Last week, the social media world was rocked about the acquisition of social media monitoring company Radian6 by CRM vendor Salesforce.com to the tune of $326 million. On one hand, I am extremely happy for folks like Amber Naslund and Lauren Vargas who work at the company. I also see this as the first step for social media to be embraced and measured by the masses. On the other hand, the move scares me on the future of social media and its measurement.
Now don’t take this as a knock on R6, I have used their tool in the past and it is a Cadillac. The acquisition makes perfect sense for Salesforce and their customers; however I also fear that it is the first stake in an intellectual land-grab that will kill innovation and free choice, and frankly that scares me.
Before you go calling me Debbie Downer, think about it this way: Salesforce is in the market of CRM and mapping people to online transactions. Radian6 maps conversations to users and easily integrates with both their new company and other CRM tools like Oracle. Now I have no insight into how the tool will be packaged or sold by the folks over at Salesforce, but I bet that it will be tightly packaged with their CRM services. If Salesforce makes Radian6 exclusive to their clients, Oracle users (for example) will have to consider switching vendors in order to continue using Radian6. If the tool is left alone as a standalone product, Radian6 customers may begin receiving promotional emails from Salesforce about their primary product – perhaps diminishing the users’ opinion of their existing CRM tool.
If I were a Salesforce competitor, I would be nervous and looking to make an acquisition to bolster my own offering. In a sense this is the first domino that has been pushed over and soon there will be a chain reaction with pieces falling into place here and there.
So what does this mean?
Well for starters if this is to happen, vendors are going to sell a one-stop solution for “social” CRM. While this is a hot buzz word for 2011, one has to wonder if the two platforms, packaged together are what a company needs.
For example, what I use for social media monitoring is perfect for me. However if you ask any company what they need, they will probably come back with a list of deliverables and measurements that are far different from mine. I would also argue that the needs of a CRM department are much different than those of a marketing department or PR team/firm. It makes sense for the tools to tie into one another, but is it necessary for them to be owned by the same company? Forgive me if I don’t want to select a tool because it fits 75% of both teams needs.
The notion of putting all of the eggs into one basket also does not consider the fact that many large companies hire outside firms to handle their social media monitoring and/or public relations. On one hand will companies be willing share all information with their agency? And if so, will agencies have the time to evolve into this new emerging role?
Nice neat packaging is swell, but if there is no wiggle room, companies are left without options to innovate. If there is a gap in coverage or flaws in a tool, companies will have to either cook a hodgepodge pie of applications and create their own dashboard or wait for their vendor to fix the issue. If the vendor can’t or has no interest to, I’m sure there will be an innovative entrepreneur writing some code workaround for the purpose of being acquired by the mega social CRM conglomerate. But then again, these conglomerates may have companies by the chops as switching CRM systems for a social platform might not make the most business sense based on the capital expenditures.
Change is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it. If companies become solely focused on the numbers, we have failed and the medium has become the bastard stepchild of a wild orgy between CRM, SEO, PR and Marketing.
We’re all more than numbers, its people mixed with technology – or at least that is what I believe. What say you?
Image – Bobby Mikul