The 2012 Social CRM Tragic Quadrant

Last week the respected industry analyst firm Gartner Group released their 2012 Social CRM Magic Quadrant. For those of you who follow these proclamations, the inside baseball crowd, the MQ is an event unto itself and despite what anyone would suggest, it really is all about the 2×2 chart.

The methodology of the MQ is rigorous, focusing on vendor positions, customer references, and product offerings. The coveted position is upper right quadrant, the intersection of the “visionary” and “ability to execute” axis, and typically the landscape changes incrementally reflecting the arduous pace of change in any technology solution segment.

Companies trumpet placement in the MQ as an approving nod from Gartner that they have passed muster and represent a safe choice for organizations in the market for such a product. It has been like this since the 1990’s and will no doubt continue into the future.

(Full disclosure: Get Satisfaction did not participate in the MQ process, in fact we asked to not be included and did not submit any material to Gartner but they evaluated us and placed us in the Niche quadrant.)

The Social CRM MQ always sparks debate, about the placement of vendors and more significantly about the methodology employed to evaluate the vendors. This year is no exception.

Gartner defines social CRM as

  1. Encourage many-to-many participation with customers, prospects, selling partners and internal staff.
  2. Capture and share user-generated data and content.
  3. Cede control to the community by providing varying levels of autonomy and engagement levels.
  4. Demonstrate a mutual, balanced purpose for company and community use.

Leading to the benefits of successful social CRM strategies, which are, according to Gartner:

  1. Building trust
  2. Gaining customer insight
  3. Differentiating products or services
  4. Increasing sales

The stated #1 benefit is “building trust” but here we get into the soft center of the entire social CRM market, which is the ability for any product or service to “build trust” if the organization deploying it does not itself define “building trust” as an organizational value. Is Gartner asking the right things or are they throwing in things that any software provider by itself is incapable of achieving on behalf of a customer? In other words, are they evaluating what is achievable with a good social product or they holding vendors accountable for the aspirational goals of social technologies in general?

Of the four benefits the most tangible is #4, increasing sales, but this is the one that causes the most consternation for companies implementing social strategies. What is the value of a tweet, shared Topic, customer interaction, and Like? We have theories and models but the fact remains that the economy of social engagement is being defined on a day-by-day basis and modeling the ROI of social interactions is highly theoretical (for a good read, check out the paper Social Dollars: The Economic Impact of Customer Participation in a Firm-sponsored Online Community and McKinsey’s breathtakingly deep report on The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies)

More problematically is that after starting out by defining social CRM as a set of values, Gartner then proceeds to evaluate vendor offerings not on how they contribute to the stated organizational values but on the functionality, use cases, and vendors attributes… which in the end is pretty much all they can evaluate.

In each Vendor Profile the strengths and cautions line up according to attributes that have little to do with how companies are taking advantage of the solutions; rather the primary critique of the MQ is on based on evaluation through an IT lens.  The fundamental challenge remains that Gartner is attempting to evaluate solution providers according to the business strategies their customers will adhere to… social CRM is, as defined by Gartner in the first sentence of the opening paragraph: “Social CRM is a business strategy…”.

As a result, the proclaimed leaders in the MQ are what they always are… well capitalized, suited-based offerings, and in 2012 we saw little movement from 2011, which itself saw little movement from 2010. I predict that in 2013 the map will look pretty much like 2012, barring any acquisitions in which case the names will change but the offerings will remain the same.

Broadly speaking, how can the same companies hocking the same products be declared leaders when the market itself is recognized as highly dynamic and fluid? More significantly, when has IT led any organization when it comes to values and capabilities related to customer engagement and experience? Mitch Lieberman states the case well:

“Social CRM does NOT need a quadrant. What companies need is help understanding how to humanize their CRM practices.”

Jive Comes Around, Focus on Customers

Social communities are instrumental to both social media and customer support strategy

Jive’s announcement this past week to focus more on Social Customer Service is further validation that customer communities are instrumental to both social media (marketing) and customer support strategy. Employee collaboration software offers an array of benefits for companies but increasingly what they are finding is that if they want to deliver not just on behind the firewall ROI but change their business in a way that can deliver sustainable competitive advantage, then they need to put the customer front and center.

It’s not enough to give your employees a better way to work… leading companies in every sector are discovering that they also need to deliver on a better way to collaborate with their customers!

If you will excuse me for taking a minute to pitch Get Satisfaction, this is exactly what we are entirely focused on, a better way for companies and customers to engage each other online.

People often ask me “why don’t you guys offer a help desk system?”. The answer is that while we offer a product that a business buys, the primary user is a customer and we don’t believe that pushing more stuff into a ticket based system, with the heavy workflow and attendent costs, is what will deliver a better company-to-customer experience.

I’m tempted to say that our mission is to make the help desk system less important to you, as a business, but in reality we hope to make it more important by focusing it on the issues that defy self-service help and customer-to-customer interaction.

With Get Satisfaction your customers get something better, and it’s not focused exclusively on complaints and problems. Instead of customer service around issue management we offer customer service through relationship management and what that means is that problems get resolved – certainly, this is a primary need – but questions get answered, positive feedback means doing more of what works, and questions get answered, by you, your advocates and other customers.

Get Satisfaction has as it’s core DNA that concept that a customer is at the center or a customer community. We offer a better, faster, and cheaper model than traditional enterprise software solutions, and perhaps most strikingly, we have delivered a platform that meets the needs of the very largest of companies, while also remaining approachable and productive for the smallest of startups.

I am glad to see Jive recognize that the Social Customer is an integral part of any social business. This won’t be easy for them or anyone else to deliver on, enterprise software doesn’t easily translate into strong customer experiences because it is a solution designed around a business process and employee experience first… but acknowledging that the Social Customer is the foundation is a good first start.


Get Satisfaction Wins CRM Idol!

I will apologize in advance for the length of this post… there is a lot to write about the journey.

Back in April I read on Paul Greenberg’s ZDNet column that he was organizing a competition called CRM Idol for companies in the social CRM market space. He had pulled together an impressive roster of judges who evaluate and score 40 companies in the U.S. and 20 companies from outside the U.S.

The criteria for inclusion was pretty straightforward, you had to secure a demo slot when the call for companies was announced, only companies under $10m in annual revenue qualified and customer references had to be provided. Check, check and check… Get Satisfaction met all the initial criteria.

Profile information had to be provided so that the CRMIdol website could be fitted out, and the judges called on customer references to verify their authenticity, and I assumed to gather additional information.

Keep in mind that we had just come out of a fundraising cycle so I had a pretty tight pitch deck put together and had a nice demo featuring our customer communities. I estimated that we would easily qualify for inclusion and could make it through the initial round, which narrowed the field to 13 companies (I love the number 13, a lot of really good stuff at Get Satisfaction has featured this number, including the Friday the 13th that we closed on our A round).

I did the pitch with Brent Leary, Denis Pombriant, and Jesus Hoyos and it played out just like a VC meeting. Our lead presales guy did the demo and we answered questions. All in all I thought we did well.

When the semi-finalists were announced I was pleased to see that my calculations were correct and we had qualified as well as made it to the semi-final round. In reviewing the list of semi-finalists it was clear that we had some work cut out for us in order to proceed… Paul and company had assembled a really impressive roster of semi-finalists.

Next up was a one-on-one interview with Brent Leary. I appreciated this because Brent focuses on SMB market segments and is someone I had read for a while but not had the chance to meet. The interview with Brent was the highlight of the competitive process for me, we covered a wide range of topics that ran the gamut of market perspective to the culture of the company we were building.

Then the finalists were announced and I was super excited to see that we had made it. At this point I was declaring victory because when I started the process I had a modest goal, make it to the semi-final round and just hope we could stretch into the finalists. Now we were 4 and the competition was daunting, including Assistly, Crowdfactory and Stone Cobra. Start sweating and wait for the final round instructions…

With a mere 3 weeks to deliver we were tasked with submitting a video that would be voted on in popular vote fashion, the results of which would be ½ of a final score with the other ½ coming from the cumulative judges vote. Did I say 3 WEEKS?

Fortunately, creative content has always been a strong suit for our team so we set about writing a script that would highlight the “buttoned up but untucked” nature of our brand, entertaining for the popular vote while dealing with the serious side of why you or anyone else should care about what we were doing.

Then Assistly got acquired by Salesforce and I was really happy that Paul had declared that the finalists could not spend more than $10k on the video. However I still had a problem, with Salesforce’s formidable market presence the Assistly team could deliver a really strong popular vote which meant I would have to over-deliver on the judges ballot in order to come out on top. This was not going to be easy, Assistly has a good product and a brand that is a lot like ours… however we did have a weapon in our arsenal that none of the other companies could match, we have a robot.

The thing to remember about online video is that most of the viewers will click away in the first 45 seconds and if the video is more than 3 minutes in length they typically won’t even stick around that long. Our charter was no more than 10 minutes in length but there was no way I was going to subject anyone to that much video so we went with a sub 3 minute video and decided to feature our loveable mascot JarGon in the first segment.

We had another decision to make about the video and that was how we would feature customer examples and if we would do it in their own words. I felt it was important to have our CEO, Wendy Lea, and one of our founders, Thor Muller, featured in the video to emphasize our ownership of the content rather than deferring to customers. It was a risky move because conventional wisdom is that telling your story through your customers is generally a winning strategy.

Our video producer shot the video on a Friday and spent the next week editing it to a draft cut, which then went through 2 more iterations before submitting it on the due date with time to spare.

When the finalists videos came out I instantly second guessed my decision to not use customers… several of the videos had some compelling customer interview segments that I could not help but be envious of. Well it was too late to hand wring over it, you dance with whom you brought and that is all there is to it.

Our promotional campaign was pretty simple, every couple of days we would push out in social channels a “hey please watch our video and vote for us” message and I worked my influencer channel, which was tricky because many of them are also CRM Idol judges and I did not want to appear unseemly so in the end influencers ended up not being very influential for us because we exercised a high degree of self-restraint. I was happy with our video and felt that it strongly portrayed what we believe in as a company. Nuff said.

On Monday the winners were announced and I will be really honest and tell you I was shocked to see we had won. I did not enter us into this event with the preconceived notion that we would be here today basking in the honor of having won it all. The other companies were that good and I am glad that I don’t have to compete against most of them.

In the EMEA category a company I was not familiar with, BPMOnline was crowned the winner and that underscores why this competition was important and we are grateful to Paul for organizing it. The social fill-in-the-blank market is incredibly noisy and just getting attention is a challenge, much less mindshare.

CRM Idol put a spotlight on companies that we otherwise would not read much about, not because they don’t deserve ink but because they, like us, are small companies that have limited means to do the traditional activities that bring attention to products and solutions. Traditional analyst firms have an annual revenue threshold for inclusion in formal research, like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. What this means is that sub-$10m annual revenue companies won’t get included in the analyst research that is important for gaining mindshare in the market, and what Paul did was provide theatre that companies like us could take advantage of.

Paul used his considerable influence in the market and a long list of relationships to bring together people who could evaluate these companies on their merits. The competitive process was rigorous and we are better off for having gone through it.

It’s been a good couple of weeks, we won CRM Idol and just last week one of our original customers, Intuit’s Mint group, won a prestigious Groundswell Award from Forrester Research for their work on social support.

Customer Service Hell: Web Conferencing

I have gone through some really bad customer experiences with online and offline services but few have rivaled that of my recent trials and tribulations with web conferencing service providers.

This all started when I suffered from dropped Gotomeeting web conferences and encountering people who requested I use a different service provider. When the web conference service you are using becomes the focus of attention it is never a good thing so I looked at alternative offerings.

I signed up for Infinite Conference, which had a really slick website and a feature list that was attractive. My trouble started when I attempted to login to “my account” to, you know, manage my account. My email/password combo was not accepted so I clicked on recover password and after a dozen or so repeated attempts to get past their captcha system I sent them an email to their customer service link. I dislike captchas in general but when they serve to frustrate legitimate users who want to get something done, they are a major problem.

That was last night, this morning there was an email in my inbox explaining that because I was on a trial I didn’t have access to the “my account” feature area.

  1. It’s not clear that there is a limitation in the trial experience… this is a UX problem.
  2. The “my account” link should take me to my account whether or not I have all the features or not. It’s still the place I would logically go to manage “my account”.
  3. The password recovery flow should clearly state the error message rather than continuously cycling the captcha, which suggests the captcha wasn’t being accepted.

All of the above are representative of a poorly designed system flow and confusing messaging on their application and website and here’s the WTF moment… I noticed that the email I received from Infinite Conference (an unfortunate product name by the way) included a thread that was clearly a result of internal communication and in reading through it the agent referred to me as a “rude customer”.

Rude? Really? I reviewed the original email I sent and this customer service agent probably has too thin skin for the role, here’s what I wrote:

Here’s the deal, I can’t login because my password isn’t being recognized and when I try to recover my password the captcha system you are using is dialed up to near impossible. You need to fix this… captchas are lame to begin with but when they primarily serve to frustrate people who are legitimate users you have to ask yourself is the scheme worth it. I can’t use my account and I haven’t even got through the trial period.

This is a fail that is all too common in “old world” customer service organizations that are measured by case benchmarks rather than their contribution to brand and product metrics. I provided very specific feedback about the product; actionable product issues that are solved by UX tweaks and everything I offered will be discarded because the customer service agent thought I was rude. And when the next customer has the same problem it will be groundhog day all over again.

So then I tried Intercall and that product experience was so bad that I wanted to immediately cancel but had to call customer support where the helpful customer service agent told me I needed to send an email to a different team in order to cancel. Why not just put that information on the customer service site and save the hassle of going through an IVR system only to find out I needed to back online? But this is a story for another post… why the hell are web conferencing services so bad?

The End of the Beginning

Today Get Satisfaction announced that we have successfully closed a new round of financing, led by Bruce Cleveland at InterWest Partners. It’s a validating moment for all the hard work that the team has undertaken, particularly in the last year and a half.

Despite the fundraising process being a major MBO for me over the last 3 months, I find myself surprisingly “not in the moment” in terms of celebration. I think this is a result of realizing that closing the financing is not an end point but a starting point, and when you are at the stage we are in the expectations on us are focused exclusively on execution and competitive position. There simply isn’t a lot of time to celebrate what we did yesterday.

In other words, we’re past the point where figuring things out is a primary focus… and to the credit of our entire team this is why we had such a smooth fundraising process that closed in a reasonably short period of time. We have developed the business to a point where we know what we are selling, how our customers derive ROI, and we have a strong perspective on the market today and tomorrow along with where we fit.

We are no longer a startup… this most recent round of financing affirmed that we have crossed over to growth stage. This is a great accomplishment and represents an enormous collective effort by every single person in this company, and the company is a lot bigger, approximately 40 people up from 12 at this time last year.

From here on out we need to continue executing as well as we have been, establish an externally accepted competitive profile in a defined market, land-and-expand in our major customer accounts while we also continue driving customer growth on our zero-touch web channel, develop more distribution channels, deliver on a significant product roadmap for this year and next, and lastly, continue building a world class team.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Sir Winston ChurchillSpeech in November 1942


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Voice of the Customer is Dead

Voice of the customer (VoC) programs have been popular from the moment that businesses first started having customers and in recent years the formality of these programs has increased and books have been written and many conference agendas populated with experts on the subject.

VoC is dead and social is the reason.

Paul Greenberg recently noted at the Enterprise 2.0 event that business technology is not undergoing a technology revolution, the revolution is one based in communication and as a result business is being forced to adapt and innovate.

Companies of all sizes are directly connecting with individual consumers and are now able to scale these interactions. The result of this is that methods built around sampling and proxy are no longer necessary or productive. Why would you collect data that you have to interpret, extrapolate, filter, and subject to latency when employees can directly tap into customer communities for direct and immediate engagement?

To be clear, voice of the customer is not an obsolete concept… Voice of the Customer programs are obsolete and will increasingly be co-opted and replaced by customer communities.

This is one of the more interesting consequences of the mass market adoption of social networks, they serve to break down the barriers that exist between customers and employees. Whether or not the firewall exists doesn’t matter, the fact remains that employees are becoming accustomed to interacting directly with customers regardless of whether they are in the customer service org or something entirely different.

Companies are themselves recognizing that their competitive strategy requires being attuned to customer needs and engagement, a point that Josh Bernoff recently made quite well in an outstanding research piece called Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer.

Bernoff’s key points are that competitive advantage no longer continue to derive from backoffice technology focused on productivity and efficiency but from customer facing technology that delivers customer insights which can then be acted upon from a market and product perspective.

Companies that obsess about customers end up investing in technology differently than other companies because they build their business around the one piece of intellectual property that cannot be replicated or commoditized, customer insight. As a result, Forrester is recommending that companies budget according to the following priorities:

1) invest in real-time insight to build products that customers will embrace.

2) Spend more on customer experience and customer service to build relationships.

3) Fund sales channels that deliver intelligence about customers, not just the push.

4) Shift marketing from one-way ads into useful content and interactive marketing.

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Who Owns That?

I had an interesting conversation with a senior executive from a large enterprise (in the Global 50) who was expressing frustration with the pace of innovation when it comes to implementing social business in his company. It’s not that they were not doing anything but rather that the act of getting social technologies adopted always seems to run into one large obstacle, who owns it.

This is a problem for a lot of social technologies because in some cases the ownership is truly collective, it’s not a system that gets locked down and controlled by one business unit.

It’s like asking “who owns the logo?”. There is going to be one organization that oversees the company trademarks and another that manages the creative application while another is concerned with the attributes, both real and abstract, associated with it, but in the final equation there is a collective effort behind branding. Social is a lot like this, it’s not a technical system but rather a collective system of tactics and values that drive it.

This is kind of a problem because marketing organizations have been fighting for control of social technologies yet marketing applications for social have been the least interesting. If customer service is really a highly evolved form of marketing then does it not make sense to evolve marketing competencies in customer focused business units?

Customer service organizations are also predisposed to working with other groups in a company, if nothing else it is an essential capability for customer service teams, yet marketing organizations often exist in isolation. The collaborative aspect of social business goes right to the core and having an inherently collaborative system will not in itself make an organization more collaborative as a result if the core DNA isn’t there.

I’m at the Gartner 360 CRM event this week and this is one of the big themes that is being discussed, and if Gartner is right about social being the single most significant cultural trend that companies will confront in the years ahead then the organizational issues that contribute to success or failure online will certainly be a focal point.


Joining Get Satisfaction

“The years teach much which the days never knew.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been thinking about this quote a lot lately, maybe it’s because I have become more introspective about myself and the lessons that the years have brought but I think the real reason is that I am at a point in life where I am very comfortable being me, which means accepting the things I like and dislike along with acknowledging what I am good at and those things which I am not.

I started out my career as a geek, very good with edge technology,which at the time was desktop computers and a few years later the Internet. I moved through marketing and sales role, and then venture capital to general management but all along the way I missed the hands on aspect of product and connection of products to people.

Despite the seduction of media and consumer applications I also realize that my strengths are in enterprise technology, which is only really defined as selling something to a business customer. I understand these markets and how to optimize for them and with my acquired knowledge, which is constantly evolving, in non-traditional business models I have found that I can bring a unique perspective to enterprise focused technology companies.

Over the summer I started working with Get Satisfaction as a result of a conversation that I had with my good friend Wendy Lea, who is the CEO of the company. Wendy asked me to help define and refine market and competitive landscape, optimize pricing, and work with her to raise a round of fresh capital. As I started to get more involved in the day-to-day management at Get Satisfaction, and with the impending completion of the financing event, I was confronted with a choice to make about returning to the workplace in a full time capacity. This turned out to be an easy decision to make considering how strongly I felt about the team I had been working with, made even easier when Wendy offered me the VP Product Marketing role, which I gladly accepted because it brought me back to my roots and the connection between products and people that I had been missing.

It’s also a pleasure to announce that Get Satisfaction has closed a $6 million in Series A funding led by Azure Capital Partners with O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and First Round Capital participating. Cameron Lester, General Partner, from Azure joins Wendy Lea, CEO, Thor Muller, CTO and Co-founder and Bryce Roberts, Managing Director from OATV on Get Satisfaction’s board of directors. This is an amazing investor team that has seen Get Satisfaction through a phenomenal period of organic growth, the opportunity is now to take that and accelerate the pace and amplify the impact.

Over 40,000 communities are hosted on Get Satisfaction and we are adding new clients at a fast pace across CPG, consumer electronics, social gaming, education and government markets. With applications for service and support, social commerce, and social CRM, the ability for Get Satisfaction to span multiple application categories (think social onramps to CRM and ECM) puts the company right in the middle of some very exciting market trends.

Lastly, you really have to check out the results of an extensive rebranding effort that affects the website, communities, and widgets!

Chatter is Not Social CRM

I was talking with a friend who works for an unnamed big enterprise software company, here’s how the conversation went:

ME: Hey, so what new stuff are you guys working on?

HIM: Not a lot, so-and-so wants to build a social CRM product.

ME: Really? I’ve been spending a lot of time in that market, it’s really interesting.

HIM: Yeah it is, so-and-so wants to put something like Chatter on our on demand CRM product.

ME: Pause

ME: So you guys realize that bolting on a social feature is not what makes CRM truly social?

HIM: Pause

HIM: Yeah, but it’s all that so-and-so can talk about.

There’s a huge difference between CRM and Social CRM and being one doesn’t mean you can be the other. There is a legitimate ongoing debate about the nature of social CRM itself, whether it’s a product or a strategy, but for the sake of argument let’s just say it’s a product which dramatically transforms the manner in which you engage with your market and the capabilities are far afield from what traditional CRM products are capable of doing, however (and it’s a big HOWEVER) social CRM does not replace traditional CRM products at all but rather extends and augments them while at the same time building out a distinct product footprint on their own.

I really like Chatter because it is a social layer anchored in the data model that has delivered, which by that I mean they have built the Chatter feature set on top of the data objects rather than just building a chat product that they offer as a new feature. It makes a ton of sense and should deliver far more value than just trying to copy Yammer.

However, as much as I like Chatter I recognize that this is a social feature and it is not social CRM… they are two completely separate things. Big enterprise software companies don’t have the skillset for building out community based social CRM offerings, which is why they will acquire their way into the market, and this is a good thing because the social CRM market is far too crowded with undifferentiated companies and products which don’t have the capacity to sustain themselves over the long haul.

The consolidation has already begun and by this time next year we will have seen the bulk of the social media monitoring and brand reputation analytics and ideation on R&D and product/project management acquired by larger companies.

Just What is Social CRM?

Is social CRM a product category or a collection of strategies that social media consultants and analysts are pushing? That is the question I have been spending much time considering as of late.

Clearly there are product components, most notably the customer community pieces that vendors like Get Satisfaction and UserVoice are offering (notice the Feedback widget to the left, I started my own VC community on Get Satisfaction!). There are many analytics and monitoring tools, on the latter there are at last count over 100 products in the social media monitoring business. The core customer community offerings take over where forums and wikis stop, and in the case of forums I can’t imagine a traditional product category more primed to be wiped out than this one.

The analytics pieces are much more complicated because they attempt to analyze social graphs to derive authority and reputation, with the ultimate goal of identifying fans, friends and followers who are acting as unpaid promoters of your products and services. Among many outcomes for analytics, perhaps no measure is more important than raising your company’s net promoter score (NPS), which is in simplistic terms a measure of the potential word of mouth advantage you enjoy in the marketplace. Lithium says they have deep analytics capabilities but whenever I read their stuff I get a headache, it’s pretty big brain stuff and not entirely clear what it does for me beyond discerning authority in my brand’s social graph.

Ideation is an interesting set of features that are often embedded into social CRM products, in a nutshell these are idea submission and voting components that crowdsource product ideas. I’m on the fence about the value of ideation as a product category but only because it’s a seems like a bandaid for a bigger problem that companies often have which is that they do not understand their customers well, however it could equally be argued that the entire point of social CRM is to better understand your customers. A number of companies are offering ideation, from IdeaScale to Salesforce Ideas.

Consumer product and services companies are concerned about review and rating sites but my intuition tells me that the market has compartmentalized review sites. What I mean by that is that there are two aspects to review sites that cause us pause, the first being the integrity of the site in light of the well publicized controversies around Yelp but maybe that’s an inside baseball thing that the broader market isn’t concerned with. The second issue is a big one and it’s structural, which is how do I know the people who are reviewing products and services care about the same things that I care about… in other words are they like me?

The issue of affinity, which is the ability of a review site to group me with other people who are like me and offer reviews tailored to their likes and dislikes is a very interesting one to consider. I organize the concepts of identity, reputation, and affinity like this:

– Identity are my attributes.

– Reputation is what other people think about me (my authority).

– Affinity is my relationship to other people who are like me and our collective relationship to other groups.

As it relates to social CRM strategies that any company is employing to target messaging and promotion to their marketplace these definitions are incredibly important. Companies have employed identity based targeting for decades, it’s called demographics and to some degree pyschographics, and while it’s tempting to say that these are affinity group techniques the fact is that they are not because in social CRM the notion of affinity and reputation are intertwined. Forward thinking companies have moved beyond demographics and are attempting, with the help of social CRM tools, to accommodate reputation in their interaction strategies but the whole notion of affinity is a wide open opportunity.

As it relates to review sites I’m not sure that these remain as relevant and valuable in the years ahead as we have assumed them to be in recent years. However, they are not going anywhere and some interesting products like Huddler are offering to integrate them along with wikis and other user generated content forms.

Q&A sites are hot, I’m particularly impressed with Quora and see much potential for this as a valuable augmentation to social CRM suites. Fixya is another site that is Q&A organized for the purpose of technical support, and it’s probably only a matter of time before offerings like this are integrated into service and support ticketing applications like Zendesk and Parature. The service and support vertical is about $3b a year just in the U.S. so integration and extension of traditional CRM with these newer offerings as well as outright replacement in some cases is an attractive market scenario.

I have touched on a number of related market segments and companies however by no means have I provided a comprehensive look at the market, for that I would suggest you get Altimeter’s Social CRM report which does a good job of laying out the market.

Lastly, one thing that is very clear to me is that social CRM is an extension of two very large markets, the enterprise collaboration and content market and the CRM market. Successful social CRM products and services will co-exist with these markets and not attempt to displace them, although for some companies it may make more sense to eschew the traditional CRM suite offerings for best of breed with light integration.