Is this the end of Choice and Innovation in Social Media Measurement?

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.The End

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

15 Responses to Is this the end of Choice and Innovation in Social Media Measurement?
  1. ShellyKramer
    April 4, 2011 | 8:55 am

    Great thoughts, Jeff. And mine echo yours. There are many times when I don’t need a tool with all the bells and whistles – like we’ve discussed before. And i think this is a step toward making round pegs fit into square holes, sometimes when there’s no need for that.

    It will, for sure, be interesting to see what transpires.

    Shelly

    shellykramer

  2. ShellyKramer
    April 4, 2011 | 8:55 am

    Great thoughts, Jeff. And mine echo yours. There are many times when I don’t need a tool with all the bells and whistles – like we’ve discussed before. And i think this is a step toward making round pegs fit into square holes, sometimes when there’s no need for that.

    It will, for sure, be interesting to see what transpires.

    Shelly

    shellykramer

  3. jeffespo
    April 4, 2011 | 8:58 am

    @ShellyKramer shellykramer I think it is going to be a fun ride. I just wonder how many companies will start snapping up SM measurement tools. To me settling should never be an option.

  4. paolojr
    April 4, 2011 | 10:01 am

    Great post and forecast for implications. This is definitely a smart acquisition for Salesforce and its ability to market to CMOs – people who drive the business based on numbers. Yes, the social strategists and specialists who are planning and executing may face limitations due to the market domino effect in coming months, but I also think there are only a handful of companies that are truly tying together the marketing gangbang you speak of already, and therefore Salesforce is really in the position to drive the agenda, a great spot to be in as a vendor. So long as paychecks are defined in numbers, so will performance, and at the end of the day most social business endeavors will be based on quantifiable results rather than qualitative. Since that won’t change, it’s up to the social strategists and specialists to creatively interpret business objectives and new technology opportunities into meaningful person to person customer experiences.

  5. jeffespo
    April 4, 2011 | 10:36 am

    @paolojr It was an orgy not a gangbang :). And I do agree that the ACQ was a good one, the problem becomes on being forced into using a tool. For example if Eddie Bauer is a SAS user and also a R6 user, if the tool became exclusive to them would you push folks to change systems to accommodate your tool?

    I like choices and tools that fit needs, if it becomes co-dependent on another vendor, then that sucks. Tools aren’t one-size fits all and if the Cadillac doesn’t work with your system, why should you switch to a Pinto?

  6. LaurenVargas
    April 4, 2011 | 10:40 am

    Jeff, you are spot on. There are still a lot of questions and you bring up valuable points of interest to consider. Overall, companies need start asking these tough questions and analyzing what they are purchasing and why. This problem existed before this acquisition…companies need to find solutions that sync with overall business goals. Thank you for sharing our news and reflecting about the effect.

    Lauren Vargas

    Director of Community at Radian6

    @VargasL

  7. jeffespo
    April 4, 2011 | 10:55 am

    @LaurenVargas@vargasl Glad to Lauren, because it is exciting, but scary in some ways. It was a good move that can be competition crushing, and it was the most natural fit of the ACQs in the space. I just hope that at the end of the day there can be a standalone option that can be chosen to fit customers who love the tool but may not need CRM.

    Good luck with your event this week.

  8. ginidietrich
    April 4, 2011 | 4:18 pm

    You have to love that @LaurenVargas was the first to comment! I hadn’t actually considered this until I finished reading your post, but what does this mean for those of us who are Radian6 customers, on behalf of our clients, but aren’t Salesforce users?

  9. LaurenVargas
    April 4, 2011 | 4:34 pm

    A valid concern and one we hope to address with more details in the weeks to come. As Marcel Lebrun stated, Radian6 will operate as an independent unit for now. We will keep all users informed of changes.

  10. LaurenVargas
    April 4, 2011 | 4:35 pm

    Thanks, Jeff!

  11. JGoldsborough
    April 9, 2011 | 8:36 am

    @LaurenVargas Agree with @ginidietrich …props to you Lauren for jumping in and sharing the Radian6 POV. Much appreciated and I also agree with you — Companies need to analyze what they’re purchasing and why, which is an issue that has existed for a long time.

    @jeffespo , smart thoughts all around bud. One of the most interesting aspects of social when it comes to monitoring tools or just social in general is making the best decisions from a capital expenditures perspective because things change so frequently in the online, social world. As you pointed out, the human element is always going to be integral in measurement, social media and CRM. I ‘d like to think in the end that’s what people will respond to and base their decisions on. But of course we all know that the bottom line will play a role as well.

  12. akus
    April 9, 2011 | 7:37 pm

    @JGoldsborough Thanks buddy. My question on this is more towards my thoughts on where I see the industry going as all-inclusive solutions. There are too many masters to meet and I am sure Marketwire and Lithium had similar questions when they purchased their tools. I just think that if we are going to see centralized tools, you’ll see a slow down in open innovation and lean more towards the awesome-o 3.5 version of X tool. Instead of hey look what Viral Heat is doing that [[INSERT SM MONITORING COMPANY HERE]] isn’t doing.

  13. jeffespo
    April 9, 2011 | 7:38 pm

    @JGoldsborough Thanks buddy. My question on this is more towards my thoughts on where I see the industry going as all-inclusive solutions. There are too many masters to meet and I am sure Marketwire and Lithium had similar questions when they purchased their tools. I just think that if we are going to see centralized tools, you’ll see a slow down in open innovation and lean more towards the awesome-o 3.5 version of X tool. Instead of hey look what Viral Heat is doing that [[INSERT SM MONITORING COMPANY HERE]] isn’t doing.

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  15. […] think Jeff Esposito gets it right in this post where he makes a crucial point, “…its people mixed with technology.” If those of us in […]

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