Nailing Jell-O to the Wall: The Real Social CRM Leader is


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It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of Social CRM, both as an idea and a burgeoning industry.

On the idea side, we’re still having debates about whether Social CRM requires social media or CRM. The prevailing opinion seems to be that to “do” Social CRM you need to use some form of social computing integrated to some kind of CRM system. “Social+CRM” is how I see it, as I wrote in Social CRM: Strategy, Technology or Passing Fad?

But some industry thought leaders, and people I respect for promoting strategic thinking, dispute the notion that systems are required.

  • Paul Greenberg, who should be credited for starting the fun with his Social CRM “stake in the ground” post, said that Social CRM is a “philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics…” But then later in response to my question, “Can You ‘Do’ Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?”, he said “Emphatically yes.”
  • Graham Hill, in my recent lengthy interview, Social CRM: What’s Right, What’s Wrong, What’s Next?, said that Social CRM could consist of a) using social media only, b) new tools like text mining and communities or c) co-creating value with customers. So, social media/tech is required, but CRM systems are optional.
  • Wim Rampen blogged last year that the Old Spice campaign was not Social CRM, in part because no CRM system was used to handle customer segmentation. But earlier in the year he wrote that the “sine-qua-non of Social CRM” was customer value co-creation. Hmmm, didn’t millions find the commercials enjoyable and isn’t that a form of co-created value?
  • However, Denis Pombriant takes a more pragmatic approach and I think speaks for most in the analyst community. While theoretically you can do Social CRM without social tech, the real question, he says, is whether it can done effectively in today’s world. His conclusion: “I think, no, it can’t. You need technology to do something serious like that.”

Well, I’m glad that’s settled!

Meanwhile, while the gurus debate, vendors have been pumping out products. Social CRM as a product trend actually started in mid-2008 with Oracle’s own stake-in-in-the-ground blog post that described Social CRM as implementing Anthony Lye’s vision for “loosely coupled, SaaS enabled, social applications” — mainly focused on sales professionals.

I was pretty disappointed with internal sales collaboration being the early standard bearer for Social CRM, leading me to write about two years ago that Oracle’s “Social CRM” is Just Lipstick on a Pig.

Since then, dozens if not hundreds of companies have introduced or re-branded products to capitalize on what Gartner claims will be a gazillion dollar Social CRM industry. About a year ago I reviewed a few examples of wildly different SCRM solutions in Will the real Social CRM leader please stand up? Some solutions were free (e.g. Twitter connectors) and others came from companies that collectively drive a few 10s of millions of dollars at best.

Hard for me to see how SCRM is a billion-dollar industry, unless analysts count revenues from those boring old CRM products.

Ah, but the smoke is clearing and we can see that the Social CRM leader is — wait for it — Ta da! With the recent acquisition of social media monitoring vendor Radian6 (nicely analyzed by Kate Leggett and Jeff Zabin), coupled with its market power as a CRM vendor, in one swell foop passed all the Social CRM wannabees. And rumor has it, the Benioff Bunch did it without once using the “Social CRM” buzzword. Is that legal?

Now I see how Social CRM can be such a huge industry: take revenues and round up to the next $100M. Because with Radian6 on the outside and Chatter on the inside, has all the bases covered for Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0, respectively.

Well, maybe not all. No community solution yet, and a weak offering in marketing automation. Communities may be too much work for not enough revenue, so Jive and Lithium may be “safe.” In marketing automation, where social media is a hot trend (e.g. content marketing),’s digital marketing deficiencies could be fixed with an acquisition of Eloqua, Hubspot, Marketo or other MA vendor. Lots of good options in a crowded space.

Where to next? Well, I’m not optimistic that SAP will make a Social game of it in the near term. Oracle seems content to just make money rather than innovate. But the day may come when Ellison will swoop in to buy just like Oracle took out Siebel Systems. And, there are other interesting scenarios that involve mega IT firms looking to boost growth in cloud computing apps — like HP and IBM.

So, Jell-O nailed firmly to the wall and anointed as the SCRM industry leader, let’s settle in to watch Act 2. Should be fun!


  1. At Dreamforce 2011, Benioff and company presented a vision for the “social enterprise” and backed it up with real solutions. However, it’s interesting that has chosen not to use the current buzzwords Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0.

    Also interesting that has now fully embraced “social” after toying with “collaborative” the past couple of years.

    I will be curious to see if Oracle — the company that coined the term Social CRM 3 years ago but has done nothing with it since — has any response at the upcoming Oracle OpenWorld.


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