Salesforce and Radian6 combination signals social media ecosystem consolidation

Yesterday’s announcement that Salesforce.com has offered to acquire Radian6 for $326 million strongly suggests that an embryonic social media ecosystem is evolving from a monitoring/analytics tools and services landscape that, broadly speaking, is immature, fragmented and piecemeal and ripe for consolidation.

For a fair number of businesses, the primary tool of choice for monitoring conversations across the social web and analysing the results has arguably been Radian6, a real-time social media monitoring platform that offers its customers dashboards, consoles, widgets, streamlined reporting and integrated workflow capabilities to give users the ability to identify influencers, track and measure engagement and, importantly, determine with some precision which conversations are having an impact online in the very areas that customers have a keen interest in.

In other words, it gives those customers the ability to derive insights (and so, possible competitive advantage) that they can trust and then make business decisions quickly and with confidence. It’s a powerful toolset; speaking from experience as a Radian6 user, it’s also complex and requires a clear analytical mind- and skill-set to get the most from it.

The Canadian firm’s customers include over half of the Fortune 100: companies such as Dell, Microsoft, Pepsi, UPS, Kodak and many other high-profile global names, as well as blue-chip communication firms like Edelman, Ogilvy, Weber Shandwick and Universal McCann who use Radian6 to provide added-value to their clients.

For its part, Salesforce.com is strong in enterprise CRM and collaboration tools and services delivered from the cloud such as the Sales Cloud, for sales force automation and contact management; the Service Cloud, for customer service and support solutions; and Chatter, a private social network behind the corporate firewall.

According to yesterday’s announcement, the acquisition will enable Salesforce to "extend the value of the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Chatter and Force.com with social intelligence." Or, in plainer English:

“With Radian6, salesforce.com is gaining the technology and market leader in social media monitoring,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com. “We see this as a huge opportunity. Not only will this acquisition accelerate our growth, it will extend the value of all of our offerings.”

“Social media has made every business recognize the value of paying attention to the voice of the customer. Radian6’s technology is built for the new norm of customer engagement – real time, two way conversations that includes social channels,” said Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6. “Joining the salesforce.com team will allow Radian6 to grow faster to meet the demands of our rapidly expanding customer base.”

What I find equally interesting is the clear indicator that an ecosystem is developing, one that embraces not only the monitoring and analytics services of Radian6, Salesforce and others but also the increasingly-important element of identifying and ranking influencers and opinion-formers that extend the confidence in and verification of your monitoring and analytics metrics. Tools and services from providers such as Klout in the US and start-up PeerIndex in the UK are in prime positions to take advantage of market moves like this. (Yesterday, I interviewed PeerIndex founder and CEO Azeem Azhar for an FIR Interview podcast; that interview will be published early next week.)

The BBC has a good assessment of this deal, and the evolving market, on its website.

Then there’s the ‘Adobe wild card’ – US software maker Adobe Systems, best known for PDF and Flash, entered this market earlier this month announcing Adobe SocialAnalytics which the company succinctly describes as "a new product within the Adobe Online Marketing Suite […] enabling marketers to monitor, measure and monetize social media."

[…] With Adobe SocialAnalytics, customers can monitor and measure popular platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, forums and any place where social conversations are occurring to see their valuable social data in context with all of their online initiatives. This helps marketers get quick answers to business questions such as: What is social media’s impact on my business? How are our social initiatives and conversations driving conversion of revenue? Who are the social influencers for my business?  When positive social sentiment peaks, does our Web traffic peak or are our conversion metrics positively impacted?

This is undoubtedly an exciting time for being at the start of a rapidly-changing market where innovation and compelling solutions that address customers’ also-evolving needs will largely drive its evolution.

[Later:] Two other aspects of this to consider that add to the overall picture of change, evolution and opportunity:

  • IBM Boosts Analytics Offering with Social Media Measurement. With measurement on the brain, IBM has released two cloud-based software  solutions designed to help marketers gain real-time, actionable insight from social media channel data: Coremetrics Social and Unica Pivotal Veracity Email Optimisation. » Full story at CMS Wire. (Thanks to Tom Raftery)
  • The fickle value of friendship. In a glass box in the middle of a PepsiCo marketing department, five people are staring at a huge bank of screens showing a constantly updated river of tweets, “likes”, praise and damnation from consumers of Gatorade, the company’s sports drink. “Doing it in a glass room means every single person in the marketing organisation is seeing the insights brought to life in real time. It reminds them how important it is to know the heartbeat of the consumer,” says Bonin Bough, global director of digital and social media at PepsiCo. “I really feel like it is the future of marketing.” » Full story at FT.com (Thanks to Andrew Smith)