June 15th, 2009 by Michael Idinopulos, vice president, customer success, Socialtext

By Michael Idinopulos, vice president, customer success, Socialtext

CRM magazine, June 2009, cover

CRM magazine, June 2009, cover

[EDITORS’ NOTE: This is part of a series of posts that began here, dissecting a two-page chart that appeared in CRM magazine’s June 2009 issue on social media. The digital edition of that issue can be found here, and a standalone image of the chart itself can be seen here. (Click on the “View Full Size” button at the top right of that page.) To view all posts in the series, please add this RSS feed to your RSS reader.]

JUNE 10, 2009 — I love CRM magazine’s Social Media Maturity Model, but it doesn’t go far enough. Social media will not only alter the way companies work within existing silos; it will fundamentally redraw the org chart.

The Maturity Model is basically my own Social Software Value Matrix on steroids. The CRM team has taken my concept of social software evolution, and broken it out by corporate function: Sales, Marketing, PR, and Service. The result is a fascinating, dizzying array of icons and concepts. Kudos to the graphics team who put this together!

But the Model doesn’t capture how radical this transformation is going to be. The Model takes as its starting point the categories which define today’s corporate interactions (Sales, Marketing, PR, and Service).

But here’s the rub: In five years, those aren’t going to be the categories.

The Model’s categories reflect four different types of interaction that a company has with outsiders:

  • Marketing: Talk with market about yourself
  • PR: Get others to talk with the market about you
  • Sales: Talk with prospects about yourself
  • Service: Talk with customers about yourself

In a world where everyone hears everyone talking to everyone all the time, these divisions are no longer meaningful.

Here’s a scenario: A prospect goes to your company’s Customer Exchange and chats with a current customer about your resolution of a recent equipment failure. Is that Service? Marketing? PR? In a way, it’s all three. It’s a customer talking with a prospect about your company.

Or how about this one: An irate customer twitters about the stopping distance of his racing bike. One of your engineers sees the tweet and tells the customer to replace his third-party brake pads with the ones made by your brand. The customer follows the advice and reports positive results. The advice gets retweeted multiple times, and finally gets written up in a popular cycling blog. Service? PR? Marketing? Sales? Hard to say.

The real five-year story in social media is the convergence of these different activities. Familiar divisions between Sales, Marketing, PR, and Support are driven largely by channel constraints. As those constraints disappear, and public interactions become more transparent, the different conversations all blur into one another. As the conversations blur, so do the functions.

So how will companies be organized in five years?

As public interaction becomes more ubiquitous and transparent, I predict that companies will increasingly organize around expertise. Corporate functions will be defined by what people have to say, rather than who says it or whom they can say it to. In place of PR, Sales, etc., I expect to see companies organize themselves in categories such as:

  • Thought Leadership;
  • Technical Expertise;
  • Relationship Management; and
  • Transactions.

The familiar corporate functions of Sales, PR, Marketing, etc., won’t disappear entirely. But those roles will morph into one of coordination and project management. They will be routers and trackers of information, rather than originators. To borrow from author and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, a Marketing professional will be more of a connector than an evangelist or a maven.

In a nutshell, here’s my prediction for social media five years hence:

The people driving the conversations will be the people who have something to say, and they won’t need a lot of corporate apparatus to help them say it.

Michael Idinopulos is the vice president of professional services and customer success at Socialtext. Previously, he had been director of knowledge technology at the consultancy McKinsey & Co. His professional passion is making work easier, more interesting, and more rewarding by helping people connect to each other and the information they need in order to be effective. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelido, and his typical blogging output can be found at Transparent Office and at Socialtext’s own blog.

As a long-time marketing communications professional, working now independently, I’ve spent the last 3 months attempting to help a wide variety of clients – from artisan entrepreneur to corporate to trade associations & non-profit – to recognize & leverage the opportunities and address the challenges of social media/mktg.

In our current economy and climate, it’s difficult for organizations to take on this new work, and yet they are beginning to acknowledge or expect that they must.

Likewise, it’s difficult for bootstrappers like myself – between pursuing what few paying gigs are out there, delivering presentations, much pro-bono work, participating in social media venues and self-filtering information – to stay on the crest of the wave of knowledge as the ocean floor roils and shifts.

I found this thread, the original studies, CRM blog & magazine, thanks to a tip from Len Cercone, Social Media Today group, LinkedIn.

All of this setup is to say: THANK YOU! This post, and this complete body of work, offers the most original, credible, and valuable thinking I have found in months of investigation, and I will be urging clients to take advantage of this information and various resources herein immediately.

Finally, and this to Marshall Lager re his post:
THANK YOU for confirming that, in this landscape shifting by the moment: “we’re all still kinda new at this, and there is likely no grand unifying formula… (quoting) June 9 09 tweet, Miko Matsumura of Software AG: ‘I would like a twitter filter that blocks anyone whose profile says ‘Social Media Expert.’ I think I agree, at least for now. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Then twitter about it.”

So, I won’t call you guys “experts”, but I will recommend as best possible info source.

Comment by Stephanie Lowder — — July 23, 2009 @ 10:06 am


I found this thanks to Ross Mayfield over at SocialText http://www.socialtext.com/blog/2009/08/the-crm-iceberg-and-social-sof.html.

Provocative, but, how can I put it diplomatically? Completely self-absorbed, solipsistic, and disconnected. Well, so much for diplomacy.

Seriously, this quote make it clear you could still use a ride on the Cluetrain:

Four different types of interaction that a company has with outsiders:
Marketing: Talk with market about yourself
PR: Get others to talk with the market about you
Sales: Talk with prospects about yourself
Service: Talk with customers about yourself

Hey! Stop for a minute! Put down the marketing and step away from the computer.

The conversation isn’t about YOU!

You’re not what’s important here.

The customer is what’s important.

So, you might considering talking with your customers ABOUT THEM. And what THEY need. And maybe, just maybe, you could find a way to help.

Now that would be radical.

Comment by Joe Andrieu — — August 17, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

Believe it or not, I agree with the point you’re making. The offending quotes that you cite are all descriptions of *traditional* Marketing, PR, Sales, and Service. As the categories converge in an Enterprise 2.0 world, we are left just with customer conversations. As the examples in my post show, I view those conversations as multi-sided. More often than not they are driven by the customer rather than the company. In fact, that company may not even be talking at all–which is sometimes the best conversation of all.

Comment by Michael Idinopulos — — August 24, 2009 @ 2:21 pm


Indeed. The blurring of the categories you mention is because the conversation is about the individual, no matter how the company organizes itself to engage in that conversation.

So, I’ll still blame the CRM Magazine piece for thinking in the old paradigm, but give you due credit for pointing out how those distinctions no longer apply.

Your last line, “that company may not even be talking at all,” is the most important.

Early in my career, I worked at a company that ALWAYS sent at least two sales people on a call. Why? Because you can’t be listening if you’re doing the talking.

Companies focused on spreading their message, talking about themselves, telling the world how great they are, are missing the opportunity to listen to their customers and learn how to create new value.

Comment by Joe Andrieu — — August 24, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

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