Customer Relationship Management Can Learn From Pinterest


Almost all brands today have some kind of CRM component. But while marketers have been honing their content—using email, text messages, direct mail—people have been changing their habits.

Think of the top reasons people connect with brands—incentives (77%), customer service (48%), opportunities to give feedback (39%), access to exclusive content (28%). Today, most consumers don’t need to wait for an email to do those things. They pick up discounts on Facebook. Give immediate feedback on Twitter. Share the latest exercise tips and recipes on Pinterest. While our inboxes are still important, our attention is elsewhere.

That shift caused a big change in how many brands are using these customer connection points—moving from traditional CRM to social CRM. Social CRM expands a brand’s connection points. It requires some combination of three critical new behaviors:

Social sharing:
Creating a page or account on social platforms, such as Twitter or Pinterest, and then routinely sharing content. Companies such as Sanofi (Diabetes) have used their social CRM to help people feel more successful as they start treatment by offering easy habit change and nutritional advice. Several companies have taken advantage of Facebook’s allowance for prescription drug pages to turn off commenting.

Social recruitment:
Inviting people to like, follow or otherwise connect with your brand in the social space. Brands such as Gilenya have used Facebook’s post promotion to quickly earn thousands of new connections. Unlike traditional Facebook ads, post promotion inserts content in the newsfeeds of people who follow brands or pages similar to yours. MediaPost reports that with an average click thru rate across some campaigns of more than 3.3%, the new promoted posts are some of the most effective ads in social media.

Social tracking:
Understanding what gets passed on and how people are using your content to keep improving over time. This is an extension of the social listening programs most pharmaceutical companies have already built. It’s simply following your content, not just your brand name.

Extending CRM to these new behaviors can dramatically change its effectiveness, but it requires more than being in the right place at the right time. However, it’s easier than you think. The places people spend time online are more dispersed than ever, but there are three common themes in how they use social platforms—themes we can borrow from to create the right-fit content:

1. Browsing: We’ve become a nation of scanners. In grocery lines, on the couch, in the elevator, we roll through the latest content stream looking for something to catch our eye. Being part of that stream—like Gilenya—is a consistent ambient reminder that fits right in our everyday lives.

2. Aspirational: Every moment is a new resolution on platforms like Pinterest. We build imagined dream homes, save healthy—and challenging—recipes and pin workout tips. Content that lets us reinvent ourselves—like Sanofi’s—serves how we picture our true selves.

3. Visual: The latest Pew report points to young people moving from Facebook to Instagram; the fastest growing social network ever is Pinterest. The most savable, shareable content on the web is as complex and simple as a great image.

What will motivate more pharma brands to participate in social media may be the evolution of CRM. What will make it valuable is the 
human desire to pin.


  • Leigh Householder

    Leigh Householder is Managing Director of iQ, the innovation lab of GSW Worldwide. She is a highly skilled brand strategist, deep into the art of digital community construction and stewardship,


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