No One-Stop Shop for Social

You'd have to be downright antisocial not to have noticed the current level of activity in the social software ecosystem. In fact, says Tim Hickernell, lead analyst for Info-Tech Research Group, the marketplace has begun shifting so rapidly that Info-Tech's first-ever Social CRM Landscape Evaluation — featuring case studies that focus on social media's impact on sales, marketing, and customer service — required multiple last-minute modifications due to sudden mergers and acquisitions.

Many of the players speeding through this round of musical chairs may be new, Hickernell says, but the phase itself is strikingly familiar. "If you went through Web 1.0 and established new channels," he says, "these are [just another set of] new channels to slide in there." 

More precisely, the report suggests that these social channels simply cannot be ignored. "Customers," the report asserts, "will interact via social media with or without you." As a result, Info-tech says, companies need to recognize how this early wave of social media technologies will impact their business operations:

  • Brand Image: Whether you're aware of it or not, customers are talking about your company. 
  • Feedback: Both negative and positive feedback can be used to improve performance in sales, marketing, and customer service. 
  • Technology Operations: Your technology department does not have to be left out of the social Web. In fact, technology can help minimize risks while playing a critical role in supporting an organization's social media efforts. 

Despite primary concerns over security and privacy, Hickernell notes a light at the end of that tunnel: "Some companies starting to come on board [with social media] are making just those types of admin controls that…the market lacks." Info-Tech separates social CRM vendors into three categories: 

  1. Social media services: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
  2. CRM suites offering social media integration: Oracle, Salesforce.com, RightNow Technologies, SugarCRM.
  3. Pure-play social channel aggregators and managers: InsideView, iCrossing, SocialTalk, Visible Technologies, ContextOptional, Awareness, and SocialWare.

Increasingly, Hickernell says, different tools from the three areas are being brought together to construct a cohesive social CRM platform. In other words, there is no one-stop shop for social. Out of the CRM vendors incorporating social into their offerings, Hickernell names Oracle and Salesforce.com as the current leaders. 

"Linking social media to existing [CRM] solutions can improve information accuracy, reduce manual effort, and provide more in-depth customer insights," the report states. To that end, Info-Tech provides the following recommendations for organizations moving forward with social CRM:

  • Social media is not a new world: it's an add-on to existing channels.
  • Think of social media as another medium in communicating with customers.
  • Integrating social media and CRM technology is crucial to achieving goals.
  • Let information technology take charge in managing social media infrastructure and security.
  • Consult best practices and current real-world implementations for lessons learned.
  • A social media implementation is a multidepartment undertaking that should be managed with a business plan and enterprise strategy.
  • An effective social media plan is built in stages.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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