I just had a series of great calls with analysts today, including the always erudite Denis Pombriant. And I also met with the founders of a cool new company called BeRelevant. Both these meetings got me thinking, as usual.

Denis and I had a great talk about getting back to the business value of CRM – getting away from all this talk about delivery models and focusing on the real reason why people should be deploying CRM.

But it was a tangential conversation that really got me thinking. Denis and I were talking about tools like Jive and Sugar feeds and Chatter, and what role they play today and in the future. Denis made a great point of noting that most of these tools will find usefulness beyond what they are being positioned as today.

And what is that position? It is essentially that of “A Twitter (or Facebook) for the Enterprise.” OK, I get it.

But where is the value today? Twitter is free and has mass adoption. Facebook is where the people you want to reach already are – why try to migrate a community or hijack existing conversations?

Well, if MySpace taught us anything, it is that consumers are fickle and Facebook can lose attention/audience/relevance as quickly as it stole members from MySpace. And Twitter has no revenue model. Its continuing outages and growing pains could be hints at larger issues.

So, what happens when the de facto social platforms of the day go away? How does a consumer base, a generation so used to being “out there” and sharing and engaging, communicate with your brand?


I think this is where companies like BeRelevant, CubeTree and Lithium can come in to play in a very meaningful manner. As purpose-driven social networks, the kinds of engagements through these channels may not be as prone to the ups and downs of broader social networks.

What I mean is that brands have a life of their own – which are very closely managed by marketers. Facebook and other non-affiliated (in the product marketing sense) social networks are just “gathering places” – one can easily become cooler than the next. But brand-owned communities are centered around something. Facebook just is, but brand-driven social networks have a purpose.

And – these networks can be intentionally short-lived: around a specific promotion or launch. And the marketers are free to dream up other purpose-driven networks later. That can be a lot of fun.

Plus, these brand-owned people aggregation sites could be some of the best ways for people to meet and engage with not just your brand, but with each other. If generic sites like Twitter and Facebook become passe’ (not saying they will) then the owners of purpose-built networks become the gate keepers to many forms of online engagement.

That is serious power.

Use it wisely.

Again, not saying twitter or Facebook will be obsolete as marketing and outreach platforms any time soon. But it may not be the worst thing to happen to social CRM and social engagement strategies in general.