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Summary:

Customer relationship management giant Salesforce.com just gobsmacked the fledgling community management industry with its launch of a customer support service called Service Cloud. While initially positioned as a tool for customer service, it also tracks interactions with various online communities. This puts Salesforce on a collision […]

mediumCustomer relationship management giant Salesforce.com just gobsmacked the fledgling community management industry with its launch of a customer support service called Service Cloud. While initially positioned as a tool for customer service, it also tracks interactions with various online communities.

This puts Salesforce on a collision course with community monitoring startups. After all, monitoring a conversation is one thing, but responding to it is another entirely — the domain of CRM, something Salesforce knows better than almost anyone else.

Get popular on the Internet, and you’ll have thousands of close personal friends who want you to pay attention to them. Unless you’re a social media rock star like Chris Brogan, who claims to be able to use Twitter at scale, you’re going to need some help.

Using a combination of keyword search, web crawling, and visualizations, companies such as Visible Technologies, Radian6, Techrigy, and Cymfony help you track your newfound popularity by measuring and organizing conversations with anyone who’s interested in your brand or your company. Others, such as Keenkong, are still in stealth mode.

But monitoring thousands of conversations across Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and blog comments is only part of the challenge. You still have to respond to them. If you automate your responses, you sound inauthentic. Imagine sending a message on Twitter and getting a 140-character form letter in return: You’d unfollow that person pretty fast. So you need to assign the task of following up to a human.

This moves community management tools from the world of social network analytics into that of customer relationship management. And while some of these startups have basic CRM features, that’s still a world Salesforce dominates.

While Service Cloud, which looks like the fruit of Salesforce’s 2008 acquisition of Instranet, initially targets customer service interactions, it’s a small step from there to marketing and sales interactions across social networks. Ultimately, Salesforce is building a tool that companies can use to engage with their markets across all online channels. Providers of community monitoring tools know they’ll need to pay attention to the new gorilla in their midst.

  1. Hi Alistair,

    I think this is a great development that naturally flows from the growing importance of the social web to businesses. Social Media is expanding to becoming a central part of several business functions across the enterprise including sales, customer support, PR, marketing, and more.

    We will see a whole lot more innovation in the future where social media conversations, metrics and social connections become a part every tool a business uses whether it be CRM, ECM, Customer Support systems, etc.

    This is a great opportunity for social media monitoring, analysis & metrics platforms like ourselves (Radian6). In addition to the vertical solutions that we provide for social media monitoring/analysis and engagement, we also operate as a horizontal platform with very rich social metrics, content, business rules, etc., that can be easily integrated into these other enterprise platforms.

    We already have customers using our solution and integrating into other enterprise solutions they use and this trend will significantly increase in the future.

    Exciting times!

    Regards,

    Marcel
    CEO, Radian6

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  2. After spending 2008 investigating, selecting, developing, and launching a capability like this at my previous company, I applaud SalesForce.com’s initiative. To manage the volume of online conversations and separate the wheat from the chaff, such clouds of service will next require text analytic, categorization, sentiment-extraction, language-translation and a host of other features. Expect the pack of text analytic, enterprise feedback, and innovation platform vendors to commence partnering with SalesForce.

    From a consumer point of view, their voices in the cyber-wind will soon be heard, categorized, measured, tracked and hopefully acted upon.

    Companies that invest in such clouds of service will benefit by rapidly discovering product/service issues, sensing sentiment, enhancing product/service features, increasing customer loyalty, etc.

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  3. Our tool incorporates workflow to help with social media engagement. We don’t believe, because of the nature of social media, that anything but personalized engagement is going to work. There is a continual attempt by marketers to try and glom a broadcast- messaging solution onto social media because that is the familiar territory. If you try to do that you will encounter a backlash, something we don’t see in ‘traditional’ media ad models.
    The problem new entries to this field are running into is the collecting of historical data, something we’ve been doing since 2007. There is already so much out there that you need powerful metrics and analysis tools to simply find the most important place to engage. CRM is not going to tell you things like Popularity, Sentiment, Tone, Demographics, etc.

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  4. This is definitely good news because it will help enterprises scale the personal response in regard to customer support. Which Chris Brogan has pointed out as a problem of how to scale the community manager role such as mine. But it will help companies more easily adopt a process across the customer & tech support department.

    The question is will it bridge to other departments? Will Marketing, Product Dev’t, Communications, PR, etc utilize this information? There are many more reasons to use a tool such as Techrigy SM2 than customer service. It’s important to monitor conversations around the brand, competitors & industry. Our tool analyzes that data & provides high level reporting down to real time alerts for crisis situations.

    Thanks for mentioning Techrigy SM2 & providing this news about a new way for companies to more easily respond to their customers.

    Connie Bensen
    Community Strategist, Techrigy

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  5. CRM is a natural extension of community management. Day to day, I wish I was more effective at being able to track who is saying what, how many times, and who they are. SalesForce.com is well positioned to be able to deliver a system of this magnitude, though they will need to be extremely focused in a pond in which they’re not king.

    Community CRM differs vastly from traditional sales and marcom CRM when you add the element of anonymity – “some random person that wrote a post about me”. Time will tell if Salesforce is able to compete against the more likely candidates in this field (Radian6 comes to mind).

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  6. I don’t agree that “this moves community management tools from the world of social network analytics into that of customer relationship management”

    they aren’t the same thing

    on a basic level, is someone out on the web who’s just talking about your company necessarily a “customer”? hell, no! they may be an influencer (or they may not be) — but, either way, they may never be a customer

    I also don’t agree that, just because some of these community management tool startups “have basic CRM features” that they are then competing in “a world Salesforce dominates”

    these are different markets, different products, different needs

    this seems like an article trumped up to create a controversy where none exists

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  7. [...] GigaOm:  Alistair Croll sees Service Cloud as CRM 2.0 more than Customer Service.  He has a point.  I have a hard time imagining that most Customer Service Representatives want to go looking for a lot more inputs that they need to deal with and be measured on.  It’s a little more plausible to me that a marketing organization would use this tool to track what others are saying about them, although even then it seems like there are better ways to go about that. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Another Chat With Concur’s Steve SinghWhere Does Customer Service Fit on the Org Chart?A few big or lots of small customers?Credit card companies about to get burned twice [...]

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  8. You’re early to the story. Enterprise usurping of these traits and features is the news for 2009. Alex Howard (@digiphile) was saying that very thing to me today. Watching.

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  9. [...] to gigaom.com for this article on Community management and CRM 2.0 … don’t ask me how they flushed keenkong out, but somehow they did. Interesting [...]

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  10. [...] Salesforce Service Cloud: Community Management Is Really CRM 2.0? (gigaom.com) [...]

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