In case you didn't hear, Salesforce recently launched a new social media software suite, the Marketing Cloud.
This is very big news.
The Marketing Cloud is the result of 995 million dollars in acquisition spending on Radian6 and Buddy Media, arguably the two biggest technology players in social media listening and content management, respectively. Together, they form a suite of tools anchored under a vision that believes social media should, and will, transform the way we do marketing moving forward.
In fact, here's what Michael Lazerow, CMO of Marketing Cloud, had to say about the product vision during the launch:
"Marketing is undergoing its biggest shift in decades, as brands move from traditional strategies to connecting with customers and fans globally through social media. Salesforce Marketing Cloud empowers brands to take advantage of this shift, turning insight into action and connections into customers for life."
And while these two services, and others like it, have been available to us individually for several years now, the integration into one system brings the promise of a commonly understood definition of social business.
The last five words of Michael Lazerow's quote hold extraordinary weight in what social media means to business: "Connections into customers for life."
As an industry of marketers and business owners, we've long debated the real value of social media. Is it amplified media reach? Is it a hotbed for consumer insights? Is it the best channel to engage with customers? All of the above may be true, but we've struggled to agree on a common purpose.
If Salesforce has any say in the game, the value proposition of social media becomes quite simple. If we believe that social can turn "connections into customers" we are talking in a language that every business can understand - new customers and loyal customers.
How Will Asian Markets React?
It's no secret that Asia as a region has been slow to adopt global social media tools developed in the West.
Local market service providers have factored in to this slower take-up. However, in my experience, the decision of "which tool to use" is not as critical as first deciding "whether or not to" listen and engage in social media at all.
And it's this first decision, irrespective of local or global tools, that has been the biggest challenge for Asia markets. The market lacks a clear business case for how and why investment should be made into social media.
So although the Marketing Cloud may not immediately be the preferred social media software in Asia, its mere presence of "what could be" will accelerate the social media maturity in Asia by shaking up the business model in various ways:
Implication #1: A common roadmap for social media action The service offering of the Marketing Cloud is packaged into six pillars:
Working from a common roadmap is already a huge step forward for the industry.
Implication #2: A reason to ramp up resources Sometimes, we fall into a cycle of excuses for why we can't run a good social media program. One moment, we don't have the business case to get the right people and tools we want. The next moment, we don't have the right people and tools to achieve our business case.
Marketing Cloud is a foundation for all social media programs to build upon. It ticks the boxes for what a social media tool should provide. Now we just need the people to work the machine. And as more businesses use this integrated toolset to listen, engage, and grow customer value in social media (in that order), there will be less resistance to invest in social media resources.
Over time, we can drop the label of social media investment, and simply think of it as investing in the most efficient path for customer acquisition and retention.
Implication #3: Pressure on Asian tools providers to copy the model In actuality, the Asia region may not use Marketing Cloud immediately. In all the years that Radian6 has been available, the take-up in Asia has not been widespread due to language and site coverage. So don't expect these issues to go away just because the suite of tools in Marketing Cloud is more complete.
However, like previous breakthroughs in social media before this one, Asia has been quick to copy and adapt a similar type service that works uniquely for Asia. With Marketing Cloud, we have a new model to follow.
Who will be the first to capture this opportunity in the region? Will players like CiC, JamiQ, or Brandtology expand their offerings to link to customer engagement? Or will Salesforce continue to acquire local players from Asian markets into its Marketing Cloud suite? Or will Sina Weibo develop a proprietary engagement suite exclusively for its platform?
Only time will tell how the tools scene plays out in Asia. But an interesting tools race lies ahead now that Marketing Cloud has put the stake in the ground globally. This competition is good for customers looking to up their game in social business. I'm excited to see how it all unfolds.
Cloud concept image on homepage via Shutterstock.
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As regional digital strategy director at Tribal DDB Asia Pacific, Brandon is an integral part of the development and execution of Radar, Tribal DDB's regional social media offering. He also provides digital leadership for the agency's clients. Brandon was previously (group) strategic planning director at Isobar and Carat Hong Kong, where he led digital and social media development for a range of clients, such as Chivas Regal, Swire Properties, Tiffany & Co., Nokia, and Adidas. He also developed Astro, a proprietary social media customer relationship management (CRM) system. Brandon has eight years of experience in digital marketing strategy, having worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. He loves the Internet and thinks we don't say it enough. Show him some love on Twitter: @brcheung.
March 19, 2014