SugarCRM, a commercial open source provider of customer relationship management (CRM) software, has released a survey showing that companies that used social networks got a huge return on that investment in 2010.
The most surprising result is that, while 50% of respondents said social networks made them more successful in the last year, only 26% admitted to linking data from social networks to their CRM software. But 72% reported they plan on doing this over the next year.
The result seems to point toward greater social network data integration with CRM. But to win this business, CRM vendors have to compete with other applications, many controlled by other departments, which are promising to offer social business integration.
One reason for the survey is that SugarCRM has been supporting social networks for some time, the company said in a statement to Information Week. Embedded connectors to sites like LinkedIn and Twitter already enable Sugar users to perform simple social monitoring and leverage relationship capital in customers' LinkedIn networks to facilitate lead qualification, uncover better inroads to a meeting, or simply build on existing relationships.
Third parties like Insource Performance Solutions, a workflow consultant, are also integrating SugarCRM with their own social networking products like Insource's Inside View.
The survey represents new sophistication on the part of open source vendors. Surveys on business trends have long been a hallmark of proprietary software sales. The SugarCRM survey was done at low cost using a program called SurveyMonkey through the company's PR firm.
One reason for the result may be that many SugarCRM customers are smaller companies, the company acknowledged. Smaller firms with fewer resources will leverage pre-aggregated communities like Facebook and Twitter, the company said, while larger brands have the luxury of creating and managing their own online communities with a specialized and branded experience.
The survey, and its sponsor, demonstrate that the benefits of social CRM need not be expensive. Open source can be downloaded free of charge. The most popular social services used by survey participants were LinkedIn, used by 42%, and Facebook, used by 32%. Both are free. So is the third-leading source of leads, Twitter, used by 14%.
As to the security concerns about using social networks for lead generation, a note from SugarCRM executives said common sense should be the rule. Organizations need to understand that some data is sensitive and should not be shared or transmitted via public social channels. This is a reason why Sugar wants customers to combine traditional CRM with social CRM. It enables users to share ideas and interact without silos -- but the traditional security of a relational database underneath can offer role-based and other tight access controls to sensitive data.