Out of the frenzied flurry of activity that is social networking comes a relatively new approach that promises to help bring a semblance of order to the countless tweets, messages, and posts that are shaping opinions about insurers' products and services. The approach, popularly called Social CRM, for social customer relationship management, takes typical CRM-an internally generated and maintained collection of knowledge about customers and their interactions with a company-and adds information streaming in from the virtual communities that now are part of many customers' experiences.

Insurance industry managers and observers alike report growing interest in Social CRM, which builds off the burgeoning interest in social media both within and outside organizations. "Social CRM is a fancy nickname for a strategy that says 'when we're doing social media, we need to integrate our learnings and our social media conversations with other customer relationship management strategies,'" says Karlyn Carnahan, principal with New York-based Novarica. Social CRM, as is the case of social networking, is based on collaboration with virtual communities, be they customers, potential customers, employees, agents vendors, or others.

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