Back in the early 1990s, when database marketing was all the rage, everyone's goal was to be free of silos. Roladexes(TM) , customer lists, prospect files, piles of cards collected at the latest trade show... all would be combined into one perfect database, a dream CRM system that kept track of every company contact.
This was particularly a problem in business publishing, where editors, site license sales reps, ad sales reps, marketers, publishers, and the circulation department all had separate contact name collections. I remember hiring a temp one summer to go to our New York offices with the express purpose of making copies of our reporting staff's grubby, handwritten Roladex cards and Fedexing them down to me at the head office where I could have data entry add all those lovely names to our central database.
Someday soon all our marketing problems would be solved, our prospect files wonderfully expanded.
Then came social networking. I learned from LinkedIn's mass email to users today in celebration of reaching 100 million members, that I was member 14,457 or something like that. I wasn't averse to jumping on the social bandwagon. If anything, LinkedIn promised glorious updatability because people in your network would correct and update their own records themselves. The bane of CRM databases erased magically!
Turns out a bane erased equals a new bane begun.
We've been wrestling with internal editorial contacts for the past six months, in part because one key reporter is about to go on maternity leave so we need a way to keep her story pipeline warm while she's gone. And also because we're at the start of the launch process for a third publication.
The problem: it's no longer possible to collect all of your contacts in one place, let alone to reach out to them with a single type of broadcast message. Because people have a choice now and those choices are disparate ones. Some prefer to be contacted via Linkedin, others do best with Facebook, a certain group of cognoscenti will only respond via Twitter... and the rest, well phone, email, various discussion groups, who knows.
Plus, there are the ones who you must ping through every channel available, repeatedly before they'll pay attention and respond to you.
Even Net-savvy contact management SaaSs such as SalesForce, Batchbook and Highrise can't really help you with this. We have customer files, email lists, partner names, sales prospect lists, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Outlook records, LinkedIn contacts, fellow discussion group members, and yes a stack of business cards from that last trade show sitting by the computer to enter into a CRM system someday when somebody gets the time to do so.
It's silo hell.
I really don't know how to handle it. Worse yet, I don't know how to advise my staff. Social media makes it possible to contact everyone on the planet. But not remotely optimally.