With Enterprise 2.0 this week (where I’ll be for an afternoon and a few evenings), there’s plenty of social networking integration for business buzz going around. Essentially, over the past year there’s been a (relative) slew of offerings that allow companies to integrate with social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and often seek to lace in social networking aspects into other offers.
[C]ompanies need an organized approach using enterprise software that connects business units to the social web – giving them the opportunity to respond in near-real time, and in a coordinated fashion.
Social CRM does not replace existing CRM efforts – instead it adds more value. In fact, Social CRM augments social networking to serve as a new channel within existing end-to-end CRM processes and investments. Social CRM enhances the relationship aspect of CRM and builds on improving the relationships with more meaningful interactions. As the “Godfather of CRM,” Paul Greenberg notes, “We’ve moved from the transaction to the interaction with customers, though we haven’t eliminated the transaction – or the data associated with it… Social CRM focuses on engaging the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s (i.e. Social CRM is) the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”
Self-service Sales Funnels
The interest in Social CRM is a lot more, well, CRM-oriented than the data-mining aspects I’m interested in, but it’s different faces of the same opportunity. In these things, I tend to play a seemingly Debbie Downer role with my line that “all roads lead to better junk mail.” I’m not actually one of the Adbuster faithful here, but I do think it’s important for people to realize what sites like Facebook &co. are enabling businesses to do and the free, self-service sales funnel labor “consumers” are doing for large companies.
In whatever this space is called (it’s definitely something in the “Enterprise 2.0″ orbit), the ability to connect to existing social networks and web sites is spreading more virally than SharePoint. Merely “connecting” to sites isn’t the main thing: bi-directional integration and sucking out customer/user data is the real cream in the chocolate egg.
There’s really no end of vendor offerings in this space. Offerings like the “coming soon” Salesforce Chatter kind of shoe-horn here as well as things like Jive’s “New Agenda for Social Business”. While folks like Eloqua, Loopfuse, and even traditional web analytics folks like Adobe Omniture are (or should be) all circling around this like hungry vultures. There’s plenty of companies I’m leaving off, check out the Social CRM paper for a metric butt-ton of them.
There’s several things going on here to enable this:
- A good saturation of consumers and customers in sites like Twitter, Facebook, and other places – these are people who are spending money with companies that are the potential customers for vendors in this area.
- All of the demographic data (location, background, affinities), photos, and relationship tagging is creating the best junk-mail targeting cloud ever know and companies want to mine the crap out of that data to sell more to their customers
- The wide spread use of open APIs and data standards (de facto and otherwise) are enabling technology companies to wire together their software with these online sites, making it technologically and economically feasible for folks like Jive to suck in all that social data.
- Finally, the most speculative thing: there’s just something about Apple’s iPhone and iPad innovations that makes people believe that IT can actually help grow their business now-a-days. This a is huge shift from the “IT is a black-pit of budget send and I have a 500 meg email quote to-boot” attitude that’s existing for a decade or more.
Throw in the slight opening of budget coffers in 2010, and it’s a good time for the better junk-mail segment of Enterprise 2.0.
Internal Uses Too
And this is just a take on companies using social business software like this for external social network use, to profit from their customers. There’s a whole slew of other things they could do with their own employees, business partners, and competition.
The negative side is Big Brother monitoring. It goes way beyond finding people who goof off during work hours: the classic “I hate my job/boss” firing, tracking “inappropriate” behavior (we can’t have our employees posting pictures of themselves getting wasted), detecting when people are job hunting (when they update their LinkedIn profiles), when personal matters may effect work (getting married, pregnant, all those “evil” things), hunting down casual industrial espionage (your Intel employee is a little too buddy-buddy with AMD people)…and so on.
The positive side is more along the lines of companies realizing the smarts they have in their employees heads and the horizontal connections – and then, of course, re-orienting work to take advantage of them and (we’d hope) figure out compensating employees beyond the org. tree. HR departments has a real chance to shine here as something way beyond “the people we pay a lot to hand out our vacation calendar.” And, for secured, SaaS offerings like Yammer, it’s just a brain-dead cheap way to increase knowledge sharing and collaboration, vague-yet-important as those two areas are.
Many of the evolving, Enterprise 2.0 collaboration platforms like Salesfore Chatter, MindTouch, some Lotus offerings, etc.) fit here.
Turning expensive information into free information
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
–Stewart Brand’s full “information wants to be free” quote, 1984
Back to the external social business mechanics: the main point is that many companies are realizing that the self-service demography and categorization people people do in social networking sites is a gold-mine for doing excellent junk mail: selling more stuff to customers, keeping existing customers happy, getting new customers, and gathering the intelligence needed to keep doing all of those.
The fantastic (or depressing part if you’re from the throw a brick through the McDonald’s window, No Logo crew) is that your customers provide the most expensive, valuable, and difficult to attain types of information for free. Users of social network sites are self-segment and declare their interests to merchants, micro-targeted down to the individual, all for free.
Put another way, you’re just data.
(The above is massaged and blended from a reply to Katherine Noyes for her piece on Jive.)
Disclosure: Salesforce, MindTouch, IBM, and Microsoft are customers. See the RedMonk client list for other relevant clients.