Social CRM: When Registration Pages Go Extinct

This post is a bit dense, I’m not writing for my general business audience, but for those that really are advanced social technology thinkers. If you’re seeking starter info, read my FAQs.

I’m working on a report called the “Future of the Social Web” and I interviewed quite a few companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Lotus, RWW, Federated Media, Plaxo, Dell, Cisco EOS, Flock, Meebo, Gigya, Intel, Razorfish, Six Apart, and a bunch more to find out the trends in this industry. There’s probably less than 10 people in the world that have access to all these teams, executives and thought leaders, and I’m taking advantage of it. I just met with Appirio, which is a San Mateo company that birthed out of the SalesForce incubation process and I think they’re one of the first generation vendors that’s connecting social networks to CRM systems. They’re not alone, see the other apps in SalesForce AppXchange that connect with Facebook. Update: Rapleaf is in this space, I need to meet with them soon.

[Marketers Use Registration Forms For Only Two Reasons: 1) To Be Able To Bug People 2) To Be Able Bug Them More Effectively]

Most marketers don’t know why they want prospects to fill out registration pages, they’ve been doing it for so long, they’ve forgotten why. I’ll remind you, there’s only two reasons: 1) To get their contact information so they can bug them. 2) To get demographic and other data so they can bug them more effectively (target marketing). That’s it.

One of the calls I’m making in my report is that registration pages go away. Why? CRM systems and Social Networks will start to connect, and share information in a two way manner. Of course, the trick is to make it all opt in so the user community can control what part of their information can be shared and with who. Appirio does just that, they have built a Facebook application that can be rebranded for a marketing campaign, it can then be used to share information, recommend information to peers, and used for other purposes such as recruiting, word of mouth, and other typical social network activities. As information gets shared, it can be passed to a landing page where users can submit information in a web form –then passed over to SalesForce.

[The Future Of The Social Web Makes Registration Pages Extinct]

While they haven’t built out a system that can remove registration pages all together, I know the second generation Social CRM systems will be able to do this. How? A technology will emerge that will allow users to pass only as much of their social networking profile information as they want over to a CRM system, how much? It’s up to the user. A new social contract will appear that will encourage users to give as much information as t hey want, and in return the brand will reciprocate. The more information the user gets gives, the more the brand will give back in return, I call this a “Social web contract”. Since the data will come from the profile information within a social network, there won’t be a need to have a collection web form, instead information will be passed through connective tissues.

Obviously this flips a marketers world upside down as they are ultimately measured in most cases on generating leads and conversions, there’s a pretty radical mental shift that will need to take place, I’ll have to talk about this later. Oh, and I’ll have to tell you what this means to email marketing –that’s going to change too.

That’s all I can explain right now, as I’m still putting together dozens of interviews and over 20 pages of notes, I gotta get a draft to Josh Bernoff, my rather tough editor. Just remember, the power has shifted to the community, so the tools, approach, and ideology has to meet the needs of the users.

If you’re involved with connecting social networks and CRM systems, I want to talk. Also, Appirio needs marketing agencies to be truly successful, you may want to contact them, or just email me and I’ll connect you.

55 Replies to “Social CRM: When Registration Pages Go Extinct”

  1. Bingo.

    I’ve gotten the insiders view from my years building Epsilon Interactive and can absolutely see this happening.Facebook, Google and other profile databases of record better be figuring out how to selectively provide personal information!

    Ragy Thomas

  2. this really inspired some spirited thinking amongst my Tweeps today. I’ll def be following this closely as the almighty reg flow (and conversion therein) recedes from our KPIs

  3. I like the vision but there is a big presumption on data portability. The idea that you can opt in and give your social graph data to the company presupposes that you own and control your social graph. To date social networks have been reticent to give up that info. I’d love to see it work though! Go data portability! Go FOAF! Go OpenID!

  4. The link between social network profiles and business is blurring in the sales process already. Since many profiles are public and keyed to an email address it is a straightforward process to build a database of profiles for a given customer list. In fact, this is what one company has done – Rapleaf. (Disclosure “ we use them, but have no other financial interest.) We can poll that database via web services with a list of emails and get all of the public profiles returned to a database. Now to take advantage of this data beyond providing something called a Social Network Footprint it is only an API away from integrating the data with sales tools like In fact, Rapleaf has done this as well. The reason – the wealth of information is useful in developing rapport during sales calls. This step eliminates the need for a form – other than an email address. We’ve looked at the same process for other high-consideration products with single-digit conversion like post-secondary education where the form is standard lead-gen practice. A prototype application was built to review profiles before making out-bound phone calls to prospects. The applet lists the social networks, the available demographics – including pictures. So rather than lead generation, we think of social networks in terms of improving conversion since the person has already raised their hand.

    There is another potential implication of the ‘no-form’ site. We’ve all been trained to exchange content for info. If we’re no longer collecting information on the site then where does our content go? The answer is that it is pushed to the same place where the people are already “ social networks; they become the new place for exchange. Driving site traffic will become the wrong lead-gen objective; it will be replaced with content distribution. One can imagine taking the ideas behind the social media news room and retooling them for all site content. The early history of the Internet led us down a path of jumping from site to site; while good for protection and finding documents it is not what we as people really want. The ˜no-form™ site might be the next step after Twitter toward a destination-free web.

  5. I think the trend away from user registration is also being driven by user experience. People don’t like to register at sites any more. I have been cringing for a while at clients and colleagues who want to rely on user registrations. Information from these registrations are faulty and unreliable at this juncture. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on email marketing as well. I tune out 90% of my email and that’s the stuff that gets through spam and junk mail filters.

  6. There is already an ID management/lookup system in place that provides identification (for social media, workplace affiliation, etc.) on a tiered permission basis. Facebook could easily incorporate this system as a free add-on for their members as a directory management and enhanced friending system. It would be implemented through the DNS as a third-level .tel domain.

    Problem is that the people at Facebook do not understand the .tel platform and are confusing it with other gTLDs, which rely on the web to publish information. Released today, .tel takes publication down to the DNS system and is accessible from multiple types of devices, including dumb cell phones without Web access.

    .tel will effectively push social media friending systems out to the other 3+ billion people in the world with cell phones but who are not currently involved in social media. It will also render yellow pages, white pages and other directory systems obsolete unless those systems can adapt and generate .tel sub domains for their users.

    We are all hyped up on social media in our little corners of the globe now. But the reality is that with .tel, we have only begun to see the beginning of the hockey stick.

  7. This all story about behavioral targeting is, to me still questionable.

    Many people don’t like behavioral adds for several reasons

    1) privacy (the explicit reason)
    2) it’s not rich enough. you tend to be cornered to the ads that directly correlate to your profile and you “feel” the lack of intelligence, some would say art.

    You said you like blue, they give you blue and over time the system doesn’t encourage you to buy but restrict you to the “blue universe”.

    The net is going to be: you just had a baby, you’re bombarded with ads for baby products and you’ll be fed up with it. (by the way, this type of ads will still do not match google adwords that present you with the product you want when you search for it- at least when you’re done searching, nobody offers you to buy yet another crib)

    Behavioral targeting miss the suggestion power that marketing and advertising is all about. It’s too mechanical and not clever enough for humans.

    First time it’s funny. 10 000’s time, you fell you’re interacting with monkeys and I don’t know if brand are going to suffer from it.

    I personally prefer subtle content targeting but that’s a different story.

  8. dominic

    Interesting, but I wasn’t referring to behavioral targeting (or at least I wasn’t trying to). That’s a different story, as I met with baynote yesterday, they do that pretty well.

  9. @jeremy. thanks for the note – I read your post a third time (hey, you told upfront the post was dense – I should read more carefully).

    my reading of:”will encourage users to give as much information as they want, and in return the brand will reciprocate.” was that the brand will send back some form of advertising. maybe I was wrong.

    thanks for the link to baynote. the kind of avertising they propose apparently works not directly on your profile but on your friend’s purchasing behavior which is more sopisticated than just targeting based on your social network records. I like it :-).

    In content targeting, instead of using your friends as an unconscious /implicit media between you and a brand,the author specifically selects the content you’re exposed to and has some level of control about the ads& brands that you (as a reader) will be served. It ll be interesting to see how these strategies compare.

    btw, do you have any figures for return on investment of ad campaigns comparing different approaches ? the few figures I read/got on FB and Myspace ctr were not stellar and nothing compared to Adwords search or even content network with highly targeted placements.


  10. I can’t wait until the day registration pages for social site no longer exist! Oh, and while I’m raning, I can’t wait for captchas to die either!

  11. This is one of the goals of VRM (personally not sure of the acronym), but the intention is for people to control how much data to push to organisations and be able to remove access if required.

  12. dominic thanks for the second read. Sorry, I don’t have specific data off hand, but I’m sure my colleagues who focus on advertising like Shar Van Boskirk, or Emily Riley does. Go search their name on the Forrester site to see all the work they’ve done.

  13. I really think you’ve identified one of the last real barriers to successful inbound marketing. Marketers (I’ll admit, even within my company) still cling to the idea of capturing a database of potential customers via registration pages, then whenever the mood strikes, sending them an e-mail blast whether they like it or not. I think the model we should be shooting for is a grocery store. If people like your wares and your prices (or during a hurricane!), they will line up at the door without being promted or identified. Why not craft our business sites and blogs the same way? Keep them fresh and informative, offer real value to the visitor and invite them in via social media.

  14. I think there is still a place for Registration Pages.

    Registration pages are open invitations to belong to a group or business that are within the control of the subscriber (up until the data is sold or shared) and don’t require alot of commmitment on anyone’s part. Actively subscribing is a “first step” along a multi-step path to engagement or purchase. The invitation is extended by the business in the form of a registration page and accepted by the consumer at opt-in.

    At this point, the subscriber is not deeply invested in a group or brand. S/he’s not out there chatting up a brand with other folks, sharing her profile or making contact with other users. S/he is free to probe, feel out the message and decide (or not decide) to invest further. It’s a “no commitment” step.

    From the business or marketing side of the Registration Page, that subscriber just raised her hand. Hopefully you made her an offer on the registration page that is deliverable. Delivering on that offer is the simple, second step in the information gathering process. Your subscriber isn’t ready for The Full Monte and you, as a business owner, aren’t ready either. Afterall, who wants to invest time and resources in a one-way relationship?

    Enter the Registration Page and the Email List behind it: still terrific for businesses and consumers who aren’t ready for more involvement.

    You might say, “well, if they don’t want more involvement, they can just read my blog…” But then you would be missing the boat. I believe most people prefer the process of building a long-term relationship – the baby-steps – to the fast-paced, high intensity, fleeting process of a wild infatuation. And the Registration Page is still a very good, first baby-step toward a long-term relationship.

    Forget collecting demographics via Registration Pages. That IS where LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook et al applications come along. But this step is for folks who are already enagaged on some level. They’ve already taken the first baby-steps.

    Let’s not forget all of this started with registration pages! Assuming they no longer have a place assumes you can build a good relationship without saying “hello” first. Why don’t we all just pair off quickly and bear children instead of courting and probing? I’m sure some of us will find a measure of success this way, but most of us will be more successful and happier with a bit of courtship.

    Most of us like to belong to a group or organization – even a company or brand – based on our hobbies and strong interests. The proliferation of Social Networks is evidence of this. But not everyone jumps into the deep end first. Some of us prefer to wade in and test the water before we engage more fully. And a simple registration page followed by consistent emails still offers this opportunity.

  15. Josh, yes very fair.

    Joe, can Open ID pass along preference and demographic information as I suggest? I’m suggesting it’s much more than a login.

  16. “Joe, can Open ID pass along preference and demographic information as I suggest? I™m suggesting it™s much more than a login.”

    Yes and no. An OpenID is just a URL that points to a server running some OpenID-compatible authentication software. Let’s say WidgetCo decides that they’re going to allow visitors to log in using OpenID. I go to the WidgetCo store and decide I’d like to log in, so I supply my OpenID – which is just a link to, say, my Flickr profile page. I don’t need to supply WidgetCo with a password. WidgetCo’s website contacts Flickr and communicates via the OpenID protocol to verify that I actually own the Flickr page. Since Flickr has verified my identity (I am indeed the person who owns that page/OpenID, whoever that person may be), WidgetCo allows me to log in. In one sense, OpenID is completely faceless – the protocol itself only verifies that I own a particular URL. However, many of the first public OpenID providers were social networks, so the URL I used to log in probably contains oodles of personal and demographic information.

  17. Do not want to promote, rather be helpful. We have done some work on both CRM and ERP integrations and demo’ing live integration into Dynamics at Microsoft Convergence tomorrow. Also, Paul Greenberg is a fantastic resource in the CRM field

    Would love to add some value here. Let us know the best vehicle.

  18. This is an interesting concept as it might be even more powerful due to convenience to the consumer/customer. If the customer does not have to re-enter a bunch of information on a registration page (especially personal), they might be more apt to share/opt-in. Especially if they can control what they provide through a social media integration solution. I keep thinking of Julie Ask’s “App Hopping” inconvenience issue she brought up related to mobile social media a couple of weeks ago during her Forrester webinar. If the Registration “App Hopping” inconvenience could be reduced or eliminated, marketers might get more information over time (if less than in an initial registration) from consumers/customers.

    I can see the power of social media networks integrating with CRM solutions. Very exciting concept. I look forward to reading your final report.

  19. If what you’re saying is right, it absolutely will turn marketers on their heads, and will completely change (and potentially eliminate) email marketing.

    The issue I have is:

    Who will be the unified social network/CRM connector? I think due to the fact that there will be great competition in this space, that you really won’t be able to connect the two in a full and meaningful way.

    In the same way that I think Facebook Connect is great, but ultimately flawed. If I’m Facebook (or LinkedIn, or Myspace), I’d rather create my own connector and receive the financial benefits and rewards than allow someone else to do so. Unfortunately as opposed to most forms of competition, in this arena it will spurn several separate (but incomplete) networks.

    Additionally, without registration it cuts out a marketer’s ability to directly communicate with its users through email. For this reason, I doubt the major corporations can afford to get rid of registration (see: Best Buy, Macy’s).

    I like the idea, but I think that business and competition may ultimately doom full adoption.

  20. Jaremy

    I have another post later on how direct email marketing will have to evolve to social network messaging. Think “energizing” (Forrester term)

  21. Interesting concept. I’m looking forward to the report and future write ups. I have to admit I’m a bit skeptical at this prediction as wide spread use of various web technologies including social media inherently are tied to the lowest common denominator. Seeing as how several industries that are tightly regulated cannot have employees divulging information as openly as others I don’t see social media profiles being the end all for registration pages. That being said I do look forward to the day that happens, but there are going to need to be some adjustments made with in social media profiles & security to make the B2B aspect of this align with developments in B2C where this is perhaps a bit more realistic.

  22. Hi Jeremiah,

    Love your thoughts on this topic . . . I work in the nonprofit world and have been thinking for a long time that we should have two types of online donation forms – one where people can choose to give us all of their contact information so we can bug them, and another “grab-and-go” version where they get to drop money in our bucket like a drive-by and never worry about hearing from us again if they don’t want to be bugged.

    Have you been hearing any rumblings from other groups considering this strategy as well?

    Thanks so much and keep up the great posts.

  23. Hey Jeremiah,

    It’s funny that I came across this post as I have been battling my inner doubts to do away with registration pages altogether and use Facebook Connect as the conduit to get the basic information that I need to build a email marketing base.

    I did a straw poll with my peers in Singapore, and almost 90% never submit their real details on website registration pages. There are many reasons behind this, most notably the desire not to be “bugged by the marketer”. The irony is that social sites like Facebook and Friendster gets real and factual information (most of the time, at least) from their users.

    I’m still researching on Facebook Connect and whether there are information being passed from the social site to a website publisher like my company.

    I’ll be following this topic closely.


  24. When we implemented a CRM about a year ago for some of our demographic I could see big gaps between what it was trying to achieve and what that demographic are already doing (including the data they give) in the social media space. At that time I couldn’t see a way of easily tying those two things in together. Now I have some hope. Also, as a web person I’d love to see the end of having to create registration pages.

  25. Interesting read. I liken the evolution to the “Social Web” as monumental as the adoption of the Internet in the early to mid 90’s. My clients were skeptical then and are skeptical again today. I would be interested in your thoughts on how the traditional web site will evolve. Besides connectors to social platforms I wonder if we will see any other dramatic changes?

  26. As a marketer, I must at least partially agree to your reasoning- that marketers get user data to bug them. But being a web2.0 guy and once a geek,i see some things in a slightly different perspective-

    marketers need user data for trackability. while emailing all that have been unfortunate to drop their id actually throws bad ROI, being able to uniquely identify users/ visitors/ patrons means i can track their behavior

    openid is the sexist thing that ever happened to signing in. marketers dont really need your life history to understand you- at least not self reported stuff.

    social crm, the way you have described it is the dream of every online and social media marketer including myself… if it does so happen that we could track individual data, with permission, without users having to sign up and do it in a non-invasive manner, marketers would be celebrating Christmas for life!!

  27. I read this one several days ago, and was excited about such a future^^

    Today, while talking about this with a workmate, I heard about the Liberty Alliance project.

    Do you know this project, are you involved in ?

    Even if this project seems to focus on online transactions, there are some common points with your post.

    And, as it’s my first comment, I just wanted to say thank to you about this great blog !


  28. From a B-B biz-dev perspective the eminent evolution towards ‘Social CRM’ is clear. Say for example that you have a CRM system open in one tab, and social media site (let’s say LinkedIn) on another. In most cases, the LinkedIn data is going to be more accurate given that everyone is responsible for their own (and only their own) data integrity. I would certainly appreciate having those two systems linked.

    Technological progress is regularly convergent, and in this case CRM and social media are the next up….IMHO.

  29. I think a key component of the OpenID/Formless Registration concept is to have a central clearinghouse where I can not only control the level of access to my demographic information, but also to cancel/rescind the availability to certain users and destinations.

    Users will be more apt to try out a site and share information if they know that the information still resides on in a controlled location and if they can easily shut off the spigot via a control panel at that location. There is nothing more frustrating than creating a user account for a site for a one time use and not having a way to quickly delete that account and know with certainty that it has been purged.

  30. I’m certainly not going to claim to be anything close to a social media expert – but I am a marketer. The concept of give and take has always been the strongest one for engaging a customer. Marketers that collect information to “bug”, if that is really their motivation, are simply lazy or failed marketers.

    The question or challenge as a marketer is always about value. About “gives” and “gets”. My philosophy has always been to offer value to the person that fills out that registration form, or sends in that email question. And the “value” that I offer should also be lined up with the actual target audience that I reach.

    There may be gobs of folks that I simply don’t care to have contact me or to fill out a registration form…but I’d better not miss the ones I DO want.

    In my view the registration form, in whatever form, is part of your path towards relationship building with a potential customer. And if you can start off by offering them value that exceeds the demands or “risk” of them providing you with some personal information then that is a good place to start.

    It is then always your responsibility to nurture that relationship and earn the trust of the person who put some of their trust in you. It’s also your responsibility to let them know if, perhaps, there is nothing more for them in investing further in you by being very clear about what you can offer, solve and provide. I tell you, there is a lot of power in letting the prospect decided to continue the relationship.

    In any event, the concept of “gives” and “gets” won’t go away and ultimately your ability as a marketing to manager your leads relates quite closely to the value you bring and the way you manage the relationship. The format or form of the “registration page” is really less releveant in the entire equation as “value” has to exist as a primiary placeholder. But certainly this post brings up some good thinking in how we can be innovative in our thinking around them.

    – Mitch

  31. Hey Jeremiah,

    Very interesting insights here. I’ve been currently tased with amalgamating our social media channels with our CRM. As you iterated in your post, scalability is a major tenet for marketers. I was wondering if you’ve come across any B2B organization that has been successful deriving business from social media. If you have a product, let’s say you have a SaaS solution that will help companies do market research on the fly, how would you get that across these engagement platforms in a meangingful way?

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