• January 1, 2014
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Bidding Social CRM a Fond Farewell

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It's a new year and change is in the air. The lexicon of CRM is changing; the ultimate result may not be certain yet, but it's definitely making some alterations to how I think about my practice. Social CRM, as a separate concept, is going away.

The shift started in September, when Paul Greenberg—perhaps the first and strongest proponent of the concept of social CRM—wrote in a series of Diginomica articles that it was time to re-evaluate what we have considered the core functions of CRM. In his opinion, the social parts of CRM were not a separate concern, but instead part of what should be expected in any company's implementation.

Shortly thereafter, Brent Leary—if Paul is the father of social CRM, then Brent is the cool uncle who came up with the #SCRM hashtag—added his opinion on the subject in Direct Marketing News. Brent's article summed up the valuable contributions of social CRM to the overall industry, and agreed with Paul that it was time to fold social into the CRM gestalt.

In short, social CRM is no longer a thing.

Oh, it's still there, a vital component of CRM, but many of the best minds in CRM are going to stop counting it as its own thing that must be integrated into the overall CRM package. There are still companies that provide the social component as a best-of-breed application (remember best of breed?), but the presumed best practice is that an organization has something to work with.

I can't say this comes as much of a shock to me. When the social CRM movement first surfaced, the reason it was so exciting was that it was something every organization could and should get involved in, because customers were already there. Our hope all along was to get to a point where social was assumed. I'm a little surprised at the speed with which we achieved this goal, since arguably we haven't restored CRM's good name, but I'm content to go with the crowd on this one.

Sex advice writer Dan Savage coined what he calls the Campfire Rule for relationships: Anybody in a relationship (especially where one partner is more experienced) should do their best to leave the other partner in better condition than they found them—wiser, more capable, better educated, or what have you. I think this rule applies here, though the definition must be stretched a bit. Social CRM has left CRM better than it was when they met. I was part of the process, so I can live with it proudly.

Still, we're left with questions as to where we go from here. Personally, I have to change my messaging a bit, since I've leaned rather heavily on the social CRM crutch. That's not what you came here to find out though. There are three things we should expect to see this year.

Specialty vendors of social CRM technology will be looking for partnerships with, or acquisition by, mainstream CRM providers. More than ever, vendors' ability to integrate with a company's system of record will be where deals are made or killed. Best of breed, as a concept, will return to common discussion.

Mainstream CRM providers, however, will need to be very aggressive in getting their own social components in line with the state of the art, and would be wise to seek out the boutique social applications that fit them best. Ease of integration, or modularity of the social component, is going to be a major selling point, and vendors who lack significant social capabilities will fade from discussion. I'm not going to name names, but a vendor on whom I was rather keen several years ago has fallen off a lot of analysts' radar because of this.

Lastly, end users are going to run out of excuses for not implementing social CRM, because it's just how business will get done. Again, if I can claim any small responsibility for being part of that shift, I can be proud.

Marshall Lager is the managing principal of Third Idea Consulting, the arbiter of cool in the CRM biz. Get hip to his jive at www.3rd-idea.com, and jam with him at marshall@3rd-idea.com or www.twitter.com/Lager.

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