Jeremiah Owyang: Public relations will be impacted by ’social CRM’ in 2010

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There’s something special about a guy who isn’t a rock star yet has three times the Twitter followers of Bob Dylan.  He’s not a deep-pocketed electronics retailer, yet his social media presence dwarfs Best Buy.

Jeremiah Owyang is an influencer in Web strategy, a futurist, a gadfly and — most important of all — someone who listens, studies, engages and shares.  A partner in the newly formed consulting firm Altimeter Group, Owyang earned his nearly 60,000 followers the hard way.

Since I dived into the social web after leaving PR Newswire, I found that Owyang’s Forrester research reports provided a well-grounded reality check that validated fundamental shifts in consumer behavior, marketing methodologies and the demand for new PR and marcom tools.  He’s routinely quoted by CMOs during conferences and, unlike many celebrities, @jowyang almost always tweets back immediately.

During my recent visit to Altimeter Group’s new headquarters in San Mateo, California, Owyang showed no signs of being jet-lagged, despite returning less than a day earlier from one of his frequent overseas speeches.  He also demonstrated keen knowledge of an increasingly confusing vendor community supplying social media monitoring, analysis and curation tools.

To illustrate why the public relations industry should familiarize itself with social customer relationship management systems, Owyang shared an anecdote about how appliance maker Whirlpool  failed to appease a disgruntled customer, and the damage it caused due to that customer’s ability to influence millions through social media.

“Customers do not care what department you’re in,” said Owyang, predicting that some forward-thinking companies will take on the challenge of building smart systems that inform Support, PR, Marketing, Product Development and offer a single view of the customer no matter where they touch the company.

I am aware of one large food manufacturer whose PR department is heading into the new year with amped up monitoring capabilities and a plan to pipe real-time data into their customer service call centers.

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