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Microsoft joins Twitter to business app

Dynamics CRM, meet Twitter

When Microsoft starts integrating Twitter into business tools, you know that what started as a fun online plaything has been fully co-opted into the entertprise.

Microsoft has integrated its Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management) software with Twitter, in just the latest move by an enterprise software company to latch on to the wildly popular micro-blogging service.

The social-networking accelerator - part of three new add-on modules Microsoft is releasing for Dynamics CRM - culls and catalogs relevant Twitter messages, such as a discussion about the Dynamics user's company, and provides various analytic tools.

The integration, announced yesterday, is also meant to help Dynamics users boost their sales databases. Twitter usernames can be converted into a Dynamics CRM customer record or sales lead, to which more data, such as a phone number, can be added over time.

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So far the accelerator is only compatible with Twitter, but Microsoft is planning to connect with other social networks as well.

Microsoft's move to connect with Twitter follows a similar announcement made in March by rival CRM vendor Salesforce.com. And an entire software company, CoTweet was formed around the goal of tapping Twitter's potential for CRM.

Twitter itself could end up getting in the CRM game, such as through a paid service that tracks and analyzes conversations around particular brand names, Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang speculated in a recent blog post.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's ongoing accelerator strategy reflects another trend: How traditional software vendors are responding to the rise of SaaS (software as a service), which is marked by frequent small updates, instead of a major release once a year or two.

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The other two CRM accelerators announced Thursday include a module that helps customers manage sales opportunities along with partners, and one for connecting Dynamics CRM systems to company portals.

The modules can be downloaded at no charge and will be available within the next few weeks, according to Microsoft.

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