Social media vendor Bazaarvoice has introduced several new integrations with its Social Platform product, including SAP and Salesforce.com. The announcement means companies will be able to track reviews, comments, and shares posted on corporate and commerce sites, as well as Facebook pages.
"One of the values of the integration is the customer service professionals can more actively engage. As a piece of content is created in real time the integration will notify customer service that someone just asked a question or posted a review so the person can respond to it quickly," explained Mike Svatek, Bazaarvoice's chief strategy officer. The end result is an increase in brand loyalty and the ability to take and use such information in the sales, marketing, and product lifecycles, he said.
There are a number of competitors in this field, including Buddy Media, Lithium, and PowerReviews. Adobe also has made several social media acquisitions, which put the digital design company on the social media map. However, Svatek said his firm's solution is set apart by its integration with CRM apps.
"The main difference between our service and other social listening tools is that when someone has something to say--positive or negative--we know exactly who they are, can tie it back to a transaction, and know the model number and SKU they are talking about," Svatek said. Users can also tap analytics to better segment their audiences. One example: Being able to identify product advocates who can do early reviews of a product, which helps R&D make changes to a product or service before it goes out.
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Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group agrees that this type of integration is key for those companies that want to connect existing customer ecosystems with social media. "The end goal is, when you do have these systems, that you can understand the customer from all places and eventually predict what the customers want and need," he said. "That kind of power is very, very valuable for sales, marketing, and R&D."
While the announcement may be a positive one--Bazaarvoice customers will have deeper integration with what's being said on their websites and company Facebook page--it doesn't mean that CMOs and other executives will be completely covered when it comes to social media. Most will still need to employ other social listening tools to keep up with what's being said on external social networks such as Twitter and Pinterest as well as other blogs, communities, and websites. This means there's more to keep track of.
In addition, companies who use the Bazaarvoice integration will need to educate internal groups that may have little or no experience working in the social media realm. Today, the majority of social media deployments and analysis is handled by the marketing and corporate communications departments, according to a recent Altimeter study, with 82% and 75% of those departments formally deploying customer-facing social media efforts, respectively. Only 30% of support departments and a mere 4% of R&D departments using customer-facing social media, according to the same study.
This may change as social media companies are acquired and rolled into a single interface, but until then there's going to be a big learning curve for anyone just starting out with the category.
"Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all suite," Altimeter Group's Owyang said. "There's an arms race going on in the social media tools industry, and it's still very unclear who will come out on top."
IT's challenge in dealing with social networks comes on two fronts: How to interact with would-be customers on big social networks like Facebook, and how to provide employees on internal networks with collaboration that's as powerful as their Facebook experiences. This virtual event, Social Business: Marshaling Expertise, Engaging Customers, Building Brands, will help IT leaders sort through their strategic choices. It happens April 26.