Social media has become the new soapbox, and public conversations about companies and products have changed how customer relationship management systems and business processes should be developed, according to a Forrester Research report published on Tuesday.

The report, entitled “Social CRM Goes Mainstream,” suggests that CRM solutions should now include technologies that support business processes for acquiring, retaining, targeting, understanding and collaborating socially with customers. Business process professionals should design their future plans around that vision, it says.

Forrester believes that the social Web is forcing business process professionals to expand their thinking beyond the traditional two-way channel of communication between enterprise and customers to also include the interactions that customers have among themselves.

“CRM is evolving from its traditional focus on optimizing customer-facing transactional processes to include the strategies and technologies to develop collaborative and social connections with customers, suppliers, and even competitors,” it states.

Forrester vice president and principal analyst William Band and senior analyst Natalie Petouhoff contributed to the report.

The social trend has not gone unnoticed by CRM solution makers, both new and old.

New York-based startup Bantam Live is building its CRM platform around social CRM, and Salesforce has introduced a new capability called Chatter to its subscribers.

Social CRM was initially adopted by large organizations such as Comcast and Zappos on the customer support side, but also gives businesses the ability to listen and respond to the voice of the customer, said Bantam CEO John Rourke. That ability has shifted social CRM back to where CRM started: sales and marketing, he said.