Is it my imagination, or is the lifespan of buzzwords shorter these days?
“Social CRM” was coined by Oracle in 2008 to mean collaborative sales using Web 2.0 technologies. Since then, other vendors, consultants and analysts have jumped in like sharks after chum in the water. The culmination: Early this year Gartner predicted a $Billion Social CRM market by 2012.
Really? Can you call something a market if the participants don’t want to be in it? Even as interest in social computing applications is accelerating, software marketers are increasingly using “customer experience” or, less frequently, “social business” to peddle their wares.
The problem with Social CRM is two-fold:
- Tacking “social” on the front of CRM doesn’t change the market perception that CRM is about front-office (mainly sales) automation. Salesforce.com is the classic example of a CRM vendor, and is nearly always the first vendor named when I bring up the term “CRM” in conversations with business managers.
- “Social CRM” proponents can’t seem to agree on a concise definition. The only thing (almost) for certain is that Social CRM includes some usage of social media. Even then, some say that Social CRM is a term for collaboration with customers. Do we really need a new name for phone calls and golf outings?
In a recent series of executive meetings, I brought up “Social CRM” in conversations and not once did someone know what it meant. Very surprising, for a to-be $Billion market. CRM, on the other hand, was very well understood as a company-centric approach to automate the front office. By contrast, there was tremendous interest in Customer Experience Management (CEM) as an outside-in counterweight to CRM. And sure, social media is a hot topic, but I’ve yet to talk to a business leader who sees it as strongly connected to CRM.
Here are a few prominent examples of how vendors have shifted their positioning away from Social CRM:
- In 2009, Lithium was one of the first to jump on the Social CRM bandwagon, marketing community solutions as a “Social CRM Suite.” Now it’s called the Social Customer Suite, which “engages your social customers with habit-forming community experiences.”
- Text analytics vendor Attensity has a brief flirtation with SCRM after acquiring Biz360, but has since moved to a CEM positioning. Attensity’s recent announcement of a VoC Command Center is designed to “integrate the real-time voice of the customer into their business and improve the customer experience,” according to CEO Ian Bonner.
- Analyst firm Altimeter Group helped launch Social CRM by publishing “Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management” in March 2010. Since then, not one additional report on Social CRM. In fact, the firm appears to switching to Social Business instead. Recently Jeremiah Owyang launched a Survey on Social Business Programs which makes no mention of Social CRM.
- What about sales-related (you know, “CRM”) vendors? One might think these companies would for sure stick with Social CRM. Well, Nimble was one of the early proponents, but also seems to be shifting away. On June 20 Nimble target=”_blank”>announced that it “Brings Social Relationship Management and Collaboration to an Entire Company.”
- Likewise, Xeesm, which I reviewed in target=”_blank”>Will the real Social CRM leader please stand up? about one year ago, is now selling Social Relationship Management.
- In the hot marketing automation space, virtually every vendor has added social capabilities over the past couple of years. But I can’t think of even one vendor that goes to market as a Social CRM or even a CRM vendor. Earlier this year, Neolane announced a Social Marketing solution which it positions as part of “conversational marketing.”
- At Oracle, you’ll have to work to find Social CRM on a page for sales solutions. But on that page you’ll notice a Social CRM link to http://www.oracle.com/applications/socialcrm/index.html, which redirects to a general page about Fusion apps. What, no love for Social CRM by the founder?
So, after a couple of years in the spotlight “Social CRM” appears to have served its purpose of drawing attention to the social-izing of customer-facing business apps, and now vendors have moved on. Hopefully analysts will wise up, too.
Gartner’s target=”_blank”>Social CRM Magic Quadrant has been widely derided. What sense does it make to compare community software from Jive to social media monitoring from Radian6 to a social (sales) intelligence vendor like InsideView? Absolutely none.
But the good news is that the smart people at Gartner, just like their vendor clients, have realized that the term “CRM” has outlived its usefulness. Gartner’s annual CRM conference is now called Customer 360 Summit, a move my sources say was driven by their vendor clients’ dissatisfaction participating in a “CRM” conference.
Of course, Social CRM continues to serve a marketing purpose, at least for now. If you do a Google search on Social CRM, you’ll see lots of vendor ads. But click through and you’ll find that term is rarely found on the advertisers’ web sites. Bait and switch?
Terms DO matter. Vendors have figured that out. It’s time for the CRM analysts and consultants to update their positioning too, because Social CRM is a term that has peaked and is headed to wherever bad acronyms go to die. In the future, look for even more vendors to move towards CEM and some to Social Business.