December 7th, 2009 by Jeremiah Owyang, partner, Altimeter Group

by Jeremiah Owyang, partner, Altimeter Group

Surveying the Social CRM Industry

At the Altimeter Group, business partner Ray Wang (focused on enterprise strategy) and I (customer strategy) are undertaking a major project for a client in the nascent social CRM arena. We’re surveying the landscape to learn about a variety of vendors in the space, and to assess their capabilities and deployments. A small portion of our survey involves seeing who’s eating their own dog food, and truly demonstrating they understand the “social” aspect of social CRM — by living it.

Companies That Sell Social CRM Should Demonstrate Credibility by Living It

While critics may be quick to cite the mere inclusions of a blog or community to a product landing page, the message goes much deeper. Social CRM isn’t just about bolting on a plugin to your system like a new air foil on your minivan but instead is a new way of doing business. The promise of social CRM — responding, anticipating, and making the commitment to improve products and services — says that companies are truly listening to their customers wherever those customers are. Vendors that are assisting brands in bringing this promise to the marketplace need to demonstrate they fully understand the ramifications of social CRM — not just a keyword checklist of the buzzword du jour.

Criteria: How We Graded the Social CRM Vendors

There are four major areas of assessment:

  1. Simple sharing of social content from the corporate product page.
  2. Surfacing a developer or business community, and a look inside of the discussions in each community, with bonus points for integration with product page.
  3. Thought leadership with relevant blogs on the subject, and a gauge of their level of interaction and any Twitter accounts they may have.
  4. A subjective look at the overall page experience in the context of a company that’s offering a “social experience.”

Findings: Overall, Social CRM Vendors Aren’t Walking the Talk

We’ve decided to make our findings public (at least for this part of our client deliverable) to see how some of the leading vendors in the Social CRM space are walking the talk.

[See the table after the jump…]

Research by Altimeter Group's Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang

Research by Altimeter Group's Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang

To pass, companies needed to receive greater than a .5 in each category for a total score of 2.0 plus — making Lithium the only vendor to pass.

For details, see the data and our justifications on this Google Sheet.

Highlights from the Study

The product pages are devoid of true social interaction, and none of them actually surface discussions about how the market is even talking about them.

Marketing machine demonstrated it isn’t engaging in a social experience on its own product pages.

The typical enterprise-looking design of SAP and Microsoft stayed consistent with “boring” social experiences.

Although Oracle’s bland Web experience looks like it’s designed for the mediaphobes, there are links to communities and to thought-leadership blogs.

Despite the overall meager findings, there were a few social hopefuls.

Lithium* (*an Altimeter client) integrated social throughout the experience.

RightNow Technologies demonstrated thought leadership through executive blogs.

Honorable mention to Jive Software for engaging online video that captures the spirit of the social CRM movement.

We know that soon every Web page will be social, even if you don’t choose for it to be, so companies should enable features that allow Web sites to have conversations. Social CRM vendors that want to demonstrate to the market their expertise in this space should gear up to demonstrate they have the ability to practice what they preach — because, for now, it doesn’t show.

As a partner at Altimeter Group, a consultancy focused on leveraging disruptive technologies, Jeremiah Owyang ( is an expert on customer strategy. His Web Strategy blog ( examines how corporations connect with their customers using Web technologies. He can be found on Twitter as @jowyang.

[* denotes an Altimeter Client. At the Altimeter Group we practice open leadership (also the topic of Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li’s upcoming book) and disclose our relationships with clients, given their permission. We hope you will trust us more if we do.]


Good Analysis. Agree most of the Social CRM vendors don’t walk the talk. To make this analysis broad-based, you can include other leading Social CRM vendors.


Harish Kotadia

Comment by Harish Kotadia — — December 7, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

As usual, great work. Two social CRM tools you might include in the future include Gist and Batchbook by Batchblue software (we use both). They are great platforms for small and medium sized business. Thanks for doing the analysis.

Comment by Paul Mabray — — December 7, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

I respectfully disagree on the raw data for SAP CRM solution on the piece regarding the community aspects. SAP has a very vibrant customer community called BPX for the SAP CRM solution that involves many SAP customers exchanging information around the SAP CRM solution. This knowledge/problem solving exchange consists of a SAP CRM wiki, blogs articles, and user forums on the solution contributed by SAP customers, partners, independent consultants and finally SAP CRM product management.

You can find the SAP CRM community at:

Also for your research please review the following article about the SAP CRM BPX community focusing on community collaboration

For full disclosure: I am a SAP Mentor(, BPX SAP CRM Topic Moderator, and a customer of SAP. I am not employed/work for SAP, but my full-time job is supporting an SAP CRM implementation for a customer of SAP.

Thank you,

Stephen Johannes

Comment by Stephen Johannes — — December 7, 2009 @ 3:34 pm


Good for you on inspiring all of us to set examples to our customers and market for how to do Social CRM well. I was surprised to see Jive get a zero in Community considering one of the menu items off our main page is “Community” and it takes you to our Business, Development, and Support community. Much of that content is open although some of our customer discussions are kept private by their request. What could we have done better to get a score in this category?

Glad you liked the video! You may have noticed we made all of our JiveWorld presentations/customer presentations available as well.


Comment by Christopher Morace — — December 7, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

It would be interesting to hear both your and each organization’s customers’ suggestions on how to improve the collaboration. The user’s could help format the tools/processes to increase adoption – and the companies could then share the collaboration with prospects to demonstrate their focus on customer experience and shorten the trust/buy cycle.

Comment by Janet Jozefak — — December 7, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

You guys rock for disclosing your client is Lithium. Best way to convince us this isn’t a marketing stunt for them is to share your detailed criteria to see if it holds water.

Comment by John Sandler — — December 7, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

Jeremiah, We recently hired a social marketing manager who’s been using our Genius URLS (gURLS) to embed shortened URLS into her social conversations. From that she’s getting click-through information which will ultimately tie back into our marketing automation product so that known users also get a great offer or more inforamtion. gURLS allow marketers (or anyone else) to track which social media is pulling for them and how much traction they are getting from links. Initial reporting has already been useful, showing that Twitter is pulling in significantly greater numbers than our LinkedIn conversations. More needs to be done to determine how qualified these leads are (that’s where lead nurturing can help) but so far, so good.

Comment by Parker Trewin — — December 7, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

You missed the mark on

Prominent link to both communities (CRM and Developer) on each page. Communities are very active (see link to BoardReader stats here:

Community menu option includes links to follow on FB, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Linkedin and if you follow the Community link to either community, you get top level options for Blogs, Community and IdeaExchange (users can suggest,promote and demote ideas, which are often rolled into the product roadmap).

Active Twitter presence (e.g. @forcedotcom, @asksalesforce), monitoring conversation and reaching out to people with questions/problems.

Disclosure – not an employee, but a customer and implementing the platform across our organization.

Comment by Will Nourse — — December 7, 2009 @ 6:34 pm


While I applaud your starting to publish research on SCRM including vendors, I have to say I am flabergasted you excluded Helpstream. Having won a Rising Star award from CRM Magazine and having one of our customers – Infusionsoft – the subject of a case study by Forrester, not to mention making it to the Gartner Magic Quadrant would warrant inclusion. Ray Wang even sat on a panel at the E2.0 San Francisco conference with two Helpstream customers – Opsource and Eloqua.

If you would like to learn more about Helpstream for your research, we would be more than happy to brief you – we have briefed Ray recently as well as put you in touch with some of our customers.


Comment by Bill Odell — — December 7, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

John Sandler,

I’m glad you appreciate our transparency. Some of the other vendors were prior clients at previous jobs, or are current clients (but we didn’t the opportunity to disclose in time) or hopefully soon will be.

I linked in the post to the data. Here it is again, should you want to probe deeper:

We believe in transparent analysis, and will disclose our methods and data –and client relationships to the best of our ability.

Comment by Jeremiah Owyang — — December 8, 2009 @ 2:07 am

Christopher Morace (CTO of Jive), Stephen (SAP Mentor), and Will Nourse

Thanks guys, I’m listening and appreciate your feedback. I’m quite aware of Jive’s and SAP’s communities, I’ve been briefed by both companies.

However, We stand by the rating, here’s why:

The heuristic evaluation was mimicking the experience of a prospect landing on the company’s product page. We were looking for integration of the community (hence the title of the column in the grid). While we respect that a thriving community of customers exists in the community, we expect it to be integrated with the product marketing page so prospects can clearly see this as proof of purchase. Either the community should be better integrated into the page itself, or the feature themselves need to be more visible. We stand firm this would only serve to improve the user experience –and advance the sales process for the respective vendor.

Bill Odell (Helpstream CTO),

I left a comment on your blog. Let’s get together soon, so I can better understand your offerings. I apologize for the omission, it wasn’t intentional. However, part of your strategy is to increase awareness of the market through outreach to influencers, it’s time to double down on your resources as we continue to focus in on this space, I’m listening.

Comment by Jeremiah Owyang — — December 8, 2009 @ 2:17 am

Interesting post. We are new kids on the block when it comes to CRM. But we like to learn and walk the talk. Our service, at, intends to be a free CRM for non-profit organizations and very small enterprises. We have released a very basic version a week ago and we would love to hear about what it would take to make the service as good as it could be.


Comment by Laurent — — December 8, 2009 @ 9:44 am

I’m going to disagree once again as you fail to retract your own comments or clarify.

“I know SAP has thriving communities for developers, but I’m not seeing it on the main product page. Does SAP CRM have customers that talk to each other? It’s not clear.”

I would agree that the incorporation of the community does not meet your criteria, however your last sentence implying that SAP CRM customers do not talk with another is absurd and falss. I would strongly encourage you to reconsider how this is phrased and consider it appears you are basically trying to purposely hide the existence of community interactions.

Thank you,


Comment by Stephen — — December 8, 2009 @ 11:35 am


I agree with you, SAP talks to its developers and customers. I’m sorry you’re taken aback.

Here’s where we align: Let’s highlight the good efforts done by you and others right on the corporate homepage. The opportunity is to surface those relationships to the product page, demonstrating to prospects the thriving ecosystem that already exists.

I’ll give you an example, of how this can be done. Previously, SUN used to incorporate technorati links right onto the product page, encouraging the social discussion about the company right up top. Also, the Dachis group highlights all of their discussions right on their homepage.

By doing this, it gives a few messages to prospects visiting the page: 1) There’s a thriving discussion about this product. 2) A company demonstrates it’s willing to put customers first. 3) To your point, look at the relationship of a company talking to it’s own community, customer experience.

Comment by Jeremiah Owyang — — December 8, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

Shocking that you rated Altimeter Group’s own client the highest. I would have never expected this. Given the obvious conflict of interest, why did you bother to include them in this study at all?

Comment by Chris Oldenburg — — December 8, 2009 @ 2:10 pm


The factors that you have chosen for creating this matrix and inclusion of “Lithium* (*an Altimeter client)” and terming SAP as boring, speaks a lot about whom you want to Please!

SAP has a vibrant community and stakeholders/Competitors are very much aware of that.

Wish you good luck.


Comment by Harshit — — December 16, 2009 @ 4:43 am

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