There are some things that only a few good friends know about me. For instance, I like running on the beach. I watch Animal Planet religiously. I enjoy napping in the back of the station wagon, even when it’s parked in the garage. And—I’m not proud of this, but here it goes—on occasion I eat my own poop. The secret is this:  I’m really a dog. And I have 800 Twitter followers.

Don’t go looking for these factoids at www.twitter.com/jilldyche. That’s someone else. Or IS it?

You see, when I started using Twitter I had to reconcile different areas of my life. I like to tweet about professional stuff, including customer relationship management (CRM), social media, and information as a strategic enabler. I also like to chat and share info with my non-work friends, many of whom are hiking buddies, dog rescue advocates, or fellow charity volunteers. Sometimes my work tweeps aren’t necessarily aligned with all my goodwill activities, nor do they always care about my doggie sagas. (Amy is blind, Lu is 14 with vestibular disease, and Colby has epilepsy.)  Likewise my non-work buddies think MDM is simply the acronym for the new slogan, “Mutt Dogs Matter!”

Since Colby comes the closest of my three dogs to having opposable thumbs, I set her up on Twitter. And thus I adopted a new social persona that lets me communicate with a subset of my friends in a more meaningful way, without bothering the rest with humdrum observations or irrelevant news.

[Hiking and dog buddies: go ahead and skip the following paragraph.]

Sound familiar? The definition of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is the ability to differentiate customers in order to distinguish their treatment. That applies to our sales force, our customer service reps, and yes, to marketing. Why e-mail a customer a discount code for a product he already has? Why ship a catalog aimed at newly-marrieds to a single grandmother? Why pitch cat food to… You get the idea.

Your social persona means more than just having the answer to “Which Superhero are you?” or “Which Barbie are you?” (No, I’m not kidding.) It represents a circumscribed collection of behaviors and preferences, not necessarily your entire set of behaviors and preferences. Social personas—alright work friends, personae—encompass similar attributes and are more narrowly defined. Our social personas help us refine our networks, participate in new on-line communities, and invite fresh collaborations. Social personas essentially allow customers to segment themselves. And they’ll segment themselves in a far more accurate and nuanced way than a marketing department ever could. The implications on sales uplift and return on marketing investment could be staggering.

Indeed some savvy companies have discovered Colby, and are pitching her products according to who she is and what she, er, says. Colby buys bully sticks from Value Pet Supplies (@valuepet); attends fundraisers on behalf of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (@BFAS); browses the aisles of Red Barn (@redbarnfeed); and has even been known to watch Vet TV (@veterinarytelevision). Colby is a Coonhound, but she’s also a consumer. Those with a stake in the $45 billion pet care industry are cultivating relationships with her.

[Hikers and dog friends: go straight to the end.]

This adds a new wrinkle to social CRM, especially to the already challenging practice of customer segmentation. Most companies still struggle to transcend the well-worn practice of demographic segmentation, seeking to enrich and integrate their customer data to enable more sophisticated behavioral, preference, and usage-based segmentation and with them more intelligent ways to engage and interact with customers and prospects. Persona-based segmentation should be next on their lists.

The hard part of social personas, of course, is establishing the connections between social identities. The very hard part is collecting and structuring that data, then integrating it with the rest of the customer’s profile in a sustainable way.  One could argue that companies have yet to accomplish this successfully with their on-premise structured data, never mind social media data.  But the time to start planning is now.

Among Colby’s followers are @BuckBasset, @Otis_the_Pug, @WinterKitten, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger (@Schwarzenegger). You can follow Colby on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Colby_the_Dog. She’ll follow you back just as soon as she finishes her bully stick.

Jill also posts at jilldyche.com.

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