Tim Buckley Owen More players after the social CRM pot of gold
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By Tim Buckley Owen

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With Gartner forecasting that the market for social customer relationship management could be worth over $1 billion in revenue by the end of next year, it’s hardly surprising that companies are scrambling to strengthen their social CRM offerings. Recent developments at NewsGator and LinkedIn may show the way things are going.

Plenty of vendors have social CRM offerings but most are not profitable, Gartner has said. Lack of consistency among buyers is keeping the market fragmented, and the vendors that will thrive are those who offer tools that do more than just address one area (LiveWire coverage here).

So far most of the running has been made by Salesforce (same LiveWire post). But two other mighty names could now start to shift the balance.

In the first instance, the mighty name is not NewsGator but Microsoft. Already a Microsoft Gold Certified and Depth Managed Partner, NewsGator has recently announced an alliance with Microsoft’s Strategic Partner Independent Software Vendor Team for a combined social CRM solution.

Already integrated with Microsoft SharePoint, NewsGator Social Sites 2010 provides enterprises with “robust” social technology (and has a string of blue chip clients), while Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 provides insights to sales, marketing and service organisations. The aim is that Social Sites will enhance the value of the insights by extracting salient information from those organisations – including insights drawn directly from customer interactions – and funnel it into the larger enterprise.

The motivation behind the alliance is spelt out unequivocally:  target the social CRM market that Gartner forecasts is going to grow so huge so quickly.

Meanwhile LinkedIn's acquisition of contact management specialist Connected could be seen as a simple example of a large company swallowing up the talent of a smaller one. But commentators are suggesting that it may presage LinkedIn’s intention to launch a fully fledged CRM tool of its own.

“You can already manage your LinkedIn contacts on the LinkedIn website. But it’s not a CRM tool,” writes Tomio Geron in Forbes magazine. “Connected is a customer relationship management tool for people or businesses who do not want to or are too small to use Salesforce.com.”

At its Connect:11 annual event for marketers recently, LinkedIn announced an enhancement to its Company Pages service called Company Status Updates, allowing companies to share new developments with their followers. More significantly, perhaps, it also launched the LinkedIn Certified Developer Program, to help marketers, agencies and companies leverage the LinkedIn platform to drive engagement with their audiences through social media marketing capabilities.

Given this context, a move into direct social CRM provision – and another big player aiming to get its hands on some of that projected Gartner billion – seems a logical next step.

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