social Customer Relationship Management is all about your company’s relationships with people—the people inside it and the people outside it. Chances are, if your company does not have good relationships with the people inside of it, then they won’t have good relationships with the people outside of it. You can group the people into four sets (your customers, your employees, prospective customers, everybody else).

To summarize: social is frequently where the conversation starts (or is restarted if the customer hasn’t engaged with your brand in quite some time). Then it gets “right-channeled” to where it needs to go.

O Stands for Objectives

These are the things your brand wants to do, with your internal and external stakeholders. When your executive team is combing through the 23 Social CRM use cases, they are generally seeking two to four different assessable measures of success from one (or more) of those use cases. Without objectives there can be no strategy.

S Stands for Strategy

This is the confusing part: the elusive “how.” My favorite quote about strategy comes from author and consultant Alan Weiss:Strategy is vision. Planning is organization. Most people mix the two up, forget about the vision and get bogged down with details.”

When it comes to Social CRM strategy, that’s the part where not a lot has been written. It’s easy to go out and review the tools or profile use cases, and even connect how a brand (e.g., Snapple) got from Point A to Point B (from choosing an objective and a use case to picking a tool), but the strategy part is frequently left out. That’s why we’re going to spend most of this chapter on it.

T Stands for Tools

In this book alone, you’re learning about nearly 100 different tools. The tools are going to change every few months. To write a strategy based on tools (“We need a Facebook strategy!” or “We will use Twitter. That is our strategy”) is myopic, and will fail. Any of the 16,000 “social media consultants” on Twitter can tell you that. Any Social CRM platform is a tool. Any Social CRM application, either Web based or application service provider (ASP), is a tool.

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that the tools will change over time. Take a quick look at Table 12.1, which shows the growth and decline of English-language social network application platforms.

 Table 12.1, English-language social networks and their peaks

What you’ll notice as you look over this table is the clear trend over the last two or three years for tools and application platforms on the social Web to get bigger or smaller. Picking which one will succeed is rather difficult, unless you have a whole team of analysts studying the space (this is why white papers from social technology analyst firms like Forrester and Gartner still sell, even at a few thousand dollars a pop). Judging by the data in this table, basing your social customer strategy around tools would be foolhardy (and difficult to do effectively).