Salesforce Takes Social Marketing Into the Cloud

Combines all-in-one platform with CRM

When Salesforce acquired social marketing software company Buddy Media in June for $689 million, the CRM giant’s execs said the resulting Salesforce Marketing Cloud—merging Buddy and Salesforce-owned social analytics firm Radian6—would result in the company’s fourth billion-dollar business. At Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference today, the company’s chairman and CEO Marc Benioff will provide attendees with a peek at what that business looks like.

While the Buddy Media acquisition only closed in mid-August, Buddy Media’s and Radian6’s technologies have already been integrated to the point of launching a unified social marketing suite.

At first glance, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud is the product most envisioned when the Buddy Media deal was announced. Marketers can use Radian6’s social listening tools to gauge what their customers are interested in and then use Buddy Media’s offerings to act on those insights. That’s something brands have been able to cobble together by working with multiple social marketing and analytics firms, but to get the insights to translate into actions, the marketers have either had to hope the companies’ technologies could talk to each other or figure out their own workaround to make that happen. Neither solution has satiated marketers who want one set of data in one view, said Salesforce Marketing Cloud svp and gm Marcel LeBrun, who formerly ran Radian6. “The market has been asking to bring both of these things together,” he said.

The Salesforce Marketing Cloud keys in on six areas that meld Buddy’s and Radian6’s strengths: social listening, social content, social engagement, social advertising, social workflow and automation and social measurement. Most of those six are pretty self-explanatory. Through Salesforce Marketing Cloud, marketers can see what their customers are interested in or saying about them, create social posts or apps that apply those insights and buy ads when they want to extend the reach of that content, particularly after tracking positive ROI.

Standard as that sounds for an all-in-one social marketing platform, Salesforce does have some differentiators. For starters, Radian6 has access to Twitter’s firehose. On top of that, Buddy Media is pretty tight with the social platforms it builds on. Case in point, last week news broke that Facebook was ending its Reach Generator product in favor of Promoted Posts, but not all Facebook ad partners had access to build the latter tool into their platform; Salesforce Marketing Cloud did and has done so. And through Salesforce Radian6 Insights, Marketing Cloud customers can sift in-depth analytics like sentiment and intent through the tool’s eight analytics partners.

But Salesforce Marketing Cloud doesn’t only look to connect marketers with its customers. The platform has borrowed from Salesforce’e enterprise collaboration tool Chatter to embed a Facebook News Feed-like stream on its home page. LeBrun said Chatter is “at the heart of the Marketing Cloud.” The aim is to break bureaucracy. A brand’s marketing team will be able to interact with each other within the stream, but also see how its social campaigns and applications are performing. The Chatter integration brings even more specific use cases. For example, an auto brand’s social media manager could come across a customer’s Tumblr post saying how much they love their car. The social media manager might want to share that post to the brand’s Facebook page and buy ads against it, but need permission from a higher-up to do so. The manager could put the post in the approval queue, and the higher-up would see the request in his or her feed.

While social is the focal point—for now at least—of the $5,000-a-month Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a major selling point is its integration with Salesforce’s CRM platform. Following the still-spreading philosophy that social isn’t a silo but a thread that connects all marketing channels, customers of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud can receive a message from their own customers on Twitter and find that person within the marketer’s customer database stored with Salesforce for what former Buddy Media CEO and now Salesforce Marketing Cloud cmo Michael Lazerow calls a “360-degree view of the customer.” That database is further refined the more a customer interacts with a brand as more data is appended, he said.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud isn’t the only all-in-one social marketing platform to hit the market recently. Two weeks ago Adobe rolled out the fruit of its Efficient Frontier acquisition with Adobe Social. But Salesforce and Adobe will hardly be the only marketing software companies to have launched such products by year’s end. Next month Salesforce competitor Oracle will hold its annual conference, a ripe time to unveil the fruits of its several social acquisitions. And while Google has yet to close its acquisition of Buddy competitor Wildfire, the company has already said the social marketing firm will anchor the social side of its end-to-end DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform.