Salesforce just announced the release of its Social Studio, an enterprise social relationship platform. Salesforce had previously bought Radian6 (three years ago) and Buddy Media (two years ago), and the announcement is that there’s now a single social solution across listening and engagement. Let’s take a look at what it actually means, both for Salesforce and the market.
What it Means For Salesforce:
1. It Took a While!
Following the initial acquisitions of Radian6 and Buddy Media, we heard from a number of frustrated customers that innovation had slowed and there was a lack of clarity around integration plans. Salesforce’s announcement to the world here is really, “Hey, we do in fact have a single product rather than standalone point solutions now.” That will be good news for existing customers and be a far more compelling offering than previously.
2. This is Not Just Integration, But Part New Product
Buddy Media and Radian6 were very distinct products. It seems that Salesforce has rethought and rebuilt much of Social Studio (note the official name on Salesforce's website is Buddy Media Social Studio). Caveats like “social advertising to be added soon” suggest as much, since that was previously part of Buddy Media following its acquisition of Brighter Option. This is also interesting, because Sprinklr recently added social advertising… which brings us to the next point.
3. This Puts Salesforce on Par With Other Vendors, Not Ahead
Hootsuite recently acquired UberVU, Sprinklr acquired Dachis Group, and Spredfast merged with Mass Relevance. Adobe and Oracle have each been building out their own social capabilities, like predictive publishing and advertising. All of the major players in this space have a tremendous opportunity to help companies build relationships with their customers by providing context about and access to them in new ways, and to that end they are all building out their capabilities beyond just publishing and engagement. Salesforce is not suddenly ahead of the competition with this announcement.
What it Means For the Market
1. A Sign of Market Maturity
When we started working on “A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation” three years ago, we saw 27 vendors. Even more emerged in the following year, but we’ve since seen a lot of consolidation (by way of failure and acquisition). The remaining enterprise vendors have bolstered their capabilities substantially as well, meaning that the space is smaller but more capabilities are packed into each platform.
2. There is No Single Leader
Venturebeat singled out Hootsuite as the clear leader and the one to beat. While Hootsuite certainly benefits from this perception because of it’s broad footprint and overwhelming share of voice (thanks largely because of it's freemium model), it’s imprecise. Hootsuite certainly has been growing its enterprise customers, but it is not the undisputed enterprise leader. A handful of vendors share most of the enterprise market: Sprinklr, Spredfast, and Hootsuite in particular, as well as the social offerings that fall under the broader Marketing Clouds of Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce. Shoutlet, Hearsay Social, and Expion also remain viable, although they have smaller footprints and less funding.
3. Bigger Implications: Part of the Marketing Cloud
Although Salesforce plans to sell Social Studio independently of the broader (ExactTarget) Marketing Cloud, the goal is to help brands build and maintain relationships with their customers throughout their "customer journey." Social is just part of that vision. Michael Lazerow, CMO of Marketing Cloud and Buddy Media’s former CEO, says in the VentureBeat article that “point solutions are part of the problem for the modern marketer. When we look at 1-1, we’re looking [not only] within each channel but also across each channel… so if someone tweets at you or posts about you or responds to an email, all of that is being captured.”
This is what Salesforce is aiming for: to provide a single solution for customer insight and engagement—wherever they are—so brands can build better relationships with them. And they’re not alone here: there’s a battle of marketing clouds going on. Adobe and Oracle look most similar in their Marketing Cloud stacks, but IBM, Microsoft, and HP are also invested.
This broader vision is a compelling one. The question is who can deliver, because putting together all the pieces is more than telling a story. Even the other social vendors can play in that game if they have a valuable enough solution and can partner or otherwise integrate with other elements of customer data and engagement across the business technology stack.
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