Of all the many flavors of social business these days, one of the fastest growing this year is the application of social media to customer relationship management.  Usually known as Social CRM, the name itself obscures the deep transformation that occurs with companies that employ the strategy with their customers. A buzzphase for several years now and one that I’ve explored here in the past, Gartner reported last week that the new industry is now set to nearly double to over $1 billion in revenue next year.

A few key precepts set the practice apart from the far more records-based, traditional CRM.  First and foremost, Social CRM is about customer engagement with high-value relationships, typically using social media approaches for improving the sales, marketing, and customer care processes. Just one example: The most successful examples of Social CRM often puts the customer in the center of the support processes, even for other customers.  For those that want to dive into the current product offerings in the space, I urge you to look at fellow ZDNet blogger Paul Greenberg’s CRM Idol coverage, where he’s looking in-depth at a host of new products.  He also recently set about defining Social CRM in considerable detail and it’s one of the best places to get an overview of the state-of-the-art.

Catching up on Paul’s exploration of the most recent Social CRM products, it’s become clear how much the space has evolved into both core specialties and end-to-end capabilities, which will ultimately make the field mature enough and complete enough for most companies to use it for the entire customer lifecycle.  But those days are largely ahead of us. Instead, most companies use CRM at the moment for the mundane task of keeping track of their customers in a database and logging the communication they have with them.

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