Social CRM Doesn’t Exist, But a Need Does- A Guest Post by Houston Neal

I recently began a dialogue with the folks over at SoftwareAdvice.com about their possible contribution of a guest post here on SocialGumbo. Below are the fruits of that conversation, a recent piece by Houston Neal their Director of Marketing. Is addresses the topic of Customer Relationship Management as it applies in the social media age. My own comments and observations will appear in italics to make it easier to follow.

Both our teams look forward to your comments and additions to this evolving topic, we’d love to know your thoughts. So, on to the meat of it, here’s Houston:

Social CRM is to the social media craze what eCRM was to the dot com bubble. The enterprise apps community is hungry for a big new category and social CRM smells tasty. As a result, software vendors, tech media and research analysts are all racing to promote and opine on this new market. Gartner, for example, appears to have hastily published their Magic Quadrant for Social CRM, which has been panned as confusing and unfocused.

But Social CRM Doesn’t Exist
In reality, social CRM is a misnomer. It doesn’t exist yet. This catch-all nomenclature implies a category far more straightforward than the diverse set of specialized systems currently targeting the social media opportunity.

“There is no such thing as a social CRM suite yet, says Jacob Morgan, Principle at Chess Media Group. You have community management platforms, CRM vendors, monitoring guys. No one does everything.”

The debate over social CRM has been drawn out over the past couple of years and analysts are still at odds over how to define it. Depending on who you ask, social CRM will mean something different.

“Trying to put a blanket over it and calling it a market is very difficult right now,” says Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink. “Gartner attempted to do it and they ended up doing silly things like putting community vendors like Jive and Lithium in the same quadrant with CRM vendors that are doing Twitter feeds.”

So why all the buzz? Because there is a need for social CRM. Companies need a scalable way to engage customers in the social sphere. This includes everything from managing brand reputation, to responding to customer service requests, to finding new sales prospects. Scalable is the key word here, especially since there is always the chance for sudden explosive growth if something goes viral.

The State of the Market
Currently, the social CRM landscape is comprised of several evolving software categories, each with 20 to 150 vendors competing for market share. To help you understand the lay of the land, I’ve created version 1.0 of the Software Advice Social CRM Market Map. It provides a fast, easy way to visualize the leading players in the social CRM space:

Social CRM Market Map

In this map, I segment the market into four categories, each of which markets could be divided into as many as 16 subcategories. However, I can sum them up into three primary applications:

  • Social media monitoring. Monitoring tools allow organizations to “listen” to conversations happening on the web. Also referred to as brand monitoring, social media monitoring allows you to track who is saying what about your organization or your competitors, as well as track when it is said. Some systems also allow you to publish responses, such as Tweets or Facebook wall posts. Social media monitoring is a crowded space with roughly 150 companies vying for a piece of the action. I find this one to be neglected quite often. As I tell my clients, you cannot join a conversation unless you know that it exists. Listening is vital.
  • Social analytics. Analytical applications go beyond web analytics and social monitoring to analyze conversations in the social sphere. They can analyze text, rather than just visitor behavior. For example, an analytics program could scour text from emails, surveys and social media, and then report trends and insights that help you decide how to respond. Social analytics companies often pair their main offering with social media monitoring tools. Being able to gauge sentiment is invaluable, it does you no good to have a ton of online commentary on your brand if most of it is negative.
  • Social platforms. Platforms empower an organization to build its own social communities or networks. These may be internal systems to foster employee collaboration or external networks for customers, prospects and partners. Deploying a social platform is like having your own private-label Facebook. There are roughly 125 vendors offering some form of social platform.

At the same time, CRM market leaders are trying to piece together their own social CRM suites through development, partnerships, and acquisitions. Salesforce.com is the most likely to succeed in this effort. Over the last two years they introduced new social applications, like Chatter and Salesforce for Facebook, and made strategic acquisitions – notably Jigsaw and Dimdim. I would argue that Salesforce is a social CRM leader, rather than just a CRM gorilla trying to edge in on a new market.

Software vendors are all racing to build complete social CRM suites. What does this mean for buyers in the meantime? If you want a complete social CRM system, you will have to piece together tools from multiple vendors.

Next Steps
First, ignore the buzzword. There is no standard for what should be in a social CRM solution and there are no vendors that offer everything. Don’t just say, “Hey, we need to get some of that social CRM!” Instead, you need to decide what you are trying to accomplish and which categories are most likely to make a meaningful contribution to your strategy.

You will need well-defined goals for your social CRM strategy. If you just want to track what customers are saying about your brand on the web, then a social media monitoring application will suffice. But if you want to analyze that data, identify influencers, or spot trends, you should explore social analytics. Finally, if owning the community is strategically important, you will need a platform to build out that environment for your constituents.

Keep in mind that social CRM vendors don’t offer the same level of sales, service and marketing functionality that traditional CRM vendors offer. So if you need capabilities like sales lead management, lead nurturing and a few social features on the side, then you should really be looking at CRM software.

We’re obviously just skimming the surface here, but we’ll be publishing more on this topic throughout the year. In the meantime, check out the 18 Use Cases of Social CRM from the Altimeter Group and Social Business Framework from IDC. These tools present possible uses of social media and align them with business objectives.

Special thanks to Brian Solis, digital analyst and author of Engage; Michael Fauscette, Group Vice President of Software Business Solutions at IDCKathy Herrmann, thought leader on social business and change management; Paul May, CEO of BuzzStream, and; Peter Hrabinsky, VP of marketing at Antarctica Digital for their input on this article.


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