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Digital River - Talk to the Experts

Analytics and Social CRM: Parallel Evolution?

By Christopher J. Bucholtz
Aug 26, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Social CRM has earned widespread appreciation as a real business tool. It's no longer an idea or a theory or a hunch. However, it's still a new idea, and many are approaching it with trepidation because its impact on the bottom line is not yet well understood. There are two reasons for that, and they're interconnected.

Analytics and Social CRM: Parallel Evolution?

First -- I don't believe there's a single set of best practices for succeeding in Social CRM. If you're truly behaving in a social manner and you're paying attention to the in-bound half of the conversation, you'll quickly realize what makes your customers, your advocates and your detractors unique. If you want to win at this new game, you'll construct your best practices with these unique characteristics in mind -- meaning that your best practices will be unique as well.

Second, measuring whether or not the practices you're applying are the right ones is a lot harder now than it was in the past. You can always use the bottom line as the ultimate barometer, but most businesses want a bit more visibility into why the final number is red or black.

The Right Stuff

Because your best practices for social CRM should be unique to your business, the way you examine their impact should similarly be tailored to your business. That again introduces an opportunity to think creatively about how your organization operates -- but it'll take a bit of work developing an analytical strategy to go along with your social CRM strategy.

Analytics vendors are sensing this opportunity; Autonomy, Radian6 and Lithium quickly introduced analytical tools to their arsenals, although they tend to focus more on sentiment and delivering information to CRM than on correlating social activity to business results. Other vendors, like Cloud9, are providing new levels of time-based sales analysis, but they're not really tied to social CRM in anything but a superficial way.

So, determining the right mix of analytical tools is just as demanding a task as determining the right social approach. Today, stitching together the right set of analytical tools is necessary to get a complete understanding of the total impact of social CRM. That's not easy.

I don't expect that to be the case for long. Analytics and the practice of Social CRM are going to evolve together, and the analytics vendors understand that. The success of Social CRM may well hinge on how effectively they integrate various metrics, and how flexible are the resulting platforms.

The New Analytics

The goal will be a system that pulls together several sets of measurements: sentiment monitoring, social marketing effectiveness monitoring, social CRM data sales impact monitoring and social CRM loyalty monitoring. This data needs to be collected and presented in dashboard form with a correlation to actual business results -- and it needs be done quickly, because social efforts need to change as audiences change.

Forrester analyst James Kobelius envisioned some other capabilities in a blog post this spring: rule-based responses to predictable events (like a Twitter post asking about a common customer issue); and even the ability to use analytical data to predict potential new problems, so that action can be taken to minimize their impact.

Pulling together this set of capabilities is going to be the goal not only of the social CRM analytics practitioners but also of the more conventional business process analytics vendors. However, it's going to take pressure from their customers to make it clear that analytics as they exist today need to embrace the new, social way of doing business. When that happens, and when an analytics vendor puts it all together, expect to see Social CRM find true acceptance.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.

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