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How to Build Customer Relationships with Social Data

January 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

What is your E.T.A.? Empathy, trust and advocacy are words that could be easily taken for granted in today’s marketplace of the unknown, disrupted, and commoditized. Building customer-centric business models that are based on understanding the feelings of another are not short-term easy and long-term beneficial to sustaining the future growth of that business.

Big data mining is irrelevant if the end result serves up impersonal ads that conflict with nurturing a client-base rooted in those aforementioned words.

Valuable data is mined in manageable and segmented searches, produces actionable insights derived straight from relevant customer dialogue. The key is to deconstruct the insights to help ensure you’re not alienating your customer base. If you can create one-to-one relationships or appear that you understand customers on a human level you will ultimately flourish and develop greater empathy, trust, and advocacy.

I created a mnemonic – C.R.O.P. – which provides 4 individual ways to grow good relationships both digitally and in person, and naturally aligns with the empathy, trust and advocacy.

Using C.R.O.P to Grow Relationships through Social Data

1. Commonality

What are the threads that unite you and the person you’re engaging? Is it an existing client, a shared value, idea, or experience? Commonality and empathy go hand-in-hand. If your goal is to create successful relationships through social, then listen to and utilize data to help tailor content that resonates with your audience and piques interest enough to trigger an action.

Nothing matches getting to know people on a deeper level who share the same passion or background as you. When conversations develop from an organic baseline and can breakthrough a person’s need, it’s much more powerful than misaligned dialogue or ads that find people during the wrong time.

2. Reciprocity

Give, give, give, and then give some more. Whether you realize it, the receiving is in the giving. It comes to you organically. This is where you begin to engender a sense of trust. Remember, this is not a one-time episode. Trust is earned and reaffirmed over time.

Know that even the simplest gesture or interaction can leave a lasting impact on a prospective customer. For instance, maybe think about hosting a special event that allows you to meet your new social connections in person. Even if a few cannot attend, the invitation will instill a sense of appreciation and may give them a reason to reciprocate in their own way.

3. Opportunity

As you build up reciprocal company/customer advocacy models that are rooted in trust, pick an opportune time to meet those who value what you do for them. Consumer Reports, a company that has built up a reservoir of trust [based on its unwavering tenets of being Independent, Expert, and Non-Profit] with its subscribers over the years, invited guests for its 75th anniversary to New York City’s Grand Central Station.

The event included traveling versions of the company’s state-of-art-labs. Disclosure: I used to work there and, yes, the testing labs are very cool!

4. Purpose

The purpose of creating the relationship to begin with is to establish a partnership with your customers. Evaluate the reasons you have for nurturing the relationship, and decide whether this connection is a key to business development success.

Social data gives us an important touch point that enhances traditional practices. Relationships built on the foundation of purpose can develop into more meaningful and authentic connections that you can truly be passionate about.

An authentic connection is impossible to imitate, but when it’s attempted it eventually becomes apparent through the dialogue or content you share on social. Unfortunately, when this happens it deteriorates that relationship the trust that was built with it.


Building relationships on social media boils down to listening. It’s all about participating in conversations and creating real dialogue, not trying to push your own message based on an agenda. From this point forward, try to build relationships using C.R.O.P., and approach every conversation with each fundamental in mind. Whether you’re seeking to build your relationships on or offline, combining the power of social data with these elements will provide significant traction for business development, and by proven results will always establish strong relationships.

Adam is a digital marketing and social business leader with over 20 years’ experience working with large brands on their branding, marketing, and social media strategies. He is also a published author and writer, having worked for The New York Daily News, ABC Sports, and Consumer Reports. Currently, he leads New York Life Insurance Company’s social recruiting and retention efforts for financial adviser hiring managers.

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