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Survey reports that social CRM ROI exists, but I’m still looking

by Scott Wallask

January 19, 2011

By Scott Wallask, SAP Experts

SugarCRM released results of an industry survey it conducted that indicates a strong interest from respondents on using social media as part of CRM in 2011, but the poll also exposes a very hard question to answer about return on investment (ROI).

“According to the survey, 2011 will bring much change to the CRM market,” according to SugarCRM, a California-based developer of CRM applications and software. Of note is that 72 percent of respondents said “over the course of the New Year they planned to integrate their customers’ social networking information into their existing CRM data.”

To me, the most interesting statistic from the survey was at the same time the cloudiest one to truly interpret. Half of those who took the poll said that “social networks have helped their business become more successful in the last 12 months.”

SugarCRM’s conclusion from that result is CRM practitioners who used social media in 2010 enjoyed ROI.

SugarCRM didn’t post the full results online, so it&rsqu o;s hard to explore the findings, but based on information in the press release, I’m uncertain about the ROI argument simply because I don’t know how you measure the business worth of social sites. Is ROI reflected by how many people friend your brand on Facebook? Maybe it’s the increase in your LinkedIn connections year-to-date? Or is it based on the number of click-throughs to a link you post?

Fellow Insider Learning Network blogger Harish Kotadia hit upon the need to view social CRM success stories with a critical eye, writing recently, “In order to measure social CRM ROI, [the] first step is to define measurable social CRM goals.”

Of the 50 percent of SugarCRM respondents who said social networks helped them be more successful, we haven’t been made aware whether all, some, or none of them provided that answer based on measured progress. No company that promotes social CRM wants to think social media is a waste of time, but without more hard evidence to the contrary, we’re all just guessing about ROI.

And now the punch line: Follow Scott on Twitter @CRMexpert1.

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