Follow the Money: Managing the Social Relationship

On Tuesday, Sprinklr raised $17.5M in series C funding. That follows additional rounds raised by other enterprise social media management vendors in the past year, including: Spredfast raised an $18M series C in February, Hootsuite raised $165M in its series B in August, and HearSay Social raised $30M in its series C in September. What is all this money for? Is an investment in these enterprise social vendors a sensible one?

I recently wrote about how Salesforce, Adobe, and Oracle are building digital marketing suites and how I expect companies to eventually favor suites over point solutions. The post talked about a broad set of technology, even beyond marketing, which left a lot of unexplored ground. But it’s worth looking at this in the context of this new funding.

The complexity of the digital marketing stack can only sustain a limited number of solutions/platforms, but no single vendor is going to provide such a compelling end-to-end solution that it’s unnecessary to use any others. For example, many Oracle Eloqua customers are also Salesforce CRM users… and have no intention of switching. It’s natural that these giants try to get as big a piece of the pie as possible—and to that end aim to provide integrated solutions that span the entire marketing stack, which will no doubt become more compelling—but even they recognize that customers will continue to use other vendors.

So, getting back to the social front, enterprise social vendors have been trying to become more than a set of engagement features, and instead manage social relationships. Social CRM isn’t the buzzword today that it was a few years ago, but it’s essentially the big focus today. (On a related note, Oracle refers to its social package as Social Relationship Management.) Sales, customer services, HR, loyalty, and other departments often have their own customer databases, for better or worse. If social maintains ownership over not just a set of engagement features, but the data and relationship, then these vendors can certainly keep an increasingly important seat at the table that still has plenty of room for growth. That would justify the investment.