Salesforce to buy Twitter?

According to news reports, Salesforce is one of a number of suitors (including Google and maybe Microsoft and Verizon) interested in buying Twitter.

Twitter is definitely the social network that I spend the most time on. I use lists targeted at specific areas of technology and although they need regular maintenance to ensure they contain the correct people, they are a great way to keep up to date with the latest developments.

However, this would be something of a departure for Salesforce, which typically focuses on software for the enterprise rather than the consumer. We all know that they were one of the bidders for another social network, LinkedIn, but that seemed like a closer fit with their existing offering — providing valuable insight to a company and its staff during the sales process for example.

LinkedIn also had a relatively mature recruitment business which I could see being transformed into the Talent Cloud or similar — something Salesforce doesn’t currently have (in spite of pretty much every certified consultant building one for Universal Containers via the Force.com Fundamentals workbook!).

Twitter doesn’t have anything like this, and seems to be struggling to find a way to monetise its user base which has stuck around 320 million for a while now. It also seems unlikely that the cost of providing Radian6 access to the Twitter firehose is so expensive that its cheaper for Salesforce to buy the company outright.

My opinion, informed by nothing more than reading the press reports and thinking about what could be happening, is that this is related to Einstein and the general push Salesforce is making around artificial intelligence. There is a huge amount of data being pushed to Twitter on a daily basis. Is any of it useful for providing insights or predicting outcomes? I have no idea — I’m not a data scientist — but it seems likely that it isn’t all useless!

However, there is one area where I feel that Twitter could present a problem for Salesforce — online abuse.

Salesforce, and CEO Marc Benioff in particular, have a very good reputation around corporate social responsibility, going to bat against discriminatory laws and mobilising other CEOs to follow suit. Twitter’s reputation for dealing with abuse is very much at the other end of the scale, with even CEO Dick Costello admitting they suck at it. Far too often you’ll see users (disproportionately women) feeling they have no choice but to close their account due to the amount of abuse they receive and the perceived lack of action by Twitter.

If Twitter becomes a Salesforce brand they will have to be much more proactive around identifying and removing the keyboard warriors who engage in this type of activity, or reputational damage will ensue — the amount of effort required here should not be underestimated, nor the risks if it isn’t handled correctly.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 5 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom.

You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog