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My Thoughts on the Social CRM (SCRM) Panel at Social Media Club

Posted by on May 21, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Social Media Club (San Francisco and Silicon Valley chapter) panel session around Social CRM which was moderated by Jeremiah Owyang and included Salesforce, Get Satisfaction, Mint, and Lithium Technologies.  The room was packed with around 100+ people that were all interested in Social CRM, which was great.  For me personally the session was a bit frustrating and many of the audience members felt the same way (or at least those that I talked to).  I’m really glad I attended to hear how vendors are approaching SCRM and to get a better understanding of what people want and expect.  There are plenty of great things to say such as the quality of people, the great vibe and atmosphere, and the killer job that the SMC guys do of putting together the events.  This overview is strictly on the content of the panel and not the whole event itself (which was great).  Having said that, here are my points of contention

  1. The panel was made up entirely of vendors in the SCRM space.  This was a bad choice in my opinion because vendors ultimately have one goal in mind, and that is to get more people to use their platform.  Many vendors sell a solution and then try to wrap a strategy around it, which is not the way to go.  This makes it a bit cumbersome when you try to talk about strategy with a panel of people that represent a product.
  2. Every vendor (with the exception of Mint) on the panel bills themselves as a SCRM tool or platform yet they all do very different things, this was a bit confusing to audience members (that I spoke to) that were wondering what the best tools and platforms were.  The conversation should have started off with, “the strategy you create will dictated the tactics and the tools that you need to support it.”
  3. It became very clear to me that the Social CRM space is still ripe with confusion.  The panelists were all asked to define what SCRM and every response was nebulous and unclear, there was no clear answer from anyone on the panel with the exception of Dr. Wu from Lithium Technologies (who I have spoken to in the past) who provided some context around internal and external collaboration.  Oddly enough Dr. Wu is the one guy on the panel who is actually not involved on the strategy side of SCRM, he is a scientist that studies networks, relationships, and social network analysis.
  4. When I asked about how SCRM fits into E2.0 and the internal collaboration space the only panelist that answered was the fellow from Salesforce who instead of addressing my point said something along the lines of “yes internal collaboration is great, which is why we have Chatter (new Salesforce product)”.  Maria from Attensity also asked a question about internal and external collaboration and yet again no response was given that actually addressed the question.
  5. Chris Heuer also became a bit upset because as he rightfully called out we’re putting “lipstick on a pig.”  We’re calling SCRM the same thing that social media has always been and instead  of actually focusing on how the customer views the company we’re focusing on how the company can sell the customer more stuff.  The expression around this space is “having a 360 degree view of the customer.”  A phrase I am starting to loathe.  As Michael Brito commented on one of my posts from last week, “I can pretty much take any definition of SCRM, replace SCRM with social media and have it mean the same thing.”  Kristie Wells from the Social Media Club boldly asked about VRM (vendor relationship management) and literally the entire room went quiet, you could have heard a pin drop, the panel stared at here blankly until finally Kristie said, “ok never mind.”
  6. I asked about how the offline component fits into the SCRM space as a good amount of offline interaction between company-consumer still happens offline.  The response I got from Get Satisfaction was more around data entry then it was about any type of strategy.  Meaning if you have any type of offline interactions then those interactions should be inputted into your CRM system.  Ok great, so now we’re focusing on the “tool” (CRM system) again and basically doing what we have always been doing with business cards when we meet people at events; enter them into our “tool.”
  7. Most of the focus around Social CRM for the panel was how you take social media data and apply it to CRM.  Meaning, if you have customer data in a platform such as Salesforce you now get a few more buttons and widgets that pull in customer data via Twitter and Linkedin and voila you now have SCRM.
  8. As Jeremiah mentioned most of the people in the audience were very new to SCRM which is why the topics were a bit more “entry level” (in my opinion).  However in my opinion entry level panels/sessions have an even greater responsibility to make sure that the right ideas, concepts, and messages around SCRM get put out there so that we don’t see the wrong ideas get propagated.  The message that I think most of the audience got after listening to a panel of vendors was, “it’s all about picking the right tools.

This post is just my opinion and it’s not written to make friends or enemies with anyone that participated in the panel.  As someone who is very interested and involved in SCRM I feel that we need to do a much better job of conveying what SCRM is really all about.  I try to do this here and have a few white papers coming out which should also help.  I don’t believe the SCRM space should be led by and dictated by vendors by sadly that is the case, we are once again being led by tools.  There is quite a disconnect between what strategists talk about and what vendors sell.  I think we need to work much closer together (which is what Chess Media Group is doing) with vendors in the SCRM space to make sure that we are all on the same page.  This is isn’t against vendors as I think there are some truly amazing products out there.  I should point out that Jeremiah did a great job of moderating the panel as usual, he asks questions that make people think and like me, doesn’t care about playing nice (as you can tell by this post) as long as the audience gets the information they need; sadly though I don’t the panel did a good job of addressing SCRM.

I don’t have anything negative to say about anyone or any product as everyone was smart and great to talk to.  This sessions just really helped me see how much confusion and interest there really is around SCRM.  Chess Media Group and I are doing what we can do develop some position papers and documents to help explain our position and viewpoints on SCRM.  There are a lot of great people to follow in the Social CRM space such as  Esteban Kolsky, Jeremiah Owyang, Paul Greenberg, Prem Kumar, Mitch Lieberman, et al. I learn a lot from all of these people and hopefully contribute something as well!

Did you attend the panel, what do you think?  Have you attended any SCRM sessions, talks, or events in your area?  What do you find frustrating or confusing and what are you seeing?

  • Dear Jacob
    Found you on Twitter. Fascinated with everything Social Media and great to have such insight. We have recently launched a brand new concept in Social Media based on communities and what people love. We are still a beta sight and working hard on the comms bit but would love if you would find time to have a little look as we have high hopes and your comments would be very welcome. Will follow you on various vehicles with interest! If facebook is about your friends, linkedin about work and twitter about now then is all about your favourite, things, places and people! Hope to share favourites soon and again thanks in advance for any time you can spare us. Leanda Jane Guy,

  • roellakmaker

    Dear Jacob,
    Haven´t had the opportunity to attend. Thanks for sharing your experience! I follow discussions on different Scrm forums. I have similar experiences. It is my impression that different scrm suppliers positions themselves to help customers to attack a new channel. It focuses primarily on sales and sales processes. Also it should fit and connect with the important CRM apps, the ecosystem.
    Social media has much deeper and broader impact on the way we do business. There is too much focus on a new “tool” that should fit the existing organization. Social media will cause organizations to change dramatically leaving no space – at this moment – to lock into an integrated tool. Strategy first, the tools will help to get understanding of what is happening, maybe some customer service management, but nothing more. Scrm is a new function within CRM. No real innovation. Has not much to do with what social media means for institutions.

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  • Hey Jacob,

    Thanks for coming to the SMC panel – glad to hear you like our events and we appreciate your feedback.

    We always aim to have a balanced panel with speakers that will address a topic from various angles. That's why we asked a researcher (Dr. Wu from Lithium Technologies) to join us as well as an enduser (Stephen Mann from

    We chose to focus on the emerging solutions in the space that was recently dubbed social CRM. Our audience is often a mixed crowd of very experienced people as well as newcomers.

    You have a good point that it would be interesting to hear more about the strategy behind companies' decisions to implement social CRM solutions. It may make sense to do a follow-up panel on the topic of social CRM in another six to 12 months, where we can discuss real-life examples of implementations. Since you had been in touch about participating this time, we hope you would be willing to join us on a panel in the future.

    Alyce Lindquist
    President, Social Media Club San Francisco / Silicon Valley

  • Evan_Hamilton

    Agreed. Valiant effort, great moderation from Jeremiah, but disappointing answers. We need to get some firebrands with strong opinions (Chris Messina, perhaps) up there with the vendors to extract some real answers. 🙂

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