By Luke Brynley-Jones, Social Media Consultant, Our Social Times

The announcement that CRM provider Salesforce.com is acquiring Radian6, the market leader in world of social media monitoring (used by over 50% of Fortune 100 companies) is pretty dramatic in the social CRM industry. But what does it mean for the rest of us?

While the world has tumbled into and through recession, the social media monitoring industry has been booming over the past 2 years. Radian6 has been leading the pack in enabling businesses to monitor and engage with customers via social media, but strong players like Sysomos (another Canadian company, recently acquired by Marketwire), Synthesio (based in France), Brandwatch (a UK company that just secured investment), plus the old guard like Visible Technologies, Crimson Hexagon and new players like Ubervu and ViralHeat have made this one of the most innovative and exciting new industries.

Yet monitoring is only one stage in the customer engagement cycle. In social media marketing we often talk about the need first to listen (i.e. monitor social media), then to engage, and finally to connect. Some monitoring solutions, such as Radian6, have started to offer engagement features – to manage and reply to online mentions – but this has been better achieved by the equally vibrant dashboard market, with players such as Hootsuite the market leader), CoTweet (for team collaboration) and MarketMeSuite (much more marketing-focused). But engagement is about as far as the social media marketing industry goes today. What comes next is building a relationship.

This is where we leave marketing and move into what has traditionally been called customer relationship management (CRM). Here we have a large and thriving industry with solutions from giants like SAS, Oracle and more recently Salesforce.com, that has been focused on how to manage customer data and relationships within our companies: in other words, more internal than external communications.

Since this is the more established market with billion dollar players a-plenty, it was somewhat inevitable that these giants would start to snap up the larger and more profitable monitoring companies. While CRM companies have been good at producing robust tech solutions, it makes sense to “socialise” their solutions through the acquisition of social media solutions (and teams) rather than try and build newly open solutions from the ground up. As you can see from my diagram above, the Salesforce.com/Radian6 connection is an almost perfect match.

So what does this mean for businesses? Well, as we move towards an end-to-end customer engagement process that includes monitoring, engagement dashboards and CRM, I think the next changes are likely to be within companies. Most companies aren’t currently structured in way that makes managing customer relationships (not data) cross-departmentally workable. As Brian Solis pointed out in his recent visit to London, the “socialisation” of businesses is only just beginning and – to be successful – it’s going to require the whole organisation to understand what customer engagement, as defined by our recent experiences in social media, truly means (read: Does Social CRM really exist?)

Luke Brynley-Jones runs Our Social Times, a social media marketing consultancy and events company. He’s hosting Social CRM 2011 in London on 6th May. FreshBusinessThinking readers can get 10% off using the discount code: FBT10

Watch the video below featuring Michael Crampsey, CRM Product Specialist at Sage discussing using CRM effectively and building customer relationships