I just finished reading the IBM report: From social media to Social CRM and the first thing that came to my mind was, “does IBM understand what Social CRM is?” My second thought was, “does anyone, including myself, understand what it is anymore (or what it was)?” What boggles my mind is that IBM titled the report “From Social Media to Social CRM” yet makes no distinction between either. The words “social media” and “strategy” are used throughout the report, as are “campaigns” which then makes you scratch your head and think, “wait a minute isn’t this about Social CRM?”

The New Social Media

It’s gotten to a point where what people are calling Social CRM is what we called “social media” 5 years ago. So what’s the difference? Now, aside from that tangent, what I can say is that this report from IBM is really a social media report, one of perhaps hundreds that we have seen. All of which should be taken with a grain of pepper (not salt).

It’s an interesting report but one must remember that IBM is a vendor, and just like every other vendor pushing Social CRM software, they are trying to make money off of a new “market” which, ironically, is being driven and pulled by…vendors. A few key findings from the report, really none of which should come as a surprise to anyone:

  • Getting closer to customers is a top priority forCEOs.
  • The top reason consumers go to social media sites is to connect with friends and family followed by accessing news, then entertainment, sharing an opinion and onward.
  • Interacting with brands is the 11th reason for why consumers go to social networking sites.
  • Gen Y’ers have more accounts on every type of social site (blogging, media, wikis, ets) than Gen X’ers and baby boomers. Now for those that argue that this has nothing to do with age, well this might throw a bit of a wrench into their claims. (I don’t know if this has anything to do with age or not BUT the numbers are interesting.)
  • Decisions makers think social media will breed advocacy but many consumers say they have to be advocates about a brand before they even engage with that brand on social media.

Now while IBM clearly points out that most consumers use social sites to interact with each other and not with brands, what the report misses is that consumers can interact with each other as a result of brands and their communities. For example check out CF Voice, a community of people suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. Know who created that? Novartis. Users aren’t there to interact with Novartis, they are there to interact with each other but Novartis made that possible.In my opinion the IBM report focuses not on Social CRM at all but on social media as a channel. In fact what I read is the same sort of “fluffy” dialogue that is rampant in the space.

A successful social CRM strategy facilitates collaborative experiences and dialogue that customers value.”

Ok… so?

Perhaps I’m being a bit too critical but for someone that reads dozens of these reports I struggle to see anything new. I also admit that perhaps I am too involved in the space and should acknowledge that these reports are created for people who are just getting familiar with Social CRM as a concept, but even then the report doesn’t really answer many questions.

The Perception Gap

For me the most interesting part of the report is the perception gap between consumers and executives at organizations.

Learning Opportunities



What I like about this visual is that it really shows just how far off the mark consumers and businesses are when it comes to understanding why they interact with one another. It’s kind of like going to China and referring to people by their first names to be polite when the reality is that it’s rude to do so.

We can see that consumers apparently want to connect with companies mainly to get discounts and purchase things, whereas organizations think consumers want to interact with brands to learn about new products and get general information.

Now while this report is interesting it’s quite dangerous. Why? Because different companies have different customers that care about different things. So concluding that YOUR customers care mainly about discounts is in my opinion a bit presumptuous.Either way it’s interesting to notice the large gap between the various elements.

Is the report worth a read? Sure, but is it anything earth shattering or new? Not particularly. Apparently this is Part 1 of the report and we will see part 2 brings in the near future.