A Tale of Two Cities, Part II: Radian6's Coming Out...Again Party

If I look back on the emergence of the social media market (note I'm not saying Social CRM at this juncture, though we'll get back to it soon), I'd be happy to call Radian6, not the market creator, but the market maker. The popularity of social media technology aimed at serious business users (serious in terms of use it for getting business results.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor on

If I look back on the emergence of the social media market (note I'm not saying Social CRM at this juncture, though we'll get back to it soon), I'd be happy to call Radian6, not the market creator, but the market maker. The popularity of social media technology aimed at serious business users (serious in terms of use it for getting business results. Some of those same business users are VERY funny), came when they went to market with an aggressive, always enjoyable approach that also showed the value of capturing and reporting on all this raw information out there waiting to be harvested for businesses to use when it came to customer insight. Radian6 is the company that made the market interesting. As a result, there were over 200 social media companies out there by 2010.

But by 2010, Radian6 fell back into the pack a bit as far as their influence in the market went. Not that they were doing anything bad. In fact, they were still a company with a product that did the trick very well. But they didn't have the impact in the market that was as powerful as they had had in 2009, though they remained a dominant name.

Some of that was due to the fact that they were buried a bit under the sheer quantity of competitors promising the sun and more often than not delivering low wattage light bulbs to social media acolytes and to newbies at social media. Some of that was that they had a touch of market maker complaisance, which befalls all market makers at one time or another - meaning they started to coast.  While they coasted, companies like Attensity, Scout Labs (before and since they were acquired by Lithium), Visible Technologies, etc. began to climb the ladder.

But, but, but. Regardless of anything they were always committed to producing great products and finding better ways to capture present and distribute all that otherwise elusive unstructured knowledge - to their great credit. Plus, honestly, they are a young smart group and a delight to hang out with - which has some bearing on their success.

However, with all this, they began to get interested in going upmarket to the enterprise and to do that:

  1. They had to change the way they operated as a company.
  2. They had to address the technologies that the enterprises were truly interested in, several of which they didn't provide such as social analytics.
  3. They had to carry out a cultural change that they would have to undergo that would reflect "readiness" when it came to an enterprise interested in a truly big deal and when it came to customer service that an enterprise would respect - a daunting task even for highly experienced industry veterans that are entering the enterprise world for the first time. However, there is some help for that.   The advantage that Radian6 has with this acquisition is that Tien Tzuo is on their Board of Directors. Tien, currently the CEO of Zuora was the Chief Strategy Officer of salesforce for many years and knows the landscape better than anyone who is currently outside the company.  So he will help Radian6 (I presume) navigate the waters of cultural integration.

They were moving along pretty well, thank you, and, as they showed at their vibrant Social 2011 conference in Boston last week, they had the product line ready to do handle just that.  I'll address all of this in a short while.

But, then along comes salesforce.com and it up and buys them for $326,000,000 U.S.  I say U.S. dollars because Radian6 is HQed in Fredericton New Brunswick - a Canadian Maritime province.   I'm married to a Newfie - a Newfoundlander, which makes me like Radian6 even more since they are as close to social CRM as I'm ever going to get in the Maritimes.

This acquisition was actually on the radar screens of many of us about 2 months ago but when it occurred it was still explosive.  The market creator salesforce.com (for SaaS) buys the market maker (for listening platforms) and the world of SCRM turns right side up - at least when it comes to further validation of the market.

Social 2011 reflected that extraordinary and extraordinarily interesting acquisition with 650 attendees - a huge number for a first user conference - and one that spiked 25% in the 10 days after the announcement of the acquisition.

Why? Why? Why?

Shhhh. Hold up. We'll get there.  I like taking it a little slow.

  1. The energy was invigorating - the only comparable level of excitement I felt was at LINC 2010, the Lithium conference I keynoted last year and at Dreamforce 2010 last year, though having Wil.i.am around and Stevie Wonder didn't hurt that one.
  2. Radian6 has friggin' fanboys!! That's amazing for a business focused company (except for Apple, and yes, even Microsoft to some degree). There was a lot of "whoohoo" excitement in the air when the products were announced. There was a party atmosphere that actually had a real party attached to it.  I mean, they had Isiah Mustafa, the Old Spice Guy, who incidentally is a very very good guy.  (there's a campaign to get him as a  host for SNL going on via Facebook, if you're interested. I'm all in.)
  3. The interest that the conference drew from the influencer community was substantial. In fact, aside from me as a keynote,  (I was so pumped I was in a total zone), they had a substantial group of CRM and social influencers who attended including Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, Sameer Patel, Mitch Lieberman, Natalie Petouhoff, Ray Wang and Mark Tamis.  They were ably handled by Radian6 rising star Lauren Vargas who made sure that the influencers had what they needed to make their time at the conference work - and BTW, has some pretty damned substantial opinions of her own.
  4. Salesforce is taking this seriously even prior to the formal acquisition.  There were 13 salesforce.com folks chooglin' throughout the conference over its (almost) two days of nonstop activity. They were gauging their new brothers-and-sisters-in law.  Steve Gillmor who is one of the key players at salesforce.com when it comes to social media and influencer relations - and was a major writer, influencer in the IT world in his own right, was busy hanging out with us and the Radian6 crowd. Read what fellow ZDNetter Dennis Howlett said when Steve went to salesforce.com last year. He's a good one to have there and a good one to give his opinion on how this whole thing is going to work.

The Products Announced

But the meat of this thing is what the meat of any technology vendor is - the products they produce and the tools they provide.  I have to say that in the world of social software, the Radian6 announcement of its Insights Platform is to me one of their (and the industry's) smartest achievements - and certainly propels Radian6 back to the forefront of the market.  Keep in mind, I'd already seen it because I have a paid consulting relationship with them so under NDA I got to see this back in its beta days and even play with it a little (isn't that a nice smooth natural way to disclose my relationship to them, rather than a dry disclosure statement?).   I was excited then and am even more excited by what I see now.

Here's the Insights Dashboard to kick it off:

Radian6 Insights Dashboard

Radian6 Insights Dashboard

I'm excited for an explicit reason.  This gives customers the ability to take all this raw unstructured data that they chose to gather using Radian6's standard product/services and do as much as they want with it in an almost infinite way. The benefit to the Radian6 user is ultimately, if used properly, it can actually provide the kind of analysis that leads to genuine insight into customers behaviors, intent, emotions etc. Hence the name.

The product might seem simple to use with a lot of point and click functionality, but in reality it can be complex.  For example, currently they are partnered with Klout, Open Amplify, and Thomson-Reuter's Open Calais.  Each of them has a specific set of features and functions that are distinct from the other. So for example, if you wanted to get a Klout score (I won't comment on the efficacy of Klout here) and then wanted understand the intent of your engaged influencer with the high Klout score in the particular situation he or she is in, you'd use some aspect of Open Amplify to do that.

There is an opportunity here for multiple services - now 3 but 3 more coming including one I have a soft spot for, Clarabridge, in the future. But there can be hundreds - though my suspicion is that more than a few dozen would get expensive, difficult to manage, redundant and almost too granular. But the value of this approach and the dashboard to see the results (see above) is great - and will be enhanced by the integration with salesforce.com - since the ability to integrate this information into a customer record adds to the value.

This is an intelligent use of a platform. Radian6 doesn't need to build its own analytics, they can bring in any number of partners they want and provide analytics as a business service at a premium.

Of course, this segues to another topic, which is what will happen to integrations with other CRM systems, now that salesforce.com owns Radian6.  To my knowledge, several CRM and enterprise software vendors are partners and customers of Radian6 too.  I don't know what the answer is, though it would be nice if in fact the CRM integrations and partnerships with other vendors would continue. But then salesforce.com could say no or the other vendors could consider it just too risky.  We'll have to wait and see on this. I'm guessing that other vendors will consider it risky before salesforce.com says no.

Okay, now onto the one other product announcement that was significant. Yeah, only one, which means that I'm saying a couple of others weren't.  And the one isn't as significant as the Insights platform - or the Insights plug-in architecture which is probably closer to correct.

Hold your horses. You know I'm long-winded.

Okay. Its mobile Radian6.  Here's your picture.

Radian6 Mobile

Radian6 Mobile

Okay, I realize this isn't a terribly exciting photo but you go with what you got.

Okay, despite the yawn worthy nature of this image, you should note that this app is a damned slick implementation of the current Radian6 dashboard's complete functionality.  However, for now its iPhone-only, which, if you had to pick one OS to write to, would be it. At this point, however, while gaining market share in the enterprise, isn't the only one that the enterprise uses. While I"m a great believer in taking steps - this should have been released on Android and Blackberry simultaneously to make it more appealing,

Mobile in the world of social CRM is table stakes at this point- and the more appealing to an enterprise that uses either multiple platforms or has standardized on one - the better. Right now the numbers for the enterprise as far as their standard platforms go something like this according to the Aberdeen Group's Andrew Borg's November 2010 report, "Enterprise-Grade Mobile Applications: Secure Information When and Where It's Needed": the average number of mobile operating systems/platforms used by any respondent company is 2.9 - meaning more than the iPhone.

That said, I do understand development cycles - and conference releases. We have to assume getting out Insights at the expense of other mobile OSes for example, among other at the expense of functionality, was primary. At this point, its a forgivable and not horribly damaging lack. But not having it out in other operating systems soon would become egregious. Take the SugarCRM path who released SugarCRM Mobile at SugarCon 2011 on pretty much all the platforms but Windows 7 Mobile and Symbian.

There is one other thing though.

The other thing which makes this fine implementation of a social listening dashboard both interesting and a little iffy is that enterprise grade mobile social listening is something new to market - and not really at this point a prime consideration for most enterprises either.  While mobile CRM is a big ticket item and something desired greatly, mobile social listening isn't yet - so to some degree Radian6 is the pioneer and the category maker here. Here's what is being looked at in the mobile enterprise according to Frost and Sullivan's Jeanine Sterling's "Premium Mobile Enterprise Applications:What's Working in North America?" in August 2010.

Mobile Enterprise 2010 Chart (source: Frost & Sullivan)

Mobile Enterprise 2010 Chart (source: Frost & Sullivan)

Note that there really isn't much call for deployment of social listening. The bulk of the deployment plans for mobile are CRM related though by no means the only ones.

We are dealing with a nascent market that Radian6 is now in front of. What will be interesting is when the mobile Radian6 is integrated with salesforce's mobile Sales Cloud and Service Cloud applications.  That could be powerful, but I suspect that is a ways off too.

Social 2011: The Conference

As always, I want to take a brief look at the conference itself, because user conferences are important nodal points in the life of and messaging for a company. They can make or break the perception of the company for a year to come. Influencers tend to gather at the events and they meet with senior executives,  they get a feel for the crowd, they demo the products at the depth that helps them develop their thinking; they listen to the messaging closely to see how it aligns with the actual company activity. Customers come to see the new products, to meet the reps that they had never seen but talked to; to meet the influencers so they can get a third party opinion of their provider of choice and of course, to network with the other customers; the staff come to take care of all of this, and to find a little needed time to party when they can. In fact all of the different groups are there to party, too.

For a first conference, this one was highly successful. There were 650 attendees including customers, staff and influencers which means about 350-400 non staff/influencers, I would guess. What made its success was the quality of much of the content though there were glitches for example, when one presenter who otherwise gave a competent presentation said "Social media is a catalyst for human freedom!" in a burst of misplaced enthusiasm. I can go into a million reasons why it isn't and that kind of overstatement is damaging but I won't. Suffice to say, like any other tool and channel, it enables communications. But it NEVER drives human freedom.  - that's done by actual humans with something profound to do for profound reasons. Social media is important but its not profound.

My rant aside, this was a real success. There are always things to do better, but think about something. This was pulled off by CMO David Alston and his crew, and Director of Communities Lauren Vargas and her crew, while CEO Marcel LeBrun (a great person by the way who I am very happy for) was hunkering down over the salesforce acquisition.  Not easy, but the ambiance, the vibe was really good, the logistics handled well for the most part and the outcome excellent.

To close out this tome, I'm going to give you the embedded version of my keynote at Social 2011. Listen if you want. I was in a good mood.

See ya.

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