That Which We Call a Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be CRM


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Today’s issue: what to name Social CRM and where to place it within the organization.

Why does it matter?  I have been writing and researching the CRM market for a while and have seen the new terms come and go, most of them leaving little in the sense of progress for the CRM industry.  My “job” is to help businesses adopt the solutions we are talking about.  If they adopt the name, and the concept, then the industry moves forward. A lengthy discussion on naming acts as a deterrent for businesses to adopt the concept and begin using it and, as Tony Nemelka also explained, a lack of naming conventions keeps investors away from the market.

There is a considerable debate right now and it is expected.  After the hype for any concept peaks, the next step is ownership — and that begins with naming it.  I want to make sure that the naming does not become more important that helping the business identify the concepts and move forward; I want to propose five rules for Social CRM naming:

1. The term Social CRM is already agreed on and will not change.  Similarly, the terms Enterprise 2.0 and CRM are also set-in-stone.

2. The term Social Business as a designator of the future state of business is already agreed on.  Businesses are becoming social because society (led mostly by Generation Y citizens becoming customers and workers) is demanding it.

3. The term Social Business Design, as defined by David Armano, is an agreed on method for business to become social.

4.  The term Communities as a definition of groups with similar ideas and desires, but not set strategic directions or rules, is agreed on and won’t change.  The purpose of the community is not important if you know how to handle them, so whether they are for social purposes, service purposes, marketing or sales purposes communities are here to stay (as they have been since the 1960s)

5. As for the relationship between them, above everything else we have the Social Business.  Organizations are either there today (doubt it) or on their way to become one.

a. Social Business Strategy is the overall strategy that the business sets for how to become social, deal with customers and communities, and interact in a social world.  This is regardless of business function or the way to do it, it is a set of objectives, metrics, and goals they would like to accomplish in this new social world.

b. Social Business Design is the method by which the business will change their processes, systems, data stores, and people to become a Social Business.  It is used to craft new experiences, new processes and to help people embrace the social business model to attain the Social Business Strategy.

c. Enterprise 2.0 is the internal strategy that the business will use to become social – it is highly dependent on the Social Business Strategy and can be achieved using the Social Business Design model.  It is not struggle free, and there are still discussions similar to this one with respect to its naming.

d. Social CRM is the external strategy that the business will use to become social.  As the Enterprise 2.0 for internal, it is highly dependent on Social Business Strategy and leverages Social Business Design to accomplish it.  Further, it leverages existing CRM strategy, systems, and models to ensure continuity in the relationships with customers.

What do you think? What did  I miss? Are you ready to affirm these truths and use them as we move forward? What would you change?

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


  1. Esteban, this is a fabulous post to round up and explain some terms commonly used.

    However, the fact that a term has “stuck” in the industry doesn’t necessarily mean that it has a common definition. A term like “social CRM” doesn’t mean what proponents say it means, it means what the market (people) think it means.

    I couple of years ago, long after everybody “knew” what CRM meant, I ran a survey and just asked respondents to answer the question: “What is CRM?”

    I analyzed the text responses and found three distinct but overlapping answers.

    • One group defined CRM as a way to derive business benefits from customers, such as increased revenue or profitability.
    • Another described CRM as an approach to deliver customer benefits, such as improved customer experience or higher customer satisfaction.
    • The third group tended to define “CRM” as a method to manage customer information, through analytics or process automation.

    Only about 20% defined CRM as a way to deliver value to customers (i.e. be customer-centric) while also delivering value to the enterprise. Nearly 30% defined CRM as mainly an IT project.

    More details here: Three Perspectives on “CRM” Reveal Limited Win-Win Thinking

    Increasingly, whatever Wikipedia says is becoming the accepted meaning for a term, because that’s where people look first. Currently Social CRM is defined as a type of CRM:

    Beginning in 2007, the rapid growth in social media and social networking forced CRM product companies to integrate “social” features into their traditional CRM systems. Some of the first features added are social network monitoring feeds (ie Twitter timeline), typically built into the system dashboard. Other emerging capabilities include messaging, sentiment analysis, and other analytics. Many industry experts contend that Social CRM is the way of the future, but there are still many skeptics. Top CRM minds agree that online social communities and conversations carry heavy consequences for companies. They must be monitored for real-time marketplace feedback and trends.

    There’s no other place where “Social CRM” has been hammered out and agreed upon as a standard, by a cross-industry consortium. Instead, we have dueling definitions by vendors, consultants and analysts. It’s no wonder that Wikipedia is such a popular service — it brings together the “wisdom” of the crowds in a way that industry experts can’t seem to accomplish.

    It’s fine to have common terms, but what we really need is common meaning. Thanks again for a great post.

  2. Bob,

    Thanks for sharing that wonderful information with us. I really like it, a lot.

    The statement you make is a conversation I had countless times in the past few weeks – we need to get beyond our small world to have it take. For people to adopt it, we have to provide a definition, a framework, a roadmap, expected results, and what it looks like when you get there. Nowhere nearly close yet.

    However, I was getting a little tired of having the same discussion on whether it social crm or social business, and try to see who has the best definition.

    Time to engage the outside world and get our “experiment” to the next level. As much as I dread Wikipedia (due to previous experiences) I know that you are right and is one of the next steps in reaching for the outside world. I also know that if we can get a consensus and a couple of articles written that are widely accepted (Wikipedia does not accept blog as references yet) we will be more successful in getting the outside world to see us the way we see us.

    One problem I have, especially with terms that also denote software packages, is that vendors have the resources (i.e. at least one person) to change the Wikipedia definition to suit their needs constantly. as a consultant/researcher I am outnumbered, no matter how much time I spend there. I would do better getting the vendors to embrace a single definition, then moving it to Wikipedia than to battle it out there. At least that was my experience in the past.
    Convoluted, but it all works out at the end…

  3. Hi Esteban

    A valiant effort to bring a little clarity to the murky world of SocialYYZ; where XYZ is almost any set of three letters.

    I have said this before and no doubt I will say it again. Social XYZ is still in the earliest stage of development. It is an emergent phenomenon. It is more important at this stage to understand what is consists of and how it works in outline, than to try and define things. The definitions will emerge with the passage of time as we fill in all the missing details. And there are many details that are still missing.

    I have just returned from the Mass Customisation, Personalisation and Co-Creation conference in Helsinki. The conference brought together 250 academics, consultants and businesses whose daily work includes, but is not limited to, Social XYZ. The many conversations I had over the three days reminded me just how SHALLOW our discussions of SocialXYZ are. Whether it is the definitions of SocBusStrategy that don’t mention profit, Dachis Groups superficial outline of SocBusDesign in its much-hyped whitepaper, or SocCRM’s struggle deciding what the real role of the customer should be.

    We have a lot of work to do: To understand the role that customers should, could and ought to play in SocXYZ. To understand the broad and deep capabilities that we have to build to enable SocXYZ. To understand how SocXYZ creates economic value for companies and other sorts of value for customers. To understand how SocXYZ changes how experiences are delivered, and. To understand the myriad of implications that SocXYZ has for the management of brands.

    It is high time that we improved our game. It is time we started to look in more detail at the early adopters of SocXYZ to see what really works. It is time we started to scour the rapidly expanding literature to understand why it works. And it is time we started combining the two to build robust, proven, replicable approaches to getting SocXYZ to work in everyone’s organisation. Doing this will require that businesses, academics and consultants come together to look at SocXYZ through their different perspectives. This will not be easy, but there is no alternative.

    We know what we have to do. So let’s get on with it.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.


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