About 91 percent of business-to-business technology buyers now use social media to gather information, Forrester Research reports. And the CRM industry is no exception, as vendors by the bucketload try to maintain their spots on social networking sites, blogs, and other online channels.
“It’s much more of an ongoing discussion, where you have to establish trust,” says Allen Bonde, managing director of Evoke CRM Partners. “B2B involves more complex sales where an extra premium is placed on trusted content and active discussions.”
Bonde has been keeping a close eye on the social activity of CRM, social business, and business intelligence software vendors to see if they are falling in line with the broader B2B trend. He recently released rankings (at right) on vendors’ use of social media. To be included in the evaluation, vendors needed an established Twitter account and a corporate blog that allows visitors to post comments. Bonde awarded vendors points for such things as frequent blogging, the number of comments on blogs, and number of tweets to create a Tweetlevel score—a metric created by PR firm Edelman determining “importance on Twitter.”
Katy Keim, chief marketing officer at Lithium Technologies, one of the companies dubbed an “early mover and maven,” says her firm has to be active in social media. “We have to be the best in social,” she says. “For us, one of the things you’ll hear from clients is Lithium does what they say and we are very trusted by our customers. For us to be out talking about the benefits of social without doing it ourselves, it would be a terrible place for our brand to be.”
But Paul Greenberg, founder of CRM consultancy The 56 Group, points to a lack of consistency between the quality of vendor applications and the culture of a company with regards to its social interactions. He adds that a business looking for call center functionality might not be best served by considering how active a vendor is on Twitter.
Bonde argues that in instances where it’s more of a sale to a business group rather than to a large enterprise, social media participation matters more. “The BI and analytical tools tend to be geared more toward end users as opposed to social platforms, which are more of an enterprise sale. There’s maybe more of a personal relationship in the sales cycle and in account relationships than if I’m selling to the CIO or a business-manager type of role in terms of CRM.”
The bottom line is that if companies are selling social media products, one would hope they would demonstrate the benefits within their own organizations. Bonde expects all the vendors to make it into the social media mavens’ slot. “I wouldn’t say everyone needs to do everything with all the channels,” he says, “but if you are in the CRM space, with the introduction of social CRM, Twitter, and Facebook, and all the things the experts are talking about, why wouldn’t you do that in your own business?”