Okay, this is the final installment of the CRM 2010 Watchlist from me, though you will be seeing one from Brent Leary on the SMB Social CRM companies to watch in 2010 in the next couple of days. But I’m, “wore out.” My fingers don’t want to write much at the moment, no matter what my head tells them, which is too bad because I owe several articles to several venues and I have to get them in asap. Sigh. It never ends.
Here are the past installments:
The Concept – Social CRM and Channels
What I’m attempting to do with this installment is to look at the channels/locations that are promising for 2010. But since this is a Social CRM blog there are actual criteria for the selection here that are not just in the realm of “whoa, dude, they are just so cool.” To get selected there are two things that need to be in the mix. First, that the channel is a location that potentially has the capacity to provide scalable and multiple communities and, second, potentially it could become a platform for Social CRM via integration with existing CRM systems – though it doesn’t have to meet the latter standard quite yet if its potential is outstanding.
Just to be clear, I’m trying something here that is by no means certain to be a good idea or a clear category. I don’t have this particular concept fully worked out. I’m kind of counting on readers to help me refine it in the interests of nailing down a category that furthers the growth of the customer ecosystem – my master plan – or as Hodgins on Bones would say “part of a vast conspiracy.” (That would be a conspiracy of one). There is a noticeable growth in the number of community sites who are proceeding to integrate with CRM systems. Thus we have a trend that can’t be discounted – due to what is now becoming a rush to life in the cloud. This is a welcome, new and exciting place because it means live… “FROM NEW YORK ITS SATURDAY NIGHT”…I’m sorry. Got carried away. It means realizing the means for live real time data to be grabbed from the sites and close to real time. This serves to further a more accurate customer insight which not only gauges your customers but allows you to optimize their experience with your business.
I love this idea. Its a rough one. Its a new kind of watchlist. I might crash and burn with it. But I don’t think so. A channel, by nature, is NEVER, on its own, Social CRM, but the development of this kind of channel for a business can become an increasingly important part of the strategy the business crafts for interacting with customers. So I’m trying it. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me what I need to do better. Tell me how to refine the thinking and the tools. Point me in another direction. Do something or I’ll probably go crazy. Help me build this concept out.
Let’s roll with this bad boy.
I doubt that this is particularly surprising. However, I do want to clarify something so that it’s clear I’m not changing my tune (or, my toon if you’re into graphic novels). Twitter is not Social CRM. It is a channel that has value to Social CRM strategies and that’s what makes it important.
There are two reasons that Twitter is a channel of note when it comes to Social CRM strategies. First, it is a terrific bi-directional pipeline for customer contact and conversation. It is also a goldmine for valuable customer data and thus aids insight not just into customer segments and trends, but about individual customers too. What makes Twitter exceptionally valuable is that it has a really flexible API which has not only led to CRMish (meaning collaborative) client apps like CoTweet and to a lesser extent Hootsuite, but a whole host of integrations with CRM platforms – mostly that want to monitor, capture and analyze the customer Twitter stream. For example, SAP has integrated Twitter stream monitoring and sentiment analysis using the Business Objects Insight product to handle the traffic.
But integration hardly stops there. Twitter streams are integrated with salesforce.com, RightNow, NetSuite, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and and a nearly infinite group of other players. In fact, the only CRM major CRM vendor that I find doesn’t integrate Twitter is Sage. Why I’m not sure, though I don’t doubt they’re planning it….right? They are….aren’t they?
The Twitter API is strong enough to introduce at least independent client products that look at customer analytics (simple ones), brand and service monitoring of the conversations by customers, collaborative employee/customer capabilities, and even Twitter-specific social network analysis which actually monitor Twitter influence. Most of the latter applications are somewhat misleading because they use rudimetary algorithms to create artificial levels of influence which ultimately get based on the quantity of followers rather than the quality and context. One that is refreshingly simple and yet somewhat useful is the Hubspot (see below) Twitter Grader, though its not a true Reputation Engine and shouldn’t be mistaken for one.
So Twitter functionally provides what is a large and maturing channel for Social CRM strategies – not indispensable for all sectors by any means as a bidirectional pipeline but increasingly important and one that highly emotional industries like retail or sports or telecommunications can’t ignore.
The problem? Its whether or not they are going to survive, despite their popularity. Twitter still hasn’t figured out how to monetize itself. They have no business model. They remain afloat on their promise and their popularity. But, if they figure it out, watch out. It will continue to be an indispensable channel to involve for those working on their Social CRM strategies.
Facebook as a social channel – a gathering place for customers (in business terms, that is) is indisputably valuable. Every retailer, every CPG company, every team, every…everybody has a fan page on Facebook. Coca Cola for example, the paradigm Facebook success has as of this writing some 4,137,430 fans on a very sophisticated page. When pages are successful they take on the characteristics of subcommunities really – a community of interest typically.Facebook is not only marketing manna, but it is also used for traditional CRM efforts – customer service, though not as effectively as Twitter and even sales can be somewhat driven by Facebook- meaning you can use a fan page to access ecommerce or get ads to targeted audiences.
One reason for the proliferation of some 350,000,000 Facebook users and as a “must-have” site for customer engagement communities is a brilliantly robust API and a smart move by founder Zuckerberg to open the API to independent developers a couple of years ago. Its made Facebook perhaps the most influential social channel in the world.
As far as CRM related technology integration, its very similar to Twitter but not as widespread. While the entire universe is once again moving toward integrating Facebook profiles into CRM data stores and customer records, the conversations on Facebook are being captured primarily through the social media monitoring tools such as Radian6 who are integrated with CRM customer records and data stores. One degree of separation from Mark Zuckerberg. But even that is being remedied.
The first integration with CRM that had any real value was done by Clara Shih, formerly at salesforce.com and now the CEO of Hearsay Labs as well as the author of best seller “The Facebook Era,” when she created Faceforce (now Faceconnector) in 2007. That triggered a huge amount of interest in the technical integration of CRM and Facebook. The idea of Facebook as a strategic location had existed for quite awhile by that time. After all, it was an obvious place where customers hung out, though pretty much in a bit of an undifferentiated way.
Clara’s pioneering efforts led to other vendors doing that kind of integration. One interesting and notable current integration is in Sage’s ACT! 2010 Premium – where you have embedded access to a Facebook (among other social networks) social profile for your customers in accounts, right at your fingertips.
The potential for the social network as part of an engagement strategy is immense, obvious and tricky. There is no question as to Facebook’s value there.
Its potential as a location/pipeline/channel for both engagement and information in a technical sense is great – because the API is robust (even provides potential for location services) and flexible.
Its potential to integrate beyond the social profile and into the news feeds is also great though nascent at this point. Its potential as a CRM platform unto itself remains to be seen because as of now there are no players in that market, though I don’t doubt that something will happen there sometime.
But what is in doubt with Facebook is twofold and troubling.
First, what is harped on constantly – their business model – how will they make money? Their vehicle to revenue seems to be highly targeted and personalized advertising. They are already doing that with a expected final revenue number of $550 million for 2009. But honestly, that’s not very much, given their popularity. And how they’ve handled their desperation for revenue leads to my biggest concern of all – how they’ve butchered the handling of privacy.
I’m not going to dwell on it here. I’ve written on it a lot. If you want details, go here, here and here, among many others. But no more than 2 or 3 days ago, Mark Zuckerberg, once again, made a statement which is, oddly true and yet also, once again, clueless when he justified Facebook’s insane behavior in multiple places by declaring the new social norm for everyone as the willingness of people to exposure personal information.
Perversely, he’s right. People clearly are willing to expose more personal information than ever before. But what he constantly misses in his desperate effort to make money is that, when it comes to entities like Facebook, those same people trust that the information will be used in a prudent way – and those same people think “while I am willing to expose the information, I still own that information. Its not public property.” Mr. Z. doesn’t get the distinction.
That’s why on the one hand as a social channel, I see Facebook not only as viable, but as one of the most important channels for integration into a Social CRM strategy, and as a potential goldmine for customer data – with permission of the customer of course. However, the incredible repetition of errors based on a desperation to meet the market value of the company squarely with revenues that support it -makes me wonder too. 2010 isn’t necessary the determinant year. There’s too much going on in the world and they are too big to really see things resolved by the end of the year. They are well worth watching though – either for their immense possible value or as a “wow, I see the train wreck coming ahead and they don’t.”