Over the last few days, social analyst Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang and PR 2.0 pundit Brian Solis have been calling Twitters's Future: Social CRM. Jeremiah did it in his wildly popular Web Strategist blog here and Brian did it in his very good PR 2.0 Blog here. While Jeremiah's argument is somewhat different than Brian's the basic premise that both of them have is that Twitter can be (not is going to be) a Social CRM something. Product? System? A little unclear actually.
The reality is that they're both wrong. Twitter is an increasingly important channel that provides businesses with a means to engage customers on Twitter and to gather data in real time from Twitter, potentially. If Twitter was to be social CRM system or product, it would need the level of overhaul that would make it Twitter no longer. Twocial TweeRM?
Jeremiah claims that Twitter has two of the three elements of CRM - customers and relationships. Just not management.
A retail clothing chain has customers too - so do all businesses. That doesn't make them a social CRM system or product.
Relationships the way he discusses them - which is peer relationships that discuss a brand and its rivals positively and negatively can be found on ePinions, FeedbackPlanet, and MyStarbucks Ideas too - but that doesn't mean that this is the opportunity to turn any of them into a Social CRM product or system.
Twitter's benefit and its relationship to CRM is that it is a location, a community of people who are engaging with their peers in honest open discussions about things that benefit or hurt specific businesses, among many other things. Because there are operational CRM tools and will be new tools that can potentially tie business rules and workflow, processes and systems to communities of prospects and customers who are conversing, then a channel or location like Twitter becomes eminently valuable.
The first reason? Because a problem can be monitored, noticed and acted upon, with tools like the Twitter extension to the salesforce.com ServiceCloud or the SAP/Business Objects integration of Business Objects sentiment analysis with Twitter that allows businesses to monitor customer conversation and route the conversations for action to the right people to take action.
The second reason? Because gathering data on the actual discussions around brands - both yours and competitors is invaluable.
But all of that is just on Twitter, not the thousands of other channels that Brian Solis actually identified in his now well known "Conversation Prism" of the types and sources of conversation going on via the social web.
Twitter is one of those. Social CRM requires more than one channel.
Even though Social CRM/CRM 2.0 is a strategy, it does require tools and systems to get the strategy accomplished.
Jeremiah seems be focused around:
"tremendous opportunities for Twitter should they create their own brand management system that they can resell to the world’s companies to monitor, alert, track, prioritize, triage, assign, followup, and report on the interactions with brands."
But that makes the competition companies like Radian6, and the other 170 social media monitoring companies (thanks to my bud, Nathan Gilliat for the number) not CRM companies. Even if they focused on competing in that space, the problem a Twitter brand management and monitoring system would have is that they're only going to monitor Twitter. The social media monitoring companies who complement CRM so well aren't even nearly that limited. They monitor, blogs, forums, and other social networks/communities as well as traditional sources of brand monitoring and company information like Reuters and Hoover. Twitter would be limited to monitoring...Twitter - unless they decided not to be Twitter anymore.
At the moment, Social CRM is in a nascent stage, so all discussions like this are necessary, so we can define what it is. But CRM products and services are a mature market with a substantial dollar value, one that Twitter would be smart to take advantage of. It would be a way of monetizing themselves. Perhaps, rather than Social CRM, might I suggest Twitter do as one of Jeremiah's commentors suggested and extend their API and provide a paid service to CRM (and other) vendors to customize the activities they integrate with on Twitter. I can't speak to the details, but the key here is "service" which is simply something that Twitter offers, NOT Social CRM applications which would be FAR beyond their scope or purpose - I can't speak to their expertise in building them.
With the customers in control of the business ecosystem, companies have no choice but to define strategies for customer engagement. Twitter is at this point a channel for finding the customers to engage with and to get data from so that richer customer insights can be garnered and problems solved in real time or nearly so.
That's a channel. Its not a Social CRM strategy, system, or application. It could provide premium services to make it a more responsive channel but it won't be Social CRM unless it's no longer Twitter.