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Google and the Social CRM Business

Jan 20 2014, 9:13am CST | by

Google and the Social CRM Business

Photo Credit: Forbes

Relax, CRM vendors. Google is not getting into the customer relationship management business (CRM) anytime soon. But they should. Google seems to understand the Social CRM needs of small and medium sized companies better than most.

That was demonstrated just the other week, when Google announced that anyone, without permission, can send an unsolicited message to anyone else on their Google+ social network.  As one blogger described: “…if you’re a Google+ user and your settings are such that you agree to receive email through Google+, other users will be able to send you an email without actually seeing your email address. However, if you respond to that email, the connection will be able to see your email address.”

Users are able to opt out of this feature. And if your company uses Google Apps, then your administrator can take control of the messaging. More importantly, we learned that these unsolicited messages will show up in the Social tab of our Gmail inboxes, and there the message will die unless you either respond to it, or add the sender to your Circle.

Thank you Google. You have just demonstrated to the entire CRM industry exactly what’s missing from most CRM applications. A one-stop shop for all your communications, from anywhere, including your social media networks. Now that’s Social CRM.

“Social CRM” has been buzzing around the community for years. But unfortunately I still don’t see usable, relevant, out-of-the-box features for small and medium sized companies from most of the major CRM offerings like, Microsoft Dynamics CRM or others. Sure, there are internal Twitter-like streams (Salesforce calls theirs Chatter, Microsoft purchased Yammer). And maybe by purchasing an add-on or doing some customizations your users can view a contact’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn feed within their CRM application (which is really just the same as having a separate window open in your browser showing the exact same information). But most of the CRM applications designed for small and medium sized companies (who are primarily my clients) are missing a simple, yet critical Social CRM functionality that Google is now offering.

Do you find yourself getting more and more messages from LinkedIn? Are you getting tweeted at more often or engaging in Direct Messaging conversations through Twitter? Are you sending and receiving Facebook messages too? Yes, you are. If you’re under 25 you may be communicating this way more than with regular email. And although these messages will never fully replace regular email, they’re becoming a bigger part of everyone’s communication process. But there’s a problem right?

And the problem is this: Unless you’re a Gmail user, it’s likely that your messages from your social media community are not coming into your CRM/email application like regular email. You’re not able to send a message to your social media community from your CRM or email application. You’re not storing a history of all these communications in one folder. And, most importantly, the other people in your company are now finding themselves excluded from these conversations too. When I bring up a client in my CRM system I want to see ALL communications that everyone in my company is having with this client all in one place. That now includes email and any social media conversation. This would help me create marketing campaigns and respond to sales leads and service issues. Except that most CRMs and email systems aren’t doing this. They’re only capturing email. They’re ignoring everything else.

Except Google. Google, on a smaller scale, is enabling their users the ability to track conversations on their Google + network right from within Gmail. It’s a shame that their competitive nature is getting in the way of letting their users do the same with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. If you want a CRM application that really captures it all you have to dig deeper. One answer that we recommend to our clients is Nimble. Why?

“Today, everyone’s contacts are in a whole bunch of different places,” Jon Ferrara, Nimble’s CEO explained. “We are getting messages from the different social media communities we belong to. It’s hard for a business to keep track of all these conversations.” Ferrara’s application brings in all communications into one tab. That way when I bring up a contact I get to see not only their email history but their history of what we discussed on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. I can send messages from one place. I receive messages in one place. And most importantly, my entire company can see this history too. Nimble is a young company that lacks some of the more advanced functionality of a more mature CRM application. But if it’s a true social media integration you want, this is a product really worth looking at. I’m sure there are a few others like Nimble. Feel free to comment.

But why aren’t the major CRM vendors offering the same? Ferrara says it’s because of their older, less flexible architecture. Whatever the reason, it’s an enormous feature that’s missing. And as our social media communications grow, one that will have to be addressed. I don’t think that Google will get into the CRM business anytime soon. They’re too busy with search, driverless cars and Glass. But it amazes me how much a non-CRM company can teach the CRM industry about what’s really needed.

Besides Forbes, Gene Marks writes daily for The New York Times and weekly for

Source: Forbes

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