Salesforce and Radian6 Acquisition

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment


March 30, 2011.   Last June I wrote a post on the listening landscape and actually suggested that Salesforce would integrate listening. Here is the original post, which can be found on Consensus Interactive Insights. Congrats to the Radian6 team on the acquisition and please Salesforce…do good things with it.

OpEd: Future of the Social Media Monitoring Landscape June 24, 2010 Let’s take a trip back to the late 90s and early 2000s. Consumers are increasingly online and organizations are putting up sites as fast as people are flocking to the Web. Website owners quickly discovered the value of understanding the type of traffic coming to their sites and what visitors are doing once there. This blossomed almost overnight into the Web Analytics industry. Over time vendors offered more robust solutions and the bigger platforms ate up the smaller platforms. Today we are left with a set of vendors that are industry standards (Google Analytics,OmnitureUnica and Webtrends to name a few). Furthermore, Web Analytics is a fairly mature industry that can be characterized by the following:

  • A small number of players control most of the market share
  • The industry is well documented with best practices, frameworks, and an ecosystem of service providers
  • The analytics role is recognized by human resources in most large companies
  • There is a standard set of features and functions across vendors
  • Pricing is predictable
  • Barriers to new entrants are high (i.e. the development of the analytics engine and output interface is costly)
  • Web analytics is adopted across most organizations in one form or another

I see a similar type of maturing taking place across the social media monitoring landscape, or what is more commonly know as “listening”, which we define as –       The tools, technologies, and processes used to identify where specific conversations are taking place across open digital domains and determining the relevance of those conversations for specific business purposes. During this maturation, vendors fall logically fall into 3 categories. These will line up with how business stakeholders generally use social media. 1. Monitoring:

Overview: This is the base functionality of all listening platforms – proprietary technology that finds, categorizes, and interprets (by volume and sentiment) online mentions using natural language processing. At this level, platforms can differentiate based on the breadth and depth of what they search, how much history is available to search on, and how effective their algorithms are for finding what is being searched on.  Reporting and the intuitiveness of the vendor’s user interface also play a major role in differentiation.

Applications: Monitoring is the where companies just getting into listening need to start. To begin, companies make some crucial key decisions: what are is being listening for, what will be done with what is found, and what resources and processes are required? It is important to note that a listening strategy is important to consider before choosing any vendors. The business applications include brand monitoring, campaign tracking, PR, and lightweight market research.

Sample Vendors. ScoutLabs (Lithium Technologies), AlterianRadian6, and Infegy Social Radar. Costs can be anywhere from $100 to several thousand per month. Pricing is typically based on number of seats or number of searches. Radian6 offers a hybrid model. Some vendors like Alterian offer free evaluation versions.

2. Engaging:

Overview: Engaging takes listening one step further – responding. This includes entering conversations, answering customer service complaints, or simply acknowledging comments that are out there. To efficiently engage, platforms help with assigning tasks, assigning status to tasks, and allowing end-users to respond directly and timely. Another important element of engaging is the ability to interface with other applications (i.e. CRM) so that actions happening here can be added to other customer records or data files.

Applications: Engaging moves away from the passive nature of purely monitoring. The business applications include customer service, influencer outreach, sales and marketing outreach, and managing conversations that are interesting and relevant.

Sample Vendors: Radian6Visible TechnologiesAttensity (formerly Biz360). At this level platforms are getting more expensive (i.e. $500 to $1,000 per month to start) with training or experience required for power users. For multi brand organizations or brands tracking a large number of products, pricing can get expensive quickly. For these organizations, seat-based pricing models may be more effective in the long-run versus paying per search.

3. Researching:

Overview: Researching builds on monitoring, but for a different purpose – building actionable market insights versus engaging. To conduct research, the processing engines need to be more powerful and help categorize and interpret conversations with more customization. When put in the hands of trained researchers aggregating social media conversations can be a powerful complement to existing market research methods.

Applications: The primary application is market research. It is important to note that there are potential pitfalls. Therefore, when using insights from social media to make decisions, it is important to work researchers that are capable of identifying limitations to findings. That is not to say research can’t be done by other resources, but companies need to be aware of findings that are anecdotal versus rigorous enough for investment decisions.

Sample Vendors: Crimson HexagonListen Logic. Costs can start a several thousand a month and also be project or research need based.

In thinking forward about the future of the listening industry, here are some likely changes to take place:

Value Added Services Grow: As vendors increase in breadth and depth, they will incorporate more professional services. This will include training, configuration, and even “full-service” offerings around moderation/engagement. Vendors like Converseon andLiveWorld offer this today using their own proprietary listening technologies. Value added services will also come in the form of an independent services ecosystem. These companies will help develop listening strategies, potentially execute on some or all aspects of them, and help with vendor selection. Companies like Forrester Research do some of this today and interactive agencies offer much of the rest. Services may also pop up that focus on auditing listening, building report frameworks, developing bridges to other applications, and training and certification.

Enterprise Reach: Today, listening is mostly the provenance of community managers, interactive marketers, and market researchers. However, listening may extend to all employees in an enterprise. One example of this already happening is Jive Software – an enterprise social media platform that acquired Filtrbox (a monitoring and engaging platform). This gives Jive customers the ability to extend listening to all employees if desired. This could benefit the sales force for lead development, customer service departments, and R&D at the very least. Pricing models will need to adjust to support this and user interfaces become more intuitive or simplified for these “casual” users.

Acquisitions: Acquisitions will be common for the next several years and working with vendors on the acquisition path means more functionality available quicker. However, this may also mean costs are in flux. If working with a vendor that has been acquired, be aware that the platform may get integrated away or costs may dramatically change. To be fair, many companies honor existing contracts, but strive to get everyone on standard pricing as soon as possible. Once all of this begins to settle down, look for pricing to get competitive. This will also be a strong sign of the market maturing.

Incorporation into Existing Business Applications. Similar to Jive Software, listening will be incorporated into existing applications. This will include CRM (i.e. SalesforceSiebel, etc) and other internal collaboration (Jive Software, INgage Networks, etc) to start with.

As a disclaimer, the above opinions have been made from researching the market in general, observations from how this landscape compares to Web analytics, and participating in vendor conversations with Jive Networks, ScoutLabs, Crimson Hexagon, Social Radar, and Radian6. At the time of this article, we are ScoutLabs clients at Consensus. I think this is a rich conversation topic and would love to see what people are thinking on this one. Also, if anyone has any great resources or articles that shed more light please let me know

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