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Hey Church, Don’t Miss the Social CRM Wave

I was recently engaged in a rather poignant conversation with some other leaders here at Saddleback Church about the various tools we use for “customer relationship management” (CRM). CRM software has been around for a long time, and the idea behind it has always been to build as large a database as possible of phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses with the ability to make notations about the ever-evolving relationship between an organization and its clientele.

The implications of CRM for the church are fairly obvious. We have people in our communities whom we’d like to reach – new movers, recent visitors, friends of members who come to our attention. But another, more recent development, has shifted our focus just a bit. The rise of social networking platforms and social media has allowed us to forge new kinds of relationships with new people whom we haven’t reached before. Social media has expanded our reach and influence beyond the boundaries of our communities and it’s provided access to the personal lives of people in a way never possible before.

These two concepts are currently colliding. In our present culture, there are those who still want to broadcast to the database via the CRM, and others who want to focus on more personal, authentic, permission-based communication via the social web. Somewhere in the middle, an important development is about to become one of the most important trends the business world has seen – the rise of the social CRM.

A blend of old-fashioned, database-driven direct marketing and free, open social interactivity, social CRM seeks to bring together not only the contact information of potential customers, but also the social streams of those same customers. So in effect, rather than having a mere record of someone in the form of a phone number or email address, we can add in their Twitter and Facebook profiles and see what has their attention at the moment before we make the contact.

Christianity has had a tendency to show up late to a lot of games, so to speak. I often say that whatever the world can do, Christianity can do “ten years later and 90% as well.” We have a habit of following secular leaders around, adopting their innovative ideas once they’re no longer innovative. So my challenge to the church is this… don’t miss the social CRM wave!

Don’t miss the opportunity to impact your community, your core members, and your culture as never before. Social CRM provides the opportunity to forge relationships with people in an intentional and strategic, but also personal and authentic way.

Need an example? I was recently given the name of a Pastor who needed a particular resource from us. Instead of adding his contact information to my database and sending him the intended resource, I looked him up on Twitter where I discovered he had only been at his church for a couple of weeks. This led to a telephone conversation and a prayer, then by the sheer providence of God a late night coffee in a small Texas town where we chatted for an hour about leadership.

Customer relationship management software might have gotten the resource into his hand, but it was the addition of social networking that made the real relationship happen.

So as we build our databases, as we grow our mailing lists, and as we dive into social networking, let’s remember to bring it all together. Social networking helps us build communities, but CRM helps us harness communities for intentional efforts and missions. Don’t miss this one. Don’t even show up late for the game!

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  1. Andre Barnes (Reply) on November 8th, 2010

    Brandon: great, informative post! I talk about this a lot too though I replace the “Customer” part in CRM with “Church”. I believe that the church can be a leader in this “wave” and a innovator too.

  2. Brandon Cox (Reply) on November 8th, 2010

    I like that, Andre. Replacing Customer with Church is ideal. And I think you’re right. It’s the reason I’m excited about SoChurch and other emerging platforms.

  3. Gabe Taviano (Reply) on November 9th, 2010

    It will be interesting to see which CRM options keep up with which social networks. In a few years, who knows if Facebook and Twitter will be around. Definitely something all organizations need to keep an eye on.

    Prayer, service, and many other areas of the Christian life could pick up steam as a result of technology. What a concept. That’s one thing we have over culture -> the good and well being of others should come before the profit we gain from them. Those are things that can be improved when an organization gets a hold of the right CRM.

    Nice post Brandon!

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