Salesforce.com, Radian6 Deal Validates Social Media Monitoring - InformationWeek

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3/31/2011
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Salesforce.com, Radian6 Deal Validates Social Media Monitoring

Competitors say there is growing interest in technology that lets sales, service, and marketing professionals monitor and respond to social media comments.

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Salesforce.com's announcement Wednesday that it is acquiring social media monitoring specialist Radian6 is an endorsement of the growth and importance of the social media monitoring market, according to companies that will be competing with the new powerhouse.

Visible Technologies CEO Kelly Pennock backed this theory in a blog post the day of the Salesforce announcement and followed up Thursday with his own news of having secured an additional $6 million in funding.

Some of the initial analysis of the Radian6 deal mentioned Lithium Technologies as a competing social media monitoring company by virtue of its acquisition last year of Scout Labs. But Lithium CEO Lyle Fong said in an interview Thursday that he doesn't see Radian6 as a competitor at all.

"The interesting thing about listening platforms and social media monitoring tools is they really represent a base technology that can be used for many different purposes -- kind of like a search engine," Fong said. Because there is a lot of noise in the social software market, companies are often mentioned together because they use some of the same buzzwords even though what they offer is very different.

In the case of Lithium, the focus is really on helping companies build social communities on their own websites, like the Barnes & Noble online book club or the BeautyTalk community on Sephora.com. When Lithium acquired the Scout technology, it did so primarily so community managers could identify people who are talking about their companies or products elsewhere on the Web and either invite them into its community or encourage members of its community to reach out to participants on those other blogs or social media sites. In some cases, those feeds of commentary culled from other websites are exposed as community site widgets -- allowing members to spontaneously respond to criticisms or questions from elsewhere.

That focus on encouraging a community of customers and fans to answer each other's questions is much different from how Salesforce wants to use the Radian6 technology to allow sales, service, and marketing professionals to monitor and respond to social media comments, Fong said.

Meltwater Group is perhaps a little closer to being a direct competitor to Radian6, but CEO Jorn Lyseggen said in an interview he welcomes Salesforce's endorsement of the social monitoring market. Meltwater actually tracks both traditional media websites and social media, and earlier this month it paid $6 million for social CRM company JitterJam.

On the other hand, Meltwater is looking at applying the technology to other fields such as recruiting that Salesforce.com probably will not touch, Lyseggen said. He believes business use of social media is about where business use of the Web was in the mid-1990s when "companies sort of understood they needed have a website, have a home page, but they didn't quite know exactly what they should do with it."

As an enabling technology to help companies figure out the answer to that question, social media monitoring "will see continuous iterations and improvements over the next 5 to 10 years," Lyseggen said.

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