Hot New Tech Sector: Social Media Marketing
Tony is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
It is one of the hottest spaces in the technology sector right now...social media marketing. The torrid growth over the past several years of social networking services such as Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Twitter has presented companies with both new marketing opportunities and new marketing challenges.
Companies today need to keep pace with their customers, many of whom now use social media to talk about firms and their products. Companies gaining intelligence from conversations by consumers across social media will allow them ideally to create a stronger brand image, products more suited to consumer tastes and improved customer service. Since this industry is still in its early stages, even companies in the same sector such as GM and Ford, are pursuing differing social media strategies as my recent article pointed out.
Because of the rapid growth in this area, there is a hotly-contested race between software powerhouses – Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), SAP AG ADT (NYSE: SAP) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) to become a dominant player in the sector. The field is one where Facebook has generated a ton of traffic, but with no direct revenues flowing through to the bottom line. As many analysts have said, it is a “missed opportunity” for Facebook to generate additional revenues.
Facebook allows companies to market on its platforms for free. As companies look for ways to monitor and manage an increasing number of Facebook pages and fans along with other social media sites like Twitter, social media marketing firms (which did not exist not long ago) are stepping in to help companies. Facebook calls these firms “partners” and gives access to its platforms free of charge. But, in turn, these firms are charging corporations a fee for use of their software which track their performance on Facebook and other sites.
A number of these firms have been snapped up recently by the aforementioned Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com, folding these companies into their portfolio of software offerings. Some of the most recent deals include Salesforce.com's $689 million deal to acquire Buddy Media and two purchases by Oracle – Virtue for $300 million and Collective Intellect for an undisclosed sum. Last year, Salesforce.com started the feeding frenzy with its purchase of Radian6.
These deals highlight a growing macro trend technology investors should be aware of...the line between marketing and technology firms is becoming increasingly blurred and morphing into one. As Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff said recently, “The marketing industry is undergoing the biggest transformation it has seen in 60 years. Facebook has become the new corporate homepage.”
Investors should expect the trend of software firms acquiring social media intelligence companies to continue. Zach Hofer-Shall of research firm Forrester stated this week “This social technology arms race is the start of something very big to come.” He should have added that the big – Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com – will only get bigger in the field. Their profits will grow larger too unless, maybe, Facebook decides to monetize the marketing occurring on their site and start charging the software companies fees for access to their platforms.
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