Voices of CRM

Aug 13 2009   7:37PM GMT

Social-ized CRM

Barney Beal Barney Beal Profile: Barney Beal

If you live somewhere in the United States there’s a pretty good chance a member of Congress has been in your area holding a town hall meeting.

And there’s a pretty good chance you heard someone screaming that President Obama’s plan for national health insurance was “Socialism” or “Socialized medicine.” One woman, went so far as to say “I don’t want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country.”

What you, and they, might have missed is that this is already happening in CRM….well, the “social” part anyway.

SocialismSocial CRM has been a subject of discussion for more than a year now, promoted by consultants, analysts and social network experts eager to see their passion extend to the way companies deal with their customers.

More recently, the vendor community has taken heed of “socialized” CRM. To be sure, plenty of technology vendors have seen the importance and potential of uniting social networks and CRM strategy, notably Oracle, which rolled out a set of Social CRM applications more than a year ago (though it should be noted these are more collaboration tools for people using CRM applications in a “social” manner than fostering any social connection to the customer).

Yet in the last month or so, I’ve had a wave of pitches and product announcements flood into my inbox, with vendors proclaiming their new “Social CRM” application.

What follows is a rundown of some of those announcements.

  • Marketo’s Social Sales: The SaaS-based marketing automation vendor released an application in June that lets sales reps create social networks of leads and contacts to follow, including things like a lead feed and activity tracking.
  • Lithium released its Social CRM Platform in July. It includes the Tribal Knowledge Base, allowing Lithium customers to highlight content and answers from discussion forums into articles for support and promotion to others; the Social Web Connect, which includes Twitter integration and lets customers see what others are saying about their brand on the Web and within an internal customer network into a management console and the CRM Connect, integrating online community into workflows within a sales force automation and customer service system.
  • Not to be outdone, Zendesk and Get Satisfaction released their own Social CRM application, integrating Zendesk’s help desk capabilities with Get Satisfaction’s customer community platform.
  • Microsoft jumped aboard the Social CRM bandwagon in July as well with a Social Networking Accelerator allowing users to monitor conversations on social networking sites, notably Twitter.
  • Integration with Twitter has been a staple of some of the early social CRM releases, Salesforce.com and RightNow both highlighted it as part of their recent updates.
  • Co-Tweet, a Twitter monitoring software service and collaboration platform, launched in July with $1 million in venture funding and integration with Bit.ly.

That’s just a sampling of the vendors that have actually gone ahead and used Social CRM in the name of their product or in their pitches. There are many more integrating features or monitoring tools. More, no doubt, will emerge in the coming months.

And, I’m not a programmer, but I wonder how difficult some of this is, particularly something like feeding some Twitter search results into a CRM workflow. Judging from the pace at which that particular feature is being released, it would seem not very difficult. Indeed, it looks like the far more difficult part of the social CRM phenomenon would seem to be building the strategy around serving, marketing, selling and most importantly, engaging, customers.

The Helpstream blog touches on this in a recent post entitled: Twitter Is Not Enough For Social CRM, It’s Not Even a Start.

They write:

We’ve hit the “tack on this feature and you earn this label” stage in the Social CRM world. Specifically, having some kind of Twitter integration is letting vendors label their solutions as “social.”

The Trouble with Twitter, as John Ragsdale points out, is it’s problematic as a customer service tool because Twitter is primarily outbound communication and Tweets can come out of context.

So then, what tools do end users need? And, is the pace of development from the vendor community keeping up with the pace of development of the social networks themselves (hard to believe it could)?

So, how about it? What’s harder for you, getting some technology to help you leverage social networks or getting the strategy right to begin with? Or is it more basic than that? Maybe you’re struggling to figure out how to leverage social networks in a B2B world where there’s not a lot of conversation happening anyway.

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