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Stuck in the Weeds

Stuck in the Weeds

We've been in the "Gee, isn't this cool technology?" phase for a while now with social CRM, and perhaps that time has been extended by the recession. Fewer companies are willing to take on something that has little track record when the name of the game is revenue. It has to be able to show an ROI. Massive collaboration leads to unique intellectual property.

By Denis Pombriant CRM Buyer ECT News Network
10/13/10 5:00 AM PT

Sometimes I feel like we're stuck in the weeds with social CRM. Hopefully I will get a lot of mail for this, LOL!

No, really. Sometimes I feel like we're missing the bigger point of social CRM because we're spending so many brain cells focusing on the technology and not so much on what it does beyond the basics.

I know, there are plenty of examples of analyses that say what a wonderful job social media does in connecting everyone or improving the customer experience, but the discussion tends to stop there. If it went on -- which, I admit, it sometimes does -- it would talk about the wonderful reasons for caring to connect everyone, namely the opportunity for mass collaboration.

The Cool Technology Phase

I have been guilty of coming from the other direction for a long time and talking almost exclusively about mass collaboration. Neither has been terribly useful IMHO, though the technology approach at least got a lot of people to try it out while the mass collaboration approach is known to a smaller group of technology aficionados.

The "Gee, isn't this cool technology?" approach is a phase, but so is the other. Cool technology launches early adopters, and who's to say they're wrong? They are the folks who actually come up with the practical applications for a technology that guys like me write about. We've been in the "cool technology" phase for a while now with social, and perhaps that time has been extended by the recession. Fewer companies are willing to take on something that has little track record when the name of the game is revenue.

Perhaps that's why I am becoming such a fan of Chatter from Salesforce. It's not a perfect product, but for something so new, it commands a lot of attention. It's often compared to Twitter or Facebook, but for the enterprise. Not a bad strategy for a new category -- compare it to something that is popular -- but the comparison leaves Chatter at a disadvantage because it's more than that.

While Facebook and Twitter enable a certain kind of mass collaboration, it's all personal -- you and your friends massively collaborating about things tangential to or part of your life, pretty much. Chatter does the same thing, but if we leave the discussion here, we miss much. In a business context, massive collaboration has an output associated with it called "co-creation of value."

Co-Creative Thinking

Co-creation of value is most commonly surfaced when we talk about interactions with customers that surface unmet needs and desires. But the massive collaboration within an enterprise can be just as powerful if it surfaces needs that exist in the moment, and if those needs can be communicated to all those who have a stake in a customer outcome.

Salesforce's approach to capturing input through social media in ways that can be monetized goes deeper than Chatter to the sales cloud and the service cloud. In their own ways, these tools capture input from salespeople and customers, respectively, that can do much more than trade information about personal matters. They all create some form of intellectual property that is of value to the organization.

This is all a long way from being "like" Facebook or Twitter, and it's a dividing line between social media for personal use and social media for corporate use, and that's why I say Chatter is a new category.

IP Is the ROI

Even more important than figuring this out -- I am sure you already did, I am just slow -- is that for social CRM to be an important attribute leading us out of the recession, it has to be able to show an ROI, and I think this is how you do it. Massive collaboration leads to unique intellectual property. What could be better?

Well, have you seen at gas prices lately? They jumped 20 cents at the beginning of October in my neighborhood, and they were already in nosebleed territory when I was in San Francisco for Open World. Four bucks a gallon was a contributor to the recession, and we're getting back to that range now.

That price won't stop people from driving totally, but the Department of Transportation did note that we drove 122 billion fewer miles in the year when gas prices spiked, so it had some effect on business. Add to that the fact that jet fuel prices synch with gasoline, and you get some worrying signs.

If we're heading toward costly transportation in the near future, we'll need some help replacing transportation with the next best thing. To my mind, that isn't massive adoption of Skype video calls, though that's a good idea too. To me, the no-brainer is enabling massive collaboration throughout your shop.

I just wanted to share this with you -- and I do not own any Salesforce stock, by the way.


Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.


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