CRM giant Salesforce has kept busy these past couple weeks, particularly its social analytics arm Radian6. First Salesforce announced  plans to acquire social marketing software company Buddy Media, and then last week Radian6 received access  to Twitter’s 400 million-tweets-per-day firehose. Marcel LeBrun, svp and gm of Salesforce Radian6, talked with Adweek about what the company’s been up to, how it tackles Big Data and Pinterest, naturally.
Adweek: What’s your company's vision?
Marcel LeBrun: The big thing we’re doing is: A) We see the opportunity for marketing exploding. Marketing is going through the biggest change in its history, and social is driving that. So for us it’s about expanding and building out the software infrastructure that CMOs need to help them figure out how to connect and engage with customers on social. We’re seeing CMOs really wanting to move more dollars to investments that result in engagement, not just awareness and investments that result in connections. It’s powering connections, not just getting eyeballs and getting impressions. It’s this deeper level of two-wayness to marketing campaigns, so we’re really just investing in helping CMOs achieve that, measure that and tie everything together from social-media listening through to publishing through to advertising. That’s our vision.
During the analyst call for the Buddy Media acquisition, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff discussed creating a tech stack for CMOs akin to the stack CIOs have. Can you elaborate?
CMOs’ world has historically been just a whole bunch of point-solutions. The world is just super fragmented with systems. What we’re doing is looking at where are those investments moving, where’s the future going. We think it’s going to social, and what we want to do is help CMOs have a solution that ties things together for them, so that they can in one platform invest in how to build community, how to listen, to gather insights from their customers, how to engage in two-way conversations with their customers, how to publish to their social channels, how to do social advertising and measure the effectiveness of those campaigns and how do they do ROI on all this. That’s the key. As the CMOs dial up the dollars, they want to know it’s working more than what they were doing for the last five years. That is what we call the social marketing stack, and we want to basically provide that end to end.
Everyone talks about Big Data. The marketers are glad to have the data, but they’d prefer insights from that data that they can act on. What are you doing to that end?
If you look at social, social is a big data problem. We just announced this agreement with Twitter, and here you have 400 million tweets a day coming through this one platform. So there’s just this massive amount of volume. Yes, companies care about finding customer complaints and addressing them, but there’s so much more because they can not only engage in understanding conversations around their brand but also their competitors and their industry. You can get all these real-time insights. That’s what we look to extract. We have this insights platform, which is really the largest semantically enriched data repository in the world. There’s this promise of the semantic Web, which is if the Web gets to a point where it understands more than text searching, it actually understands the meaning behind the words. If you want to understand around a given conversation what things people are expressing buying intent toward, those are really difficult problems to do in a massive data store. But if you have technology that can semantically interpret the data and say of these 400 million conversations today, there are 32 million expressions of buying intent and around these products, that’s really cool. That’s what our insight platform does.
How do you view Pinterest?
It’s kind of an emerging one. What we find that’s interesting is new social platforms go into these phases where they emerge, there’s a lot of attention on them, brands don’t know what to do yet but they want to figure it out. And then sometimes they really take off, and then sometimes they kind of become niche. Pinterest is still in that phase of figuring out where it’s going to be. We’re seeing interest from companies that sell clothing or home-building products, but it’s kind of experimental. That’s how these things go. When we started Radian6, nobody knew of Twitter. It was just blogs and forums and Facebook was for college kids. These things really develop really quickly.
Since Pinterest is so intent-focused, its data is a huge deal for marketers.
Absolutely. The thing that’s really cool is the social Web is not just a bunch of words. It’s words, and it’s social actions. The two combined tell you a lot more than just words. That’s a big part of what we look at and what social metrics are now becoming significant enough that they’re relevant or are not that widespread. Del.icio.us, for example, used to be one of the social metrics we pulled in and now it’s obviously not used as much. So that one fades, Pinterest is growing. That’s the nature of the Web. All these signals are really expanding the number of these actions, which is really cool. That multiplies the Big Data problem by 10.