Tim Buckley Owen Social CRM - how do you pick the winners?
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By Tim Buckley Owen


Software solutions for social customer relationship management are the latest concern for organisations who are finding it difficult to pick the right one. Exploiting the results companies get from their customers is also proving tricky, and getting a full return on investment may be hard to achieve.


Reaching out to your customers using social media continues to exercise analysts and energise vendors. But the problem of which solution to choose isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Companies have some way to go when it comes to their exploitation of social customer relationship management (CRM), it seems. According to a recent survey by Lithium Technologies, a quarter of people expect to hear back from a company when they tweet about a brand or product, whereas only 9% actually do – and over a third expect a response when they “like” a brand on Facebook, although the reality is that well over half never do.

In an earlier survey with MarketingProfs, Lithium also found that that only 18% of marketers had an online community and less than 3% capitalised on Facebook “likes”, even though almost all recognised social media’s value. They wanted to be able to demonstrate that value to executive management, but in fact almost none was satisfied with their ability to measure it.

Now Lithium has an axe to grind – it has customer experience software to flog. But the technology analyst Gartner is a more neutral witness, and it too is concerned at the return that companies are going to be able to achieve on their social CRM investments.

Although sales, marketing and customer service departments are rapidly adopting social CRM applications, Gartner worries that, by the end of 2012, only 50% of Fortune 1000 companies will receive a worthwhile return on investment (ROI). What’s more, of the ones that don’t see a decent return, only 20% will even have the data they need to find out where they’re falling short.

Meanwhile the market for social CRM software is expanding fast (from $850 million in 2011 to a projected $2.1 billion in 2012) and it may not prove easy to find the right vendor. Currently vendors are differentiating themselves by the specialist functions they offer, whereas it’s the ones that can assemble the full toolkit that will be best positioned for success (an issue that has concerned Gartner before – see LiveWire coverage).

In its latest pick of Cool Vendors, Gartner highlights four in social CRM: Badgeville, Hearsay Social, Peer Squared and Vivastream (full report $495). You could be forgiven for not having heard of any of them – Gartner itself warns punters to take into account the risks associated with using these smaller vendors.

And it’s also probably because there are a lot of players to consider (see LiveWire coverage in October and December 2011 for the names of a few more). Even if the final purchase decision will lie with IT heads, information managers could render useful service by offering a view on what’s out there.


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