How do you define social CRM?

Updated on August 31, 2011

It started with a tweet: news from IT industry analysts Gartner as reported by TechCrunch that the social customer relationship management (CRM) market is forecast to reach over $1 billion in revenue by year-end 2012, up from approximately $625 million in 2010. TechCrunch added that worldwide social CRM is projected to total $820 million in 2011.

Among first retweeters was brand strategist Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder on Twitter). His tweet was retweeted by analytics expert Chuck Hemann (@chuckhemann on Twitter) who doesn’t think much of the moniker "social CRM":

The issue is that I think CRM folks inherently get the need to collect social info without us putting the social in front of us

An exchange of tweets between Olivier, Chuck and I ensued culminating in a challenge to Olivier to come up with a clearer definition of "Social CRM" where Esteban Kolsky’s definition I posted about in May serves as a start point:

[Social] CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interaction in a business environment.

Olivier rose to the challenge in spades, with an intelligent post (and a great example of story-telling) in which he offers credible explanations of the differences between CRM – for which there is a clear definition – and Social CRM, and explains his thinking as he constructs his definition of "Social CRM."

Do read Olivier’s post for the detail and chronology. But to cut to the chase from my perspective, here is his definition:

[Social] CRM is a business function supported by a system and technologies whose aims are to improve a company’s ability to derive insights into customer needs and behaviors by connecting their transaction data with the lifestyle data they share online.

But wait: Olivier proposes this subtle variation on that definition:

[Social] CRM is a business function supported by a system and technologies whose aims are to improve a company’s ability to derive insights into customer needs and behaviors by adding to their transaction data the lifestyle data they share online.

The italicized text shows the difference in words between the two.

Do either or both of these definitions make it easier for you to understand what "Social CRM" is? Do you have an alternate definition, or some changes you’d suggest to Olivier? He doesn’t claim to have invented a concrete definition.

I like Olivier’s concluding comments:

[…] My other hope is that by 2013, the term SCRM becomes obsolete, and CRM has simply evolved into the richer ecosystem of data, insights and consumer interactions provided by the social web. In my mind, the sooner we stop qualifying everything in terms of “social” or not social (as if the two were still somehow separate from one another), the better things will work. For now though, the painful transition continues. Viva la revolución!

The Brand Builder | Social CRM: A definition

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Dan Samper

    We feel there is an important missing element in the current social and/or CRM discussion. It actually blends into the wider b2b or supply chain arena. I’m referring to the actual online interconnectivity between businesses through a real platform environment. Consumers now take that kind of interaction and efficiency for granted with tools like Facebook, but the enterprise seems to have given up on the idea for now.

    Imagine that your CRM actually captured all your operational, communications and opportunity interactions your company is having with clients, providers or anyone in your business ecosystem in real time.

    Beyond the current talk about being able to capture a client’s online activity, nowadays, CRM, knowledge or project management tools continue to be closed silos that someone needs to keep updating manually within that company for trackability purposes.

    What if clients could actually just make your company aware of opportunities and actual projects by entering the data into their own online application and login access? What if each player could keep conversations going throughout the sales cycle and beyond from their own online environment?

    We’re betting the farm this will be a given in the future of “contact management” and beyond either through current solutions communicating to a platform infrastructure like bCommunities through API or just employing it as is for certain kinds of interactions depending on their size and resources.

    Here is a video on the service I’m talking about (closed Beta and actively looking for feedback) http://goo.gl/1aEV8

    bEcosystems, Inc

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