's Radian6 Buy Underscores Social Media Monitoring Trend agreed to acquire Radian6, the kingfish of social media monitoring software makers, last month for $326 million. Rivals and analysts discuss consolidation in the space.

For those questioning's $326 million purchase bid for social media monitor Radian6 last month, stop and consider the accelerated market landscape.

The enterprise social software market has evolved to the point where niche markets within the sector, which Gartner said could hit $769 million this year, are seeing consolidation.

There are several companies like Radian6 specializing in the niche of social media monitoring and analytics software. These widgets and reporting tools help social software providers get a good grip on the pulse of what consumers, partners and competitors are saying about their product, service or brand on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.

Such information is important to influence how marketers shape their brands in an age where the real-time status update has become a chief medium used by consumers to describe their experiences with companies. Naturally, this provides great value to social software providers such as, which enables salespeople to make connections and drive leads.

Altimeter Group analyst Susan Etlinger said the capability to integrate social data and insight into enterprise applications will shift this year from a differentiator to a requirement for social analytics providers.

That's why agreed to buy Radian6 March 30. It's also why Jive Software picked up Filtrbox, Lithium Technologies acquired Scout Labs, Attensity bought Biz360 and MarketWire grabbed Sysomos last year. Chief Marketing Officer Kendall Collins told eWEEK that social has become table stakes for CRM deals, and if "you don't have a social strategy, you're dead in these CRM deals."

That's why fashioned its Chatter social collaboration application, which has 80,000 customers using it to collaborate on sales leads and other projects.

Chatter already connected with Facebook and Twitter, but Radian6 will help Chatter customers draw a bead on their market perception across LinkedIn, YouTube and thousands of blogs, photo and video-sharing sites. It also helped that Radian6 was standardized on Java and Dell servers, both of which also leverage for its swath of software.

"Radian6's technology is by far and away the best," Collins said, noting that is why the company has racked up 2,400 business-to-consumer customers. "You are either going to build or buy, and to build something the quality of Radian6 would have take multiple years to get something that's not even close."

Lithium Technologies CEO Lyle Fong told eWEEK that's purchase of Radian6 points to the emerging importance of social customers in brands' overall customer relationship strategies.

"These are tools that are like search engines. They go out and scour the entire Web to try to find any mentions of a brand and try to provide analytics around it," said Fong. "It's one small piece of it, and everyone has a different take. Companies are buying them and using them in different ways, so it's become more differentiated."