This morning, Salesforce.com announced its intent to acquire social media monitoring company Radian6, a market leader in the social analytics space, for $276 million. Radian6 boasts half the Fortune 100 as customers, including AAA, Dell, GE, Kodak, Molson Coors, Pepsico, and UPS. Last month Salesforce.com announced Radian6 for Salesforce, a module that enabled Salesforce.com users to monitor and engage in social media without leaving the Salesforce.com interface.

Radian6 provides social media monitoring tools that go beyond just listing mentions of a keyword in social media. It provides detailed dashboards and basic sentiment analysis to give companies a more in-depth view of  how their brand is being discussed in the social media ecosystem. According to Constellation Research principal analyst and CEO R "Ray" Wang, "Most customers utilize Radian6 for brand management and monitoring, sales and lead generation, Social CRM, customer service, competitive intelligence, trend analysis, and crisis management." Salesforce.com already had some basic social monitoring and analytics features but the Radian6 tools will greatly enhance its abilities.

But are businesses ready to handle all the social data that can be mined from the net?

Radian6 is great for mining lots of data, and providing it in real-time. But what exactly do you do with it once you have it? The company is working hard towards providing actionable insights, but the matter of dealing with the onslaught of social data remains.

In the comments of our post about Dennis Howlett's interview with Paul Greenberg and Estaban Kolsky, Kelly Craft wrote: "We do already have some of the right monitoring tools to collect the data, but we simply don't have the right people yet to provide proper analysis." Update: Craft was quoting Kolsky, see comment below.

That's something Greenberg himself hit on when covering Radian6 for his 2011 CRM Watchlist: "They understand that the ability to capture and organize (note I didn't say analyze) all this unstructured data is useless unless the formats that are provided are both readable and provided in a way that makes the information meaningful."

Sameer Patel of the Sovos Group disagrees. He says the elephant in the room is lead generation, and few vendors and pundits want to address the issue. "The honest fact is that in most cases, raw social media data is far too unruly for a Sales rep to bother with," Patel says. "They would rather make another cold call instead of perusing thousands of tweets."

"The devil is in the design details, but what Radian6 can potentially offer is filtered, timely and contextualized social media insight to complement customer information and conversations already available inside the CRM application, Chatter and Jigsaw. And more importantly, at appropriate phases of the sales cycle." he says.

Update: Patel asked that we include the rest of the comment on the news:

All that said, with the addition of this new data source, the content tsumani aimed at the end user just reached dangerously high levels. There's little doubt that significant software design considerations and change management will be required to make this all come together in a meaningful way to get uptake and ultimately accelerate sales and marketing performance.

The need for employees that can understand and apply the data coming in from social monitoring tools has never been greater, and as social analytics companies get snapped up, expect to see the need continue to grow. Companies shouldn't expect that purchasing a social analytics product is equivalent to having a social strategy.

Here's how Salesforce.com plans to further integrate Radian6 into its platform:

  • Sales and Service Cloud: Social media monitoring and engagement has emerged as the requirement for any brand and customer engagement strategy, helping companies join conversations about their brands and stay connected to their customers and prospects. By combining Radian6's social media monitoring and engagement platform with Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, companies will be able to keep customer success at the center of their business with real-time social intelligence.
  • Salesforce Chatter: Radian6 and salesforce.com will create the bridge between public social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and online communities, and Salesforce Chatter, the private, secure social network for the enterprise. Chatter feeds will no longer just contain the activity happening within the walls of a company, but will be filled with real time insights from fans on Facebook pages, followers on Twitter, comments on blog posts and more.
  • Force.com Platform: Developers will be able to build apps that tap into the power of Radian6, putting the social web into everything they build. In such a dynamic market, this acquisition will present a huge opportunity for salesforce.com to extend its developer and partner ecosystem with technology not available anywhere else.

Also of note is Salesforce.com's internal use of social analytics. At the GigaOM  Net:Work conference last December Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said that employees receive bonuses based on their participation in the company's internal Chatter deployment. Integrating Radian6's advanced analytics into Chatter could be interesting.