Analytics and Data Mining,Collaboration,Enterprise 2.0,ROI,Social CRM

On Social CRM Options

5 Oct , 2009  

The discussion around Social CRM is entering a phase whereby we are trying to move away from turning around in circles about semantics, towards a more practical and pragmatic approach that businesses can identify with so as to consider implementing it. I won’t deal with CRM Vendors here, as Social CRM can be seen as an extension to CRM. As a primer on SCRM I suggest you look at Bill Band’s article on Customer Think. The main idea that we all do agree upon is that we need to become customer-centric in order to respond to their changing needs and expectations, and this may have some major ramifications on the way we organise our businesses.

Wim Rampen recently did a must-read post on Real-Options for Social CRM, with great comments from the #scrm crew. If you’re like me, you have been looking around for what these options could be – sifting through all the information links provided through the accidental community on Twitter #scrm- so that you can start mapping your own options and seeing where they would fit in an approach that is apt for your business situation. Below I have tried to describe some of the the landmarks that you may encounter on your  journey. Please join in and tell me what I’ve missed!

1. Monitoring and Analysis

We have settled on the idea that we cannot manage what is being said about us (as long there is any Buzz we should be happy, right?). What we do need to do is understand what is being said and for which reasons. We also need to do some introspection and find out whether we are aligned with customer perceptions about our business, and this is where monitoring and analysis comes in.

– Social Media Monitoring
 Twitter, FB, Search Engine Result Analysis, crawling non-managed forums, or whatever this month’s Black is  (according to Altimeter you need at least 6 channels to be an Maven).

– Sentiment Analysis
Natural Language Processing in order to extract opinions – automation of Social Media Analysis

– Customer Surveys, Website-, Call Center-, Customer Support Feedback, Email Campaign Results
Feedback from other channels should not be neglected – Social CRM is not only about feedback obtained through Social Media channels. I suggest reading Aggregated Stats Are Key to Social Media ROI

The return of this could be used to shape your Marketing Strategy (Social Media and traditional) or for even for Lead Generation. Vendors in this area are Radian6, Scout Labs (see list), or for the budgetarily-challenged Open Source/Freemium

2. Social Media Marketing

I know I am over-simplifying, but sometimes I think SMM has sofar mostly been facilitating banner clickthroughs based on adwords and user browsing history and the likes to push trafic to brochure websites in the best case, and buckshot email spam in the worst. Consumers are however becoming more web-savvy and filter out these ads from the content they are interested in so this is becoming less effective.

Community and conversation is all – if the consumers trust the community, they will extend the trust to the brand (Brand and Marketing trends for 2010). People have spontaneously gathered for example on Facebook, now companies are trying to get in on the act by setting up their own Fan Pages (at their own risk and peril, I must add…). These communities offer the company the opportunity to engage in the conversation, but it still very much an unstructured, resource intensive approach. My take on SMM will be aimed at driving people towards and participate in Brand Communities (point 3) where monitoring what is happening and identifying causal relationships will be more manageable. See Junta42 42+ Social Media Marketing Tools.

3. Brand Communities

Providing a platform that can house a community around your Brand and attracts prospective customers would be the next step. The objective is not to gain control, but rather better monitor what is going on, find opportunities, work on your reputation by adding value rater than pushing a message, and react in a timely manner to any issues.

I would like to split this out into three separate areas (even though they could share the same platform provided by the same vendor)

– Social Support Communities
Peer-to-peer Support can be great means for finding out what customers have issues with concerning your offering, as well as deflect calls from your Customer Support, leaving them with more time the more difficult cases or just to go beyond the Call Handling Time and focus on the Customer Interaction (see Cicero). To me this type of community because sometimes its super-users can provide more value than has its merits for because ROI can be shown (see John Bauer’s comment on SCRM for SMBs, reduce by at least 10% your case load).

– Social Objects Communities
In an earlier post, I set out to give a name to another type of community that has as its purpose to provide a platform for people to socialize around “Social Objects”. Barnes & Noble Review would be a good example of this. It is said that participants have a higher average customer spend and higher customer lifetime spend on the B&N site (any hard datafacts, Lithium?). Furthermore upsell opportunities are placed into the community site to drive revenue.

– Ideation
Behind this is the objective to create communities where customers would put forward ideas for the company (crowdsourcing). Where they have failed is that the ideas not always were in line with the operational realities or objectives of the company, and are often left unanswered (leading to dissatisfaction). Graham Hill has written an interesting article on co-creation that has some insights on what could be a better approach to co-creation.

Players here are Lithium Technologies, Helpstream, Parature. Prem Kumar recently mentioned on John F. Moore’s blog that there are Open Source solutions out there, I think they do not (yet) have the monitoring & analysis capabilities that we’d be looking for here

4. Feedback Management

Our friend Esteban Kolsky is very keen on this one. The main idea behind this is that we take existing data available through the CRM system about our customers (not only profile information) and mix it so that get a full 360° view that includes history and information gathered from monitoring and analysis as well as information from 3rd parties. Just as there is a market now for Credit Score informatin, there may be a time when companies sell trend information to other companies as a by-product. Imagine if PayPal or eBay were to make historical purchase data available!

FM has the potential to analyse and determine a response and who should be dealing with formulating it (add a dash of Business Process Management?). The wikipedia link has a list of  vendors, no actor has a significant advantage as far as I know

5. Response Communities

In the way that Brand Communities can be used for customers to share and collaborate, the same platform could also be used to let cross-functional teams (and even cross-organisational if we also include partners and suppliers)  collaborate on the response to the events generated in EFM. Super-users could be identified and nurtured in the same way as in the Brand Communities.

Response Communities only really make sense once your company has learned how to collaborate internally – which takes us to Enterprise 2.0 (the collaboration kind, not the knowledge management one…). Internal networking will create the right mindset to then go out and collaborate with customers, for value co-creation.

6. Insourcing

Insourcing is about allowing your employees to collaborate directly with your customers, such as your store personnel providing product informationor answer support questions through the likes of Twitter (see Best Buy’s Twelpforce). This can increase the breadth of your response by added more voices to the conversation than just your customer service and support reps, but increases the risks of potential blunders. Good, clear and precise policies can help to mitigate these risks.

I am aware that I have probably missed out on some elements (and have not developed each of the bullet-points sufficiently) but my objective here is to give a quick overview, a starting point. Please chime in and add your point of view!

28 Responses

  1. John Moore says:

    Mark, this is a great post that focuses on the the overall Social Business Design framework that we are building towards.

    While I am still strongly opposed to Social CRM, for reasons I continue to pound on (including here: I am excited to see how far we’ve moved the ball. Looking forward to continuing to make progress.


  2. Mark,

    A great post. Below are a few of my thoughts/observations:

    SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING: In addition to what you describe, I think that we are also seeing a transformation within the world of marketing: ads, direct mail, etc. are giving way to a model where marketers increasingly must provide compelling content to attract attention. One example is I am seeing more and more vendors sponsor/host discussion roundtables or webinars that barely mention their brand, products, and services, but provide compelling content that business leaders can learn from and adopt. Prospects are not as interested in glossy slicks describing features and functions – they want to be engaged with content and discussion relevant to their needs.

    COMMUNITIES: I find it interesting that you broke out different types of communities. Great analysis of some of the varying benefits and purposes that communities might provide for. However, I see this all as part of one heading called “communities”. Many of these benefits might feed into/off of one another, and likely won’t operate in a vacuum or silo. As you mention, these interactions could all be taking place within one platform, so I might describe it as such.

    INSOURCING: Interesting header for this topic. It sounds like this is a blessing for employees (or a subset of them) to interact in the social web with potential prospects and customers. This is a tricky one, but your link provides some good references to learn and model from.

    Finally, I have said it before, Social CRM in whatever flavor deployed must ultimately integrate with traditional CRM systems in order to maximize its value. Otherwise, it’s just creating another silo of information and disorganized interaction with the customer. At some point, filters and hierarchies of customers must be put in place, and take into consideration all value components (annual spend, influence support history, contribution to communities, etc.). When we can tie all these pieces together, the potential for wowing (the most important) customers, and maximizing profitability will really begin to take place.

  3. yadu tekale says:

    fantastic. a real pleasure to see pragmatic views.

    Mark – check out they have a user group which is monitored by the company BUT is managed by super users. an extremely successful example of users managing support.

    atlassian probably use the user groups to generate leads too.

  4. All 6 points mentioned in this post is very true

  5. Mitch Lieberman says:


    A very good template for anyone who is not clear on what the benefits of a detailed social business design – with a focus on customer strategy, ie, Social CRM should look like.

    You are getting close to something which I am driving towards, more details soon. I appreciate the post, well done sir.


  6. scorpfromhell says:

    Mark, I am going to keep coming back to this post for quite sometime! 😉 You have wonderfully captured all the options that exist today! 🙂

    In the monitoring & analysis segment, it is also possible to generate leads & opportunities in your traditional CRM system. Of course this requires that you need some extra text mining to be done other than what is done by the SMM tools & also need a data validation, qualification tools as well as a routing & assigning (BPM) feature in there too.

    As for the open source options that I had mentioned in John’s blog, I do not think they are any match to the currently available commercial options from Lithium/Helpstream. They are merely forum softwares with some extensions for user ranking! They need to go a long way to play catch up & I don’t think anybody is interested in doing so in the open source world.

  7. marktamis says:

    We’re gaining momentum, let’s keep it up. I had a problem with your link, you here it is again : .

    I know you don’t like the term Social CRM, but all it is to me is “CRM Done Right”, with the emphasis put on “Relationship” in CRM.

    Looking forward to your next post on Social Business Design Framework!

  8. marktamis says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Brian!

    SMM: you’re absolutely right, compelling content is King, and as Prem just reminded me, context is Queen!

    Communities: exactly why I called this “Brand Communities”. I made the distinction between the three just to point out that the you may have multiple community personas according to the need you are adressing. That is not to say that there is no carry-over (indeed I would say that they are complementary), but just pointing out that some internal resources would be more aligned with one type rather than the other, and this provide more compelling value (for example, never get a Marketing person to respond to a technical question in an SSC).

    Talking about platforms, my ideal would be a Cloud-based Unified Portal that hosts the company website as well as the Brand Communities, accessible to customers, employees, partners and suppliers and that has collaboration functionality built into it. Within this Unified Portal you would create secured communities (so as not to open the kitchen to all patrons) but still make it easy to push and pull content from one “domain” to another.

    Insourcing: employees are potentially your greatest asset! I’m sure they’re using at most only half of their capabilities. Let’s tap into the other half!

    CRM Systems: I agree, like I stated in the beginning of the post, SCRM is just an extension, not something new, we just need to go beyond the transactional data now stored. I see great potential for Enterprise Feedback Management as the glue to stick it all together.

  9. marktamis says:

    Glad you agree :). Do you see anything else that I might have missed?

  10. marktamis says:

    Prem, you’re welcome to drop in at any time 😉

    Concerning the leads & opportunity generation, I think Enterprise Feedback Management can play an important role for mining, analysing and deciding what to do next (such as create events for the traditional CRM system).

    You’re right, the Open Source alternative is probably not something that will come even close to matching the value that Helpstream/Lithium Technologies bring to the table for a long time yet (or at least until SCRM/SBD becomes a mainstream approach to doing business…). On the other hand, if you take SugarCRM for example, they are starting to integrate some of the notions mentioned here…

  11. marktamis says:

    You have me very curious now! Looking forward to your “details” 🙂

  12. yadu tekale says:


    i had some doubts when Esteban (i think) first mentioned EFM, but now i am come to the view that having EFM and not makes the difference between proactivity and reactivity.

  13. marktamis says:

    Yes Esteban was the one that came up with EFM (see A Brief History of SCRM Just waiting for his comment to see whether he agrees with what I think it is 😉

  14. Anthony Nemelka says:

    Another excellent post Mark. Great way to make Social CRM tangible for the folks trying to figure out how to make it a reality inside their companies.

    I suspect that the final landmark will be that point in which people inside a company start to so clearly understand the transformational value of SCRM that they stop thinking of SCRM as an extension of existing CRM processes at all. At that point they will probably begin to view SCRM as a central component of a comprehensive set of social business systems and processes. But integrating with and extending existing CRM processes is a very pragmatic first step in that journey.

  15. Wim Rampen says:

    Hi Mark,

    All greatness comes from [..] – LOL – Just a note to say I have nothing to add to your great overview of options. I also agree with most of the (rightfully complimenting) comments.

    BUT.. (there is always a but..;-)

    It is great having options, but where do you start? and how do you decide which of the options you should prioritize? what are the risks? How to mitigate? What are the costs? How to keep in balance with Benefits? How to measure? How will you decide continuing or discontinuing the effort? When will you (need to) decide?

    All these questions require answering (partly at least) before having options turns into having “real” options.. It is great that we somewhat agree on the definition, have somewhat of a view what it is all about strategically and (now know pretty well) what options are available.. Now has come the time to dig deeper by answering the questions above (and more) from a strategic options perspective..

    Where do we start?

  16. marktamis says:

    Thanks Wim 🙂

    Please note that I talk about “Options” and not “Real-Options” – thanks for putting Reality back into the picture ;).

    The first question to ask is what problem you are trying to solve. Next would be which options would help you solve that problem. Then would come the fun part of putting a price tag to it, put it into a project, set milestones, do iterative improvements etc., you get the picture…

    It is a journey, if you bring the bread and I take the cheese, we’ll have a sandwich to share along the way 🙂

  17. marktamis says:

    Thanks Tony!

    Social CRM is potentially transformational, but as with any change it can induce fear (and rejection) if not dispelled.

    I personally like to say that SCRM is “CRM Done Right”. SCRM can (and should!) be a central component, but it doesn’t mean that we need to start from scratch. After all, as Paul Greenberg recently put it in his blog, CRM is a $13 billion industry not just because of the promise of success but also there is a sufficiently proven track record to make it worth the risk! It will need reoranising and that is where we can add value 🙂

  18. Wim Rampen says:

    How about you bring the cheese and I’ll bring the wine.. we might as well enjoy the journey 😀

  19. marktamis says:

    Now you know why I have chosen to live in France! 😀

  20. […] my nomenclature debate regarding the CRM term. The debate, while important and yielding results in works like this from Mark Tamis and this from Esteban Kolsky, requires a break.  While I am nonplussed by the […]

  21. Mark,

    Good post. One of things I like best about it is the recognition the diversity of how companies can use social media, going well beyond marketing. We all know social media is an umbrella term and one size doesn’t fit all.

    The diverse offerings of social media is why companies need to step back and consider their business objectives and available resources before jumping into social media. Determine what they want to accomplish with their existing customer base, and who they want to attract as pending prospects and let that guide them to the right social media mix.

    There will be variations depending upon a B2B vs B2C focus, company size, resource availability, and company culture.

    For some companies that might mean plunging into a wide array of public and branded communities while others may elect to solely have private communities. And for still others, simply blogging is the best use of their available resources.

    P.S. Glad to see recognition given to internal collaborative communities, one branch of social media that under-sung.

  22. Mark,

    I like your approach, I can see some areas where you would have to emphasize a little bit more the integration and co-working with existing components — remember that there is revolution or forklift implementation here, simple an evolution. Your approach, the way I read it, is about the new tools and technologies to use. My view is a little bit different, I think that we already have most of the stuff you mention and it is just about enabling it to become social.

    As for the paragraph on EFM – you got the concept right. I have been doing lots of research in SM monitoring and Social Analytics (at least that is what I call it) and am beginning to change my EFM model to a FM only model. The term enterprise was added to FM to denote centralization and leverage – alas, the term enterprise is gaining a different connotation today as part of what you call insourcing and others may call E2.0. So I want to make sure that FM (which I consider the fourth pillar of CRM) is not confused with E2.0 tools (even though it will leverage them) and the purpose of FM is not lost. To me collecting and managing feedback (on all actions and functions) is key to what SM brings to the organization. After all listening (collecting feedback) without acting (feedback management or generating actionable insights) simply generates stored data. Sears Roebuck was the first organization in the world to reach on Petabyte of stored data on their clients — have they done much with it?

    Good post, like it. Will refer back to this when I post my graph on the road to SCRM — sometime as soon as I get a chance to finish the darn chart (still wishing I would have invested in that mind reading computer — I’d be caught up with all the ideas in my head…)


  23. marktamis says:

    Hi Esteban, thanks for dropping in 🙂

    The objective of this post was to see what we have in order to help identify what is missing and where we need to make the interconnections. Furthermore, this should help us think about functional strategy and organisational evolution and get an idea about the feasibility of its implementation when we check it against what we would like to achieve with the Social CRM Strategy.

    Software Vendors are always looking for the next feature/functionality to include into their next minor/major release in order to deter clients from going to the competition and thus assure a steady stream of maintenance revenue. By identifying in which way existing CRM systems can be augmented or integrated with 3rd party solutions to produce more value for their clients’ business, we can advance the cause for Social CRM.

    Mind you, I am not saying that the Tech approach is the way forward as we still need to accompany the business through the Cultural and Organisational Changes. However it will be good to have the SCRM building bricks made available and sold alongside/together with the current CRM Software (which is a $13 billion industry).

    I have come around to the idea that Feedback Management is going to be an essential element in the whole scheme of things, thanks for drawing my attention to it!

    mind reading computer -> I’m sure Steve Jobs is already working on it 😉

    PS changed EFM to FM in post

  24. Mark,

    Two more comments:

    1. Feedback is critical, but am coming to the realization lately that feedback without social analytics is doomed to fail. keep your eye out, especially for the unstructured-to-structured aspects of social analytics(similar to feedback in a sense, but trying to bring both together elegantly).

    2. mind-reading is interesting. tom siebel said in 2001 at the gartner confenrece in an exclusive interview that the ultimate channel for CRM would be telephaty. we laughed at him back then (actually, i still do) but if we are going to be succesful we will see that analytics + feedback may come as close as we can come for now to automating mind-reading.

    interesting world…

    (I am impressed by the number and quality of comments you got here… good job. summarize it and publish it now :))

  25. marktamis says:

    Let’s not get into a semantics debate again ;).

    Feedback is a control system that can have multiple inputs and helps an organisation improve its performance and make required adjustments (merci wikipedia). Social Analytics is just one of the inputs, and Feedback Management is the combination of all we have available, making sense of it and using it for guiding organisational improvement such as formulating the most appropriate “response to the customers’ control of the conversation” et al.

    I’m fine with the term Feedback Management, so let’s just stick to it 🙂

    Concerning the unstructured to structured aspects of social analytics, such as in sentiment analysis, there is still a long way to go. Research is far from finished, and that is just for the english – which is a relatively easy language. Once you move to the other languages, it just multiplies the complexity. And when you take people like you and me who are multilingual, the fun really starts 🙂

  26. sentiment analysis is easy. we are dealing with semantic web to truly make sense of unstructured content without human intervention.

    Now, that is a far reaching goal… and I meant no pun with your request not to get into semantics 🙂

    awesome feedback and discussions here… let me know if you want to chat / collaborate the next version of this wonder post.


  27. First and foremost, thank you for including us in your list of listening/monitoring tools. We are taking steps, as a company, to address the SCRM needs. One of those steps is our integration with SalesForce. The SCRM landmarks you list are spot on…key to remember is that these processes are a journey and not a destination. We have a lot of room to evolve.

    Lauren Vargas
    Community Manager at Radian6

  28. […] Social CRM Options Posted in oktober 13th, 2009 by Ståle Lindblad in CRM Utdrag fra artikkelen ”On social CRM options” av Mark […]