With entire customer bases, spread out over countries, or even continents, having the ability to share reviews and opinions with a few keyboard taps or mouse clicks, this virtual ability has given birth to the ‘social consumer’. A consumer who can affect the image or branding of a company or product in real-time, with either positive or negative implications.

Navigating in this new world requires a different approach to CRM; instead of simply CRM, the stakes now revolve around ‘social CRM’. This is a world where consumers demand greater insight into corporate modus operandi, and greater negotiating power, leading to companies paying even more attention to their marketing channels, especially those revolving around the internet.

The Gulf: The Rising Dragon of Social Media

Social media is used everywhere in the world, but how rapidly the Gulf has adopted to it, reflects in the fact that Arabic is the fastest growing language on Twitter. According to stats from the Dubai School of Government, by early 2012, the estimated number of Gulf’s daily tweets was 5,750,386 tweets per day, or 3993 tweets a minute, or roughly 67 tweets every second.

And not just microblogging, but social platforms are also in heavy use. Take Linked In for example, which has not only grown by 20% over the past year in the Arab world, but 70% of those users are between the ages of 18-34, which constitutes an extremely critical consumer segment for the business world at large. As of mid-2012, the total number of Linked In users in the Middle East alone stood at an impressive 4.3 million.

When it is no secret that the Arab consumer is very much responsive to social media, the responsibility on the part of companies, from a customer relationship management angle, lies in proper utilization of social media to take customer interaction to an entirely new level. That interaction has become known as ‘social CRM’, and there are industry-leaders who have delivered on this front.

Dell: A Social CRM Success Story

Using Twitter as a viable lead generation and branding channel is something that Dell did a very good job of. In partnership with Intel, Dell devised a marketing program called ‘Dell Swarm’, that applied the group-buying concept in a social media setting. The campaign dynamics were simple, the more people who joined a ‘swarm’ through invitations over social networks, the lower the price for the entire swarm.

The approach was simple, but the impact of social media made the results phenomenal. More than 200 blogs raved about the program, resulting in a barrage of tweets, and a motivating figure of $6.5 million in incremental sales. 80% of the consumers who participated in the program chose to increase their communication with the company, and winning that level of brand awareness was the ultimate benefit. Dell suddenly developed a reputation for being a socially active company.

In an interview with the University of Westminster, Kerry Bridge, Dell’s Head of Social Media Communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa, stated “The Dell brand is included in around 4,000 conversations online every day, making it one of the most mentioned brands in the world. Dell seeks to actively engage, listen and learn from its customers wherever they are, be it on blogs, forums, Twitter or other areas. The Dell team engages in over 1,000 customers online every week”.

Learning from such cases is a must for businesses in the Gulf, because the customers are up to the level of technology awareness that can make such campaigns a success. The real deal lies in companies, doing business in the Gulf, being up to the level of turning social media into a viable platform for lead generation and brand optimization.