Is Twitter Social CRM? Nope.

Is Twitter Social CRM? Nope.

Summary: 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.


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 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.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Enterprise Software, Software

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  • Twitter can analyze - and engage

    Paul -- I think your right to point out that there are many competitors to Twitter who monitor and analyze a much broader slice of social media.

    But Twitter has the advantage of potentially monitoring and engaging people who are busy chattering away as part of the world's largest floating cocktail party, coffee break, and trade show happy hour.

    Engagement could be ads, it could be near real time offers made in well-crafted promotional channels, it could be near real time response to sentiment. I'm not an ad person but read "Space Merchants" many years ago and have confidence that motivated creative folk could come up with something attractive enough to avoid alienating the base.

    In any event the Twitter "commons" seems to be one of three places where people socialize and converse rather than search.

    The others are their neighborhood (claimed by Facebook) and their workplace (claimed by the concept we call "Enterprise 2.0"), and maybe the biggest opportunity for consumer marketing.
    • True enough

      I agree with you. Twitter's got a real opportunity to monetize their business by doing exactly what you say. Its just not Social CRM nor is it a social media monitoring tool in the sense that its out there. Its a way for Twitter to monitize by providing a service that has a specific value. I'm a fan of Twitter. I just don't want the waters any more muddy than they already are.
  • RE: Is Twitter Social CRM? Nope.

    Absolutely, twitter and the rest of the new SM technologies are just channels that the CRMs need to leverage effectively to provide true sCRM. I'm looking forward to seeing how these vendors learn to leverage this space. Salesforce has already started down that path with Twitter integration to customer service but there is so much more potential and I'm not sure they really understand it.
  • Want real value?

    Twitter + Salesforce is great, but you still have to MANUALLY READ the posts one at a time.

    This solution takes social media channels (like twitter) as well as direct customer feedback, and passes it through an AI engine to track and trend subject matter AND sentiment in real-time. Couple that with the ability to trigger automated, dynamic actions based on comment contents, and companies have a real solution to actively monitor and understand how the world perceives brands, products, and services.
  • Twitter is Real-time Search

    Twitter is huge and here's why. It's Real-time search.

    On rare occasion a simple idea turns into something huge. Just as Tim Berners-Lee's simple idea of the URL morphed into the Internet so it will be with Twitter.

    So what's Twitter's simple idea and why is it significant?

    From a simple technology perspective Twitter is Publish-Subscribe SMS. It combines the publish-subscribe communication paradigm with real-time of instant messaging.

    Additionally Twitter has opened up the network of subscriptions so that anyone can see who is subscribing (following) to who. Given the nature of social networks this means that interesting news has the ability to reach virtually everyone wiht six retweets in real-time.

    As with any simple idea that drives a paradigm shift the number of use cases continues to grow only limited by the imagination of its users. Social CRM maybe one of the use cases time will tell. While it took 20 years for Tim Berners-Lee's simple idea of the URL to morph into the Internet Twitter will be mainstream in a matter of years.

  • I agree. Yet theres something related Twitter could do.

    I completely agree with your views Paul, you would know that already. :)

    I hope @jowyang @briansolis @scobleizer & @mashable RT your post on twitter!!

    I was alerted to this article ( by @robtyrie and I guess the article does touch upon some valid points.

    Its not just Twitter, but the whole microblogging (MB) thingy. I forsee a future (out of many futures, am a sci-fi guzzler ;) ) where many microblogging services co-exist & interoperate. Much like the email systems. Currently may be we are in the era of compuserv & AOL's early adoptions of email that restricted interoperability.

    So, twitter cannot stay happy by providing aggregation/monitoring/analytics of just its content, if at all these should be provided by the MB provider.

    However, to pass the time, till we get to that future (if we do get there) twitter could gobble up some social data monitoring/mining co. and tie it in with twitter. Like what they did with their search.

    And this monitoring/mining could either provide just a firehose for the brands or some analytics around the data from twitter combined with other socmed channels.

    The winning point would however be that this data be provided in a manner that can be easily ported into the CRM systems, either you call them CRM 2.0 or Social CRM or sCRM or simply CRM.

    And why limit themselves to only provided a way into CRM systems? May be brands can have tighter integration from their CRM systems into Twitter? So that campaign can be tracked/measured? Or for prompt service resolutions a la the latest SFDC module?

    All these mean, monetize the integration layer (for my techie peabrain) or as you call it, the service. :)

    • Nice Idea

      Hey Prem,
      Nice idea for sure. My only point is that Twitter isn't social CRM and never will be without an overhaul that would make it unrecognizable. There are a number of ways that Twitter could monetize itself. It's already valuable as it is - a channel that provides info and communications.
      • Not an overhaul. Just a parallel biz.

        I agree Paul. :)

        I don't want twitter to get overhauled beyond recognition!

        I alluded to twitter search in my earlier comment since that is a service based on the tweets but still separate from the twitter functionality of tweeting, replying, DM, following. Twitter search is just erstwhile Summize integrated closely at the server level.

        If twitter could integrate so closely, say, Radian6, and provide it as a parallel feature a la search, that would not overhaul the twitter MB service.

        Twitter as a MB might not get monetized, but a firehose/monitor/analytics service that is in parallel to the MB stuff could get monetized. Ofcourse, it would have to be stuff not given away for free by the site/APIs.
      • Yes, unrecognizable

        If CRM is a strategy, and social CRM is a strategy, then Twitter would be unrecognizable because it would no longer be software :)
        • A Twategy?

          I rest my case. :-)
  • RE: Is Twitter Social CRM? Nope.

    Paul, this is an exceptional post!

    Just to clarify, I'm not taking the position that Twitter is solely ushering in a dedicated genre of sCRM. The case I'm making is that the popularity of Twitter, and the cultural frenzy it has created, has sparked a heightened level of development that links CRM to socialized media channels...including all networks that define the Conversation Prism.

    There are several "lite" services that allow for CRM for twitter now, while others, such as PeopleBrowsr and CoTweet, are building an entry point for sCRM (from tracking, prioritizing, management, assignment, followup, reporting, etc.) Existing CRM tools will adapt with the social Web as well...innovation will spark new startups, evolution, and also acquisitions.

    But at the end of the day, I believe that the shift to a strategic, managed, and value-added outbound philosophy to compliment existing and emerging social channels is the true driver of sCRM - the rest is just about the tools.
    • Thanks for the Response, Brian

      Thank you for the kind words, Brian.

      Over the last two years, there has been a clear need for technology and strategy that concerned itself with the engagement of customers who trust their peers more than the companies they deal with and who knew how to use this communications revolution to..well, communicate with each other. Businesses have been left out in the cold. That said, there is enormous amounts of transaction data that companies have for their customers and, using that data in combination with the knowledge they gain from directly participating in the ongoing conversations in the channels that you so beautifully describe in the Conversation Prism (incidentally, I use it in many of many speaking engagements - fully attributed of course - to scare baby boomers - of which I am one :-)), can be a major boost for customer insight and learning how to deal with those customers the way they want to be dealt with. The voice of the customer rules the 21st century.

      I'd love to continue this dialogue with you because I think it can help bridge the social and CRM communities and support the drive to the integrated approach that is fundamentally necessary to meet the needs of the social customers out there.
      • Keep it coming

        Paul and Brian,

        Your insights and viewpoints are appreciated. Thanks for sharing and for keeping the discussion going.

        Brian Vellmure

      • Let's collaborate

        Hi Paul, I would love to continue the dialogue as I believe that businesses can only benefit from the wisdom of experience and the insight from engagement. I'm brian <at> future-works [dot] com. Looking forward to hearing from you! Cheers!
  • RE: Is Twitter Social CRM? Nope.

    Completely agree Paul. Excellent post. You rightfully called out Twitter as a channel for customer interaction. Companies need to reach out to the social web to better interact and engage their customers.

    Providing Twitter as a channel does not suffice. It would just be the first step. These emerging channels have a potential to generate huge volume of conversations (unstructured data)which cannot be harnessed easily. Also, there could be a lot of spam. One would need effective tools to harness & synthesize the data to enable better decision making.
    • Twitter - new channel, same challenges

      Great observation by kotharia. A good first step is enabling Twitter as a listening & communication channel (within or alongside CRM). But just like all other media, traditional and social, this will exacerbate information overload for sales & marketing professionals.

      We believe that you need a layer of intelligence / analytics operating on top of Twitter and all other potentially useful information sources if it is to be made relevant and actionable for sales/marketing/support within CRM.

      Twitter ups the ante in terms of volume and frequency, but the challenge is not a new one. Before our current love affair with Twitter, most organizations had not yet figured out how to filter & analyze the thousands of online news sources, much less the hundreds of thousands of business blogs out there. So we can't assume that Twitter is "noisier" (as measured by signal to noise ratio, not volume) than any previously available media. It's just a bigger fire hose!

      Here's the approach we've taken to date...

      Basically we look at channels & content as plug & play. Blogs come along, plug it in. Twitter comes along, plug it in. Rest assured that in the next 6-12 months, some OTHER shiny, new object that's not even on our radar will capture the imagination of sales & marketing. Just plug it in. After all, it too will promise to accelerate the commoditization of content and worsen information overload. Unless, that is, you have tools that can filter & analyze data in the cloud to identify only the relevant & actionable information.

      That's where we think things are going. What do you think? Reply here or Tweet me at
  • Twitter is Social, But it's not a CRM

    Twitter is a place to meet great people and form truly meaningful relationships. But, let's face it - Twitter is HARD!

    It took me forever to find a good Twitter CRM and I'm just happy I finally did: <a href=""></a>

    Tweetlr is beautiful, actively maintained and classy. If you need a little help managing twitter accounts. Give it a try!