In early 2010, Bob Thompson, CEO of Customer Think asked the question “Can you do “Social CRM”
without Social Media/Networks?”

I declared then (and prior) that Social CRM would soon go away and just go back to being called CRM. This week, Paul Greenberg, author of the Best Selling “CRM at the Speed of Light”, and widely recognized as the “Godfather of CRM” declared that time has come in his 5 part series posted over on Diginomica.

Why does this matter? It matters because it highlights the maturity and adoption of the channel and capabilities of interaction into core thinking. While many of the benefits and tenets that we were exploring about social (and social crm) 3,4,5,6 years ago, we are now exploring across a broader array of technologies and interactions along the entire digital spectrum. Social is both a subset of digital, and CRM (and HR, and Sales, and Marketing, and Customer Service, and, and, and, and…). From an organizational perspective, social is an enabler of core business processes, not a standalone with its own benefits. It’s taken a while for the industry to get there, but we finally see this reflected in the product and messaging direction of many of the large enterprise vendors (Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, etc.)

Bob’s full question about whether CRM is technology, or strategy, or both is one that has been repeated and debated a ton over the past 2 decades. In can perhaps be answered in the quote below that has been attributed to both Marshall McLuhan and Father John Culkin.

“We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”

As this relates to CRM (and other domains tightly associated with technology), there appears is an accordion effect. Strategy and process are enabled by technology. Then disruptive technology emerges that changes the landscape, forcing (or enabling) changes in process and strategy.

Nonetheless, the dialogue and debate is useful and interesting. In re-reading some of the comments, I am simultaneously amused that the industry has moved so far, but so little over the past few years.

Below are my comments from March 2010. The last line is arguably more relevant now than it was then.

At some point, the title Social CRM goes away. It is
just CRM. Just like eBusiness is really just business. For the time
being, Social helps to differentiate the future from the past.

Related to your Strategy/Technology question: I have wrestled with
this as well. I am and have always been a proponent of defining your
organizational and customer strategy first, aligning people and
process second, and then selecting and implementing the appropriate
technologies to support the defined strategy and processes.

So, let’s say its 2003 and that you’ve done all of that perfectly.
Here’s where in this case, things might be slightly different than then.

Enter the social web and while it may not initially change
organizational or CRM strategy all that much, the tactics by which
that strategy is executed probably does change.

The social web has introduced amplifiers to business models in
general. The ability to find and engage prospects and customers
talking about your products and services has greatly been increased
(Social Media Monitoring). Listening, analyzing and acting
appropriately can provide significant returns (or at least deflect

It has also given prospects, customers, influencers, etc. a megaphone
by which they may share information about your company. Provide value
at any point in the dialogue and that value will likely be shared
throughout social networks. (case in point – Ray and Jeremiah’s paper)

Returns on a customer centric strategy are now exponential – good and
bad. Organizations that try to engage in a social world with the old
one way marketing message will have marginal success. Those who have
already aligned their business models with their customers (and have
moved towards an outside-in model) will experience exponential success
because of the opportunities that the social technologies provide.

And now to come full circle back to your question. For those
organizations who never got CRM in the first place, the widespread
growth and adoption of social technology that is literally changing
the fabric of society is so disruptive that it may actually dictate a
change in strategy for many organizations. In the long term, it seems
likely that the impact of the social web will force more organizations
to change the way they function or they will simply fail. The market
is becoming smarter and more efficient, and those that don’t respond
will die.


  1. says

    It was indeed inevitable, and only served as a placeholder until such time as CRM was able to catch up to the new technology. Social is everywhere and in everything we do. If companies want to truly know and interact with their customers, they need integrated social metrics and communication platforms built into their relationship management software, and they need it now.

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