Lithium has changed its game. Once limited to customer communities, the company has moved to become a complete social CRM for the enterprise.

Lithium’s new approach creates a flow of information from the social web into your community. The result is the creation of valuable content, community-driven support, and the identification of engaged customers. The only stumbling block may be the ambiguity behind the company’s new messaging.

Defining Social CRM

Released this week, Lithium’s new suite takes their previously forum-centric software and ushers it in to a Web dominated by Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to brand themselves with a buzzword that lacks a fixed meaning in the market currently.

The social CRM (or CRM 2.0) label may be accurate when applied to Lithium, but it depends on which definition you pick. We’ve seen vendors tout CRMs with internally-focused collaborative features called as such, but what it commonly means is CRMs connected in some way to public social media or support systems. With such a wide ranging use of the term, Lithium is likely to have a hard time maintaining a clear and focused message on what the software actually does.

Social Media Middleman

All marketing aside, there is substance to what is new about the software. Lithium acts as content repository and community site like before, and this is retained in what’s now quaintly called the “tribal knowledge base,” formed of something like a wiki, instead of just forums.

Lithium is also is now acting like a channel between the consumer Web, your community, and your company CRM. They integrate with leading CRMs like Salesforce.com, and they draw in blog posts and Twitter search. For the Twitter tie in, the widget can be embedded in just about any page, and the keywords can be set on a page-by-page basis. If there’s a particularly relevant discussion going on, then a tweet can be used to seed a forum thread.

Stiff Competition

Lithium is one of the top community solutions for the enterprise, but in this new space, they’re facing some determined competition.

Many see the core of social CRM as being a way to monitor public conversations about the enterprise from within your usual CRM software. In that frame of mind, Lithium is going to have a hard looking more useful than tools such as Oracle social CRM and Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, which already integrates with Twitter.

Compared to other examples of social CRM, the core base for Lithium is still going to be those who want a customer community that identifies and rewards engaged people. Whether or not the customers that make these communities tick are going to get excited by integration with the social media spectrum is the question that remains to be answered.