The past year has been really interesting as vendors enter the Social CRM market. And by “enter” I mean decide to use that term in their marketing.
But some of the stronger players don’t label their solutions as “Social CRM.” And others flying the Social CRM banner lack essential elements that should be part of a Social CRM solution.
What is a Social CRM solution?
Let’s start with a clear definition of a Social CRM solution. Last year I proposed that Social CRM should be thought of as Social+CRM. You need social computing integrated with CRM technology. Simple, right?
Apparently not. After months of debate, there are still some who say that Social CRM is a strategy for collaborative (win/win) relationships, where technology is not necessarily required. Personally, I’m all for collaborative relationships, but I think it will be exceedingly difficult for the market to accept that Social CRM includes things like golf outings.
Most take a more pragmatic view that Social CRM doesn’t make much sense unless you’re connecting with customers on social media/networks. The theory being that customers are using the Social Web to empower themselves, so companies should engage with customers socially on Facebook, Twitter, online communities, etc.
Social CRM is the connection of social data (wherever it is) with existing customer records (CRM solutions) that enable companies to provide new forms of customer intelligence.
Example: BestBuy aggregates the tweets, public FB messages, FourSquare checkins of customer John Wong to understand his interests, preferences, friends, location, and mood and is able to serve up contextual products and experiences on the fly both online and in store.
In other words: Social CRM = Social+CRM.
Muddled vendor landscape
Now that we have a clear definition of Social CRM, let’s take a look at how vendors are approaching this market opportunity. That’s quite a bit less clear…
- Early last year, Oracle launched a Web 2.0-enabled sales collaboration suite called Social CRM. OK, this is CRM in the SFA sense of the word, but doesn’t connect with customers on the Social Web. Really should be called Sales 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0.
- Then Lithium re-branded its customer community solutions as Social CRM. Yes, Lithium offers connectors to CRM systems, but who doesn’t? Meanwhile, blueKiwi, INgage Networks, Jive and Telligent all offer social/community software but for various reasons have opted not to use the term Social CRM.
- Not to be outdone by its former partner Lithium, RightNow acquired HiveLive to become the first major SaaS vendor to offer both CRM (customer service) and community functionality in one integrated suite. Except RightNow doesn’t like the term CRM and so, not surprisingly, Social CRM is nowhere to be found in its marketing messages. Instead, HiveLive is part of the RightNow “customer experience suite.”
- Last year SAP introduced social connectors (e.g. SimplyBox and Twitter) to its CRM suite, but executives were also heard to say “Social CRM doesn’t exist.” Really? Maybe SAPers should try reading some of the nearly 400,000 hits on Google to see what people are talking about.
- Late last year Salesforce.com pre-announced Chatter to add a Facebook-like service, but it’s mainly for internal collaboration. Most call this Enterprise 2.0. Kind of weird for Salesforce.com, definitely not shy about using the term CRM, to avoid using the term Social CRM. Maybe Benioff doesn’t want to appear to be following Oracle?
- In April of this year, social business software vendor Xeesm introduced Xeesm/Edge! as a Social CRM solution. I think it’s a radically innovative design that could usher in a new era of truly social selling—for those brave enough to leave the current SFA paradigm behind. But comparing this solution to Oracle’s Social CRM is like apples to kumquats. And since it doesn’t connect to existing CRM systems, is it really Social CRM?
- And finally this past week, Attensity acquired Biz360 to offer a solution that includes social media monitoring (from Biz360) and sentiment analysis (from Attensity). While it’s a great combination of services and can be integrated to existing CRM systems, does this acquisition really propel Attensity to a “dominant position” in the Social CRM market as stated in the press release?
Just the beginning
This is far from a complete list. B2B marketing/sales vendors are also adding social functionality, but most prefer to go to market under the banner of Sales 2.0 instead of CRM. I’ll be writing more about the social trend in digital marketing in another post soon.
These are exciting times, and I’m delighted to see innovative technology coming into the market. However, for Social CRM to become a real technology market and not just a buzzword, we’ll need more vendors to join the fun. (Microsoft and SAP, are you listening?) That’s what helped the CRM industry gain momentum in the 1990s.
The analyst community will also need to dig far deeper than I just did in this blog post. Buyers need help understanding a very confusing vendor landscape. I’m sure we’ll see many such reports in the months ahead.
Until then, remember this: Social CRM = Social+CRM.
And also this: Caveat emptor.