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Social CRM

University Business, May 2012

Social media gurus and CRM providers share a vision for a future where CRM and social media go hand in hand. But the idea is in its early stages.

“The CRM system assumes that everything is data, whereas most of what you’re talking about is people and conversations with people,” shares Michael Staton, founder of Inigral, creator of the Schools App. The goal? “A CRM where the entire premise is that you’re interacting, you’re not just logging data about accounts and tracking potential revenue,” he says.

By pulling data from prospective and current students’ social media pages and including photos and links to these pages within a CRM system, the data within the system can become more personalized and humanized.

“When you have a first conversation with someone, in theory, you want that conversation to have some context behind it,” says Staton.

Catering to a student’s interests in the recruitment process can help them see that there are programs and events on campus that match their interests. It can also allow other departments on campus to design programs for incoming students. For example, if a large number of them love listening to a particular type of music—information you can draw out of social media—an institution can cater its campus concerts to that style.

And a more social CRM system wouldn’t just be useful for the admissions process, it could aid with retention. Many schools survey students at the end of their first year to find out about their experience, when it’s often too late if they aren’t having a positive experience.

“If they were collecting a lot of data out front they would be able to know if the student is having a good experience and create one for students who aren’t,” says Staton. “Some students might find it creepy, but in the end, if schools have a better understanding of who their students are, they’ll be able to serve them better.”

Right now, while some CRM providers have started toying with some of these ideas (for example, Hobson’s Intelliworks platform has a social media app that allows colleges and universities to present content  and communicate with contacts through Facebook), the truly social CRM system as Staton envisions doesn’t exist. But stay tuned, he says. “Everyone’s thinking about it all at the same time.”