Salesforce.com is continuing to deliver its social enterprise message with Wednesday’s unveiling of the Radian6 Social Marketing Cloud, a social marketing service that lets enterprises interact with customers on a variety of social media platforms.
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The new product offering announced at Salesforce.com’s Cloudforce conference in New York comes roughly six months after the company acquired Radian6 for $326 million. The product is broken down into five specific services that focus on social monitoring, insights, engagement, workflow and websites.
“It helps to define and legitimize this aspect of the social movement,” said Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, a Wellesley, Mass.-based IT consulting service. “I think Salesforce deserves credit in almost every step of the evolution of SaaS and the overall cloud marketplace, because what it has done is help business decision makers understand the business benefits of tools that very often have emerged from the consumer marketplace.”
According to Salesforce.com, the goal of the social marketing cloud is to take the enormous volume of conversations and turn them into worthwhile consumer interactions. That process begins with Radian6’s monitoring technology, which covers 150 million sources of social media conversations in 17 different languages. That large volume of data is analyzed through the Social Insights platform, which provides analytics and dashboards that identify relevant information. The platform is tied in with other social media analytics platforms such as Klout, OpenAmplify and OpenCalais that offer additional information on demographics and social media influence.
“I think a lot of early adopters are wondering what they’re going to do next year and how they’re going to get over to this new business model … it’s not even technology anymore, it’s a business model,” said Denis Pombriant, an analyst with Stoughton, Mass.-based Beagle Research Group. “What they’ve discovered is with Radian6 in the mix, with its ability to analyze huge amounts of data and find the needle in the haystack, they can be proactive with customers and I think that’s the big difference.”
The ability to be proactive is what will change the face of social marketing according to Pombriant, who says that previous social marketing campaigns were mostly reactive and only reached low-hanging fruit. He sees Salesforce.com’s cloud as changing social marketing into a defined process rather than a luck-of-the-draw affair.
The new product has three other services that interact with the information and analytics provided by the first two – the Social Engagement Console, Social Hub and Siteforce. The first two tools allow marketers to engage with social media users identified as potential customers by the analytics tools and Siteforce enables users to build websites geared towards customers using a drag-and-drop interface.
A press release about the social marketing cloud revealed a varied pricing structure. Deployment of Salesforce Radian6 starts at $600 a month and is available now, while Radian6 Social Hub is available on a limited release starting at $1,200 a month. The full release of Social Hub won’t happen until early 2012. Social Insights will be made fully available in December starting at $60 a month for the service with the API starting at $5,000 a year. Siteforce is also available now, with a per site pricing plan that begins at $9,900 a year.
Salesforce.com also made its AppExchange online store of SaaS applications available for smartphones and tablets, allowing users to download mobile versions of some existing applications.
The Social Marketing Cloud is here, what’s next?
The Radian6 Social Marketing Cloud will bring social marketing and analytics to a market that has yet to see a comprehensive platform dedicated to measuring performance in social media. With that will come a need for an education process according to industry experts.
“There will only be a small set of initial users who are adept at taking an advantage of a tool of this nature – but that population is going to grow rapidly,” said Kaplan, adding that course offerings in social science at the university level are a sign that the market is adjusting to a need.
Pombriant sees an education process as inevitable, but is unsure whether it would be something internally sponsored by Salesforce.com or by an external provider.
Kaplan foresees a flurry of acquisitions before the end of the year and into the beginning of next, projecting industry business intelligence leaders to snap up smaller social media analytics services. Pombriant sits on the other side of the fence, saying that many BI vendors think social media can be analyzed with what is already offered and that it’s a problem that will be fixed within a year or two.
“[BI vendors are saying we] can apply our understanding of analytics to this relatively new business problem and in two years we’ll have a solution,” Pombriant said. “I think that’s the microcosm of the gap that’s widening between Salesforce and the rest of the industry.”