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Let's Talk Social CRM Strategy

The announcement early last week (May 2nd) of Salesforce.com's completion of the acquisition of social media analytics company, Radian6, stirred some thoughts I've had on the long term trajectory of socialytics and social CRM. I gave my overview of what I thought this acquisition meant when Salesforce.com announced its intent to purchase Radian6. (See it here) Since Salesforce.com hasn't been at liberty to divulge specific plans or to begin work with Radian6, details are still to come.

Fundamentally, this acquisition is about opportunity for Salesforce.com. Salesforce.com is committed to what it calls Cloud 2. Essentially, that includes all things that can be enabled through a cloud-based construct with the latest components being social media and social networking. Salesforce.com's Chatter was the company's first big splash in this area. The company's commitment to the space is evidenced by the compelling price points for that product including Chatter Free. The acquisition of Radian6 allows Salesforce.com to move rapidly ahead in the ability to support social media analytics, what IDC calls socialytics, in its CRM product, its social product and within the broader platform.

What I want to talk about now is not the functional capabilities that the socialytics bring to the product set but what it means to Salesforce.com users in terms of social strategies within their organizations. CRM and social media have a commonality when it comes to success – strategy and its cousin, process. Radian6 gets the importance of strategy. It was very much a focus at Radian6's first user event, Social 2011, just a month ago. With Salesforce.com, it will now be able to bring process to the table.

The first thing that jumped out at Social 2011 was that it was about the practitioners and strategy and secondarily about the technology, which I found refreshing for a technology event. It was clear in the programming that this event was focused on getting the job done and not features and functions. In his keynote, Paul Greenberg, noted CRM author, got straight to the point; technology must lead to business outcomes. Yes, there were product announcements that pleased the audience, but the days never got lost in the bits and bytes.

The focus of this event was on refining the use of social for business purposes. Radian6's tools help businesses understand what's being said, and by whom in order to assess the impact of that on their brand and for other business purposes. While this is within the scope of the tools it is only one half of the equation. The other half, which is the responsibility of the organization, is determining what impact your brand wants to have, and acting in a way that causes that to happen. This concept of strategy was highlighted through best practices. Two session examples were, 'Social Good Begins with a Strategy' in which non-profits and their social strategies were highlighted where despite having low budgets they are effectively using social, and 'Cutting Through the Red Tape' in which government agencies were discussed that are using social channels to change the way they are perceived and to reach younger audiences. The real challenge to social is not simply finding a good tool, but effectively implementing a social strategy that the tool can then support.

Where experimentation in social media was the watchword a mere two years ago, specific business outcomes are driving organizations to look more closely at what their social initiatives are bringing them. Analytics are critical in that requirement but without planned, purposeful engagement the results won't be aligned with business requirements. This is where socialytics within a CRM system bring the process to support the strategy. I feel as though I am blaspheming the essence of social to suggest that it requires process but it is clear that the volume of social data without a mechanism for collecting, understanding, processing and distributing it will have a crippling effect on organizations. And it is only going to get worse.

The world of social data related to customers and prospects is large and is increasing every day. Taking that data and combining it with data about known individuals is where Salesforce.com's CRM system comes into play. Then there is the ever expanding world of additional data that can be collected and applied that is not purely social but is key to understanding the customer, what they are doing and who they are. The new Radian6 Insights platform, announced by Radian6 at the event, highlights how rich this environment can be. Using partners such as Klout, OpenAmplify and OpenCalais, Radian6 users can overlay 'Insights' such as age range, location, influencer score and textual analysis on top of profile mentions. Rather than build everything into their own product; Radian6 chose to leverage partners and therefore specialists, to give their users a way to access more pertinent data that can add color and depth to the social data they are collecting.

As more and more knowledge about known and unknown individuals is captured, the next logical step is having a broader methodology for leveraging this knowledge that is in keeping with a corporate strategy. Clearly, this is the domain of CRM systems.

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