SalesForce bought Radian6. Then Oracle bought Vitrue. Then SalesForce bought Buddy Media. The rise of the Social Suite is undeniable. And it's changing the game. But how big? And how fast?
The Need For Social Suites
Social never lived in a vacuum. We've long known that a rising tide lifts all boats and that social strength was the result of actions within and beyond social. Our customers live cross platform lives. But we were never able to connect all of ours dots. We always tried to, but were never able to track one-on-one or aggregate customer engagement across ads, conversations, communities, support, loyalty, CRM etc. Building the needed bridges across these solutions require too much work and too much manual duct tape, only to create a frustratingly limited and fickle output.
A unified platform offers incredible promise for consumer engagement and far better metrics.
About one year ago I was at a social industry event where someone shared a fantastic story. They believed that their engagement with the brand's social customer service arm on Twitter resulted in their getting upgrades across the brand's many offerings. The brand in question was my client. We tried to set up a system that would have this capability. We found that there was no good way to bridge their social engagement system with their dated customer service system, and both of these solutions were incompatible with their multiple CRM systems powering their loyalty database.
The new SalesForce just may have all the right pieces in place to power this fantastical social user experience. If that is, my client had been willing to invest heavily in migrating all of the above mentioned systems over to SalesForce.com or a compatible database.
The Challenges of Unification
The rise of the integrated Social Suite is going to pose multiple political and logistical challenges for agencies and social teams who are used to sitting in the driver's seat. Social teams have long been able to choose their page management, social listening and conversational engagement solutions based on their own needs and tastes. Many large brands continue to switch solutions providers every 18 months or so, and most are using more than one solutions provider at a time. Most CRM teams have been working on their existing infrastructure and solutions for decades. Migrating all of this data and merging all of these workstreams onto a single solution will not be cheap or easy.
Getting a Social Suite to work for you will require finesse, investment and at times compromise. Marketers who want the benefit of a unified system are going to need to be ready to clear their internal and partner/agency hurdles in order to get everyone on the same page.
The potential benefits to a Social Suite are clear. It is less clear however, if the potential benefits will be enough to entice big players to migrate away from their entrenched solution.
- Social Suites will take time to build and develop. Version 1 of these integrations will not be as robust or as meaningful as version 4. Early adopters will want to play in the sandbox, but most of the market will take a more phased or wait and see approach.
- Social Business consultancies are going to try to leverage these suites as a foot in the door on broader agency business, and agencies are going to start taking Social Business as a concept more seriously.
- A limited integration will be found to be better than no integration at all. There will still be value in a Social Suite even if the entire organization does not get on-board. SalesForce has a very low cost of entry and there is value in integrating all social customer relationships, even if this system is not being scaled up to the broader organization.
Today's news is great news for all my friends over at Buddy Media, Radian 6 and SalesForce and I wish them well. This was a brilliant move for SalesForce, and I look forward to seeing the many fruits of this integration. While agencies and consultants are going to revel in the hype, change takes longer than talk. The change will come, but it's not going to be as fast or as awesome as many in the "industry" would like to have you believe.