A recent Accenture report titled "Social CRM: The New Frontier of Marketing, Sales and Service" ties it all together. Joe Hughes, senior executive from Accenture's customer service and support business, confirms that enterprise companies have begun to build search engine technology that will integrate into software applications and consumer hardware to help marketers, advertisers, agencies and others sort through the mounds of data created by social media.
Hughes defines social CRM as the conversation data from social media networks. And as marketers continue to try and make sense of the mounds of data flooding in from real-time search, Twitter streams, Facebook status updates, and behavioral targeting tags, they will need a faster method to sort, index and access data. Wow, are you overwhelmed yet?
Marketers need technology that can move feedback from customers and call center agents between channels with as much automation as possible. That will become the only way to analyze the data. Natural language query processing will also become a focus, to search through documents of unstructured and structured data as the mounds of social media data continues to mount.
Last year, tools measuring buzz metrics in social networks emerged. This year, the focus turns toward integrating the social data into traditional CRM platforms from companies like software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider Salesforce, which late last year integrated the feature, allowing people to search on that data in real time.
Until now, CRM packages did not allow marketers to view data collected on Twitter alongside traditional queries. But the real-time search movement has sent companies looking to improve search results back to the drawing board to build engines that can process structured and unstructured data, as well as sentiment analysis, taxonomy, classification and entity extractions, according to Hughes. "The strategy of combining structured and unstructured data will become more important," he tells me.
Attivio, a company specializing in enterprise search, has developed an engine that can simultaneously analyze and index structured and unstructured data. In real time, the search engine identifies buzz in Twitter and connects with a CRM package to identify important trends. The technology comes from the same folks who founded Fast Search & Transfer, which Microsoft acquired in 2008 for about $1.2 billion.
Hughes tells me Attivio's technology reduces the time needed for identifying trends through Twitter or blog data from weeks and months to hours and minutes.
But Attivio isn't the only company working through the problem of sifting through mound of social data. The issue perhaps prompted companies like Hewlett-Packard and SAP to build search tools into software and hardware application. Some companies have begun to build site search features into databases that can more quickly index data.
Hughes speculates the HP patent on intent-based search engine technology, which GoRumors describes in a recent post, could integrate into consumer electronic devices like laptops or mobile phones. Now I'm thinking perhaps Apple could use this type of search engine for the iPad tablet launched Wednesday. "There are all kinds of reasons for HP to have a patent on search," he says. "This is the year to bring everything together."
Engineers at enterprise applications provider SAP have also been spotted in search engine forums asking about search engine technology. It's not likely the company will launch an engine to compete with Google, but it might build the technology into products and databases that will allow people to more quickly sort through the piles of data. Hughes agrees that this year marketing needs to connect with product development and focus on building a bridge from social networks to CRM tools that manage buzz and products.
Interesting insight: The Accenture report suggests the evolution of social networks and online communities has led to a collapse of the marketing funnel. Hughes writes that traditional mainstream marketing forces a message through the marketing funnel, moving through stages from building awareness to earning loyalty. It only allows dialogue and relationship building as the prospect or customer progresses through the funnel. By contrast, the digital revolution, and particularly social media, make it possible to engage in a dialogue with prospects or customers much earlier and at many more touch points. This creates a lot more data that marketers will need to search through.