It’s the start of the new year and my phone is ringing off the hook as CRM professionals and technology solution providers call to debate the impact of that burgeoning new phenomenon: the social Web. Does it matter to the CRM community? Big time.

The social Web, a.k.a. Social Computing¹ among my colleagues here at Forrester, includes the fast-growing peer-to-peer (P2P) activities like blogging, RSS, file sharing, open source software, podcasting, search engines, and user-generated content. These technologies have seen a rapid adoption — 22% of adults now read blogs at least monthly, and 19% are members of a social networking site.² Even more amazingly, almost one-third of all youth publish a blog at least weekly, and 41% of youth visit a social networking site daily. Technology and social changes are creating a potent mix of forces that will transform the way all businesses operate, create products, and relate to customers.

CRM is being redefined, with a torrent of new acronyms and labels spilling forth from consultants and pundits: “Social CRM”, “Collaborative CRM,” and “CRM 2.0.” Traditional CRM solutions will continue to be important to enable organizations to aggregate customer data, analyze that data, and automate workflows to optimize customer-facing business processes. But, changing consumer/customer buying behaviors and new Social Computing technologies are spurring the idea that new generation CRM solutions will, and must, emerge.

My clients are looking farther afield in their search for solutions to help them manage their relationships in the new world of the social consumer. They are looking beyond the traditional solutions vendors like Oracle (Siebel), SAP, Microsoft, Consona (Onyx), and even the newer software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers like, and RightNow, in their quest to collaborate with customers in new ways.³

If you want to listen to your customers more closely, consider creating and participating in private communities supported by vendors such as: Communispace, MarketTools, and Think Passenger. Monitor “market buzz” and perceptions, using solutions from: Nielsen BuzzMetrics, TNS MI/Cymfony, Umbria, and MotiveQuest.

Help the fans of your products spread the message more easily through social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Find ways to communicate continually with customers and monitor responses using blogs supported by technologies from Six Apart, WordPress, and Google Blogger.

Develop your capabilities to use customer opinions to increase sales through ratings and reviews using forums like Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews.

Help customers to solve each others’ problems with solutions that support customer forums from Lithium Technologies, Jive Software, and Prospero Technologies. Enable customers to build solutions together; think about using Wikis like SocialText, Confluence, and Wikia.

A New Year? Yes. A “next generation” of CRM solutions emerging?  Ditto.

-William Band, Vice President, Forrester Research

¹ See the February 13, 2006, "Social Computing" report. ² See the April 19, 2007, "Social Technographics" report. ³ See the February 5, 2007, "The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise CRM Suites, Q1 2007 report.