Integrating social media is hard to do

Consumers check in on Foursquare. Your employees chat with customers on Facebook. Everyone tweets. Social media is everywhere, right? Not quite.

Consumers check in on Foursquare. Your employees chat with customers on Facebook. Everyone tweets. Social media is everywhere, right? Not quite.

The one place it isn't is inside traditional CRM systems. While the marketing department and sales team are busy interacting with customers on social-networking sites, the potentially valuable information created by these exchanges remains largely isolated from core customer databases and analytics systems.

CIOs want to bridge the gap between social media and enterprise CRM to give marketing and sales richer, more complete information about customers. Just as important: avoiding CRM silos, says Todd Michaud, vice president of IT at Focus Brands, the franchisor of specialty restaurants, including Cinnabon and Moe's Southwest Grill. "I don't want to worry about maintaining all these separate systems that really just talk about the same customers," Michaud says.

Advertising and communications firm McCann Worldgroup encourages employees to interact with clients on social media. But McCann has yet to integrate Twitter and Facebook with its CRM applications and databases, says Global CIO Greg Smith. "We're relying on employees to use their best judgment in noting those interactions in client files," Smith says.

An Immature Market Vendors of so-called "social CRM" software are scurrying to integrate their products with more mature systems, says Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Altimeter Group. For example, Radian6, which makes social-media-monitoring software used by large companies such as Dell and Comcast, recently added features that integrate with Salesforce.com, and Oracle has demonstrated that Radian6 works with its CRM software. By integrating Radian6 with Salesforce.com, users can view online conversations about their chosen keywords, tag and route items to colleagues for follow-up, or respond immediately to the customer. These actions are recorded and attached to customer records in Salesforce.com. However, Owyang notes, "each vendor offers different application-programming interfaces, which makes it very challenging." Google launched its OpenSocial standard in 2007 as a common API for social software, but key players haven't adopted it. The holdouts include Facebook, which promotes its own API.

Social sign-on tools, including products by such vendors as Gigya and Janrain, let users log into one social network with credentials from another. These can make it easier to collect data from multiple social-media sites, Owyang says. But analyzing this data must be done outside of an enterprise-CRM or business-intelligence system. That leaves IT departments to develop their own interfaces with enterprise systems for now.

"I would love to have Facebook and Twitter updates flow automatically into CRM, to mine and search," says McCann's Smith. But the technology "is just not there yet."

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.

Read more about customer relationship management (crm) in CIO's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Drilldown.

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Kim S. Nash

CIO (US)
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