ADOTAS – Salesforce.com has come a long way since it was founded in a San Francisco apartment in 1999 and launched the first online sales force automation solution in the CRM market. By 2006, it had introduced its AppExchange application and development platform, and launched an incredible ecosystem of “value add” services that businesses could rely upon to understand and manage customer relationships.
Fast forward to 2011, which saw Salesforce.com undertake acquisitions that reflected the company’s acute understanding of movements in customer behavior and the business responses to those moves. Most significant was the acquisition of Radian6, considered then to be the leader in social media monitoring and analytics. And last week, rumors broke regarding Salesforce’s apparent plans to acquire social media marketing platform, Buddy Media — an acquisition that was settled today, with Salesforce spending a reported $689 million on the deal. With more than 100,000 business customers, Salesforce has its finger on the pulse of the challenges facing those businesses. And it looks like it’s paying attention.
But Salesforce’s embrace of social media perfectly reflects a much broader shift that is happening in the online marketing world. Social media is having a profound impact on how and where businesses relate to their customers. With 1 billion people gathering on social networks with their friends, businesses are now just beginning to capitalize on the potential of staking a claim in the social world — one in which they are connecting with customers in a truly meaningful way. Yes, Salesforce has been pushing alternative social networks for business (Chatter.com, Social Enterprise). But let’s face it. These are social networks for connecting together people at work. A workplace social network is a fundamentally different proposition than a friendship social network. Different behaviors. Different content. Different interactions. All of which calls for different marketing. Marketing that respects the social context.
In terms of business-to-customer connections, “traditional” methods of online marketing is undergoing a massive change. No longer is online marketing purely about paid media (traditional ad) spends. Businesses now have their own “owned” media on Facebook, in the form of their Facebook page and their community of fans. And that owned media fan base needs to be cultivated and engaged and encouraged to speak on a brand’s behalf to their friend networks — thus opening up a whole new channel of earned media. This rich bonanza of paid, owned and earned on social networks — most significantly Facebook — is what Salesforce.com is undoubtedly looking to mine.
Where else can a business connect directly with a billion potential customers, and their friends, in one place? Facebook represents the first online branded community at scale, and Buddy Media has grown a healthy business with its SaaS based social media tools and services that help brands market on social media. It’s a smart move for Salesforce.com to expand their acquisition of Radian6 into a business that creates social media campaigns — beyond just measuring and monitoring social media marketing channels. It was also a smart move for Adobe to acquire Efficient Frontier/Context Optional last year. And for Oracle to buy Vitrue last month. See the pattern?
But this isn’t the end of the story. It’s just the beginning. All ad technology companies must be waking up to the realization that traditional online marketing and advertising systems have to be re-tooled for social… and social mobile. And not just ad tech companies. The same holds true for media companies, big brand marketers, publishers and media agencies. I dislike the phrase “new marketing paradigm,” but really it works here. It’s new. And it’s big. It’s an exciting time to be in the business of helping marketing businesses and brands on social. And I think it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting.