By sschablow June 5, 2012
It’s hard not to notice the recent flurry of the big CRM outfits acquiring social technology startups. It’s even more conspicuous when an acquisition price tag is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. For Salesforce.com and Oracle there appears to be a deliberate effort to one-up each other’s social management technology. Perhaps Forrester research convinced them with a recent report calling this “the age of the customer.” Forrester claims “the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.” I agree with the premise, although I have not read the full $499 report. Salesforce.com made a high profile move into social technology a year ago with the purchase of Radian6, a leading social media monitoring platform.
Last month Oracle acquired Vitrue, a leading cloud-based social marketing and engagement platform. The combination is expected to help organizations develop more meaningful customer engagements, improve ROI, provide enhanced customer service with real-time response and high touch relationships. Thomas Kurian, executive vice president, Oracle Development said, “Vitrue’s leading social marketing and engagement platform coupled with Oracle’s leading sales, service, and commerce products offers a complete social experience solution to our customers.”
A week after Oracle’s announcement, Salesforce.com countered with the acquisition of Buddy Media. The Buddy Media platform allows customers to publish content, place and optimize social advertising and measure the effectiveness of social media marketing programs. Their purpose is to help customers determine which content is driving the most engagement, test different strategies and understand which campaigns are delivering the greatest return on investment.
“By bringing together market leaders Radian6 and Buddy Media, we are doubling down on the Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud to provide CMOs with the ability to manage the entire social marketing lifecycle,” said Marcel LeBrun, SVP of Salesforce Radian6.
Not to be outdone, a day later Oracle announced it will acquire Collective Intellect, a social intelligence company. Collective Intellect’s is a cloud-based solution that claims to help organizations transform social conversations into actionable intelligence leading to better marketing campaigns, improved customer service, more targeted leads, and enhanced products and services with real-time customer feedback.
These M&As make sense on paper and if their combined potential can be realized, will provide the kind social customer relationship management services that we’ve only dreamed about. But the process of managing such disparate data is not going to be easy. Acquiring the technology is only the first step. To get to real, useful Social CRM you need to be able to monitor conversations, capture and analyze the data, extract insights from the data, translate the insights into actions, and then have the means to publish a response or message. The process can’t be fully automated, but it at least needs to be integrated into a single SAAS to make the process manageable.
That’s a tall order and one I’ve been discussing for years now with (other) start-ups that are in various stages of alpha or beta testing. Whether they will stand alone or be gobbled up in the social technology feeding frenzy (or even make it out of beta testing) is anybody’s guess. For now Oracle and Salesforce.com are both closing in on the Social CRM holy grail. It promises to be quite an adventure.