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Why Would Salesforce Want to Buy Twitter? Your Data

The world’s most powerful sales company combined with Twitter’s endless stream of thoughts could produce valuable insights.

by Ben Sullivan
Oct 5 2016, 5:13pm

Image: Shutterstock

For those unaware that Twitter is thinking about selling itself—it has to. The 10-year-old micro blogging pioneer is at a dead end, both financially and growth wise. If you are aware, then you'll know that a company called Salesforce is widely-rumored to be buying it. Why? Salesforce needs more data. It wants your data.

"Data is the currency in software's new world order," said Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff in a recent interview cited by the Wall Street Journal. While he wasn't explicitly talking about Twitter, he did go on to admit that he is actively looking for companies to buy that are "data-rich", so Salesforce can make them, and itself, more powerful.

Salesforce—to make this explanation as digestible as possible—essentially sells sales software called CRM (customer relationship management). The sales folks in the organisation you work for almost definitely use Salesforce tools to help manage their leads, find new customers, and generally interact with colleagues and other companies. It was founded in 1999 by Marc Benioff, and is considered to be one of the largest cloud software companies in the world, with a current market cap of almost $50 billion. And with an increasing interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Salesforce is desperately scrambling to stay relevant with its peers in Microsoft, Google, Amazon Web Services, and Oracle, to name a few. It's looking ahead to sink its smart claws into something, and that something is your data.

An expansion with Twitter, and the user data that comes with that, will open a goldmine for Salesforce

While other rumored suitors for an acquisition of Twitter, such as Google, may make more sense to the those uninitiated with the world of business technology, it's actually Salesforce that makes more sense if you look at its lack of available data. Unlike Google and its billions of users, Salesforce only has its own business products to tap for that data right now. An expansion with Twitter, and the user data that comes with that, will open a goldmine for Salesforce.

It's not about what Twitter or Salesforce are right now; it's what they both could be. Twitter is settling in at just over 300 million monthly active users. That's a substantial pool of juicy user data Salesforce could get its hands on.

A purchase allows Salesforce to infiltrate a global consumer brand and all of its associated ad revenue and e-commerce. Business-wise, Salesforce would be able to dramatically boost its core offerings. If Twitter is useful for business-oriented users as it stands now, Twitter under Salesforce would be Twitter on steroids.

As for users like me and you? It's difficult to predict what could change. Motherboard reached out Salesforce for comment on the matter, but was told that Salesforce doesn't comment on rumor or speculation. A few analysts we tried to talk to also didn't want to have their name on paper when it came to speculation.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Image: Thomas Cloer/Flickr

It may mean nothing at all, and that Twitter would carry on looking the same. But it's what would be happening behind the scenes that would be different. Salesforce would likely be running a full scale operation in harvesting meaningful data from every user to power its machine learning tools. This would include location data, what you like to eat, who you're friends with, where you work, and what you do at work.

Salesforce already tried this move, and failed, just a few months ago. The company lost out to Microsoft in a bidding war for LinkedIn, and Benioff was pissed. So pissed in fact, he's now trying to block the Microsoft/LinkedIn deal from closing because he claims when Microsoft rolls in LinkedIn data to its Dynamics software, Microsoft will have an unfair advantage. This is confusing because that's the whole reason Microsoft bought LinkedIn, and it's exactly what Salesforce would do with data anyway.

But the loss of LinkedIn has made Benioff even hungrier, and Salesforce could well come up trumps with a Twitter acquisition. No longer just an IT brand, Salesforce would be propelled into the mainstream and, just like Facebook or Google, know exactly what you're up to, where you are, and why you're doing something.

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