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Salesforce, Tech Giants Stake Bets on Facebook

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As Facebook (FB) shares hit new all-time lows, old guard technology giants and new high flyers like Salesforce.com (CRM) are doubling down on a long-term bet that corporate advertising campaigns and tech spending will move toward social networks.

It may seem as if the market has already judged Facebook's potential earning power to be nowhere near the $38 shares price and $104 billion valuation at which the social media company went public. However, in acquiring privately held Buddy Media for $689 million in cash and stock on Monday, Salesforce.com is casting a vote of confidence in Facebook's advertising market just weeks after General Motors (GM) ditched a $10 million a year ad campaign that raised investor alarm ahead of Facebook's weaker than anticipated May IPO.

Salesforce.com -- a leader in cloud based sales platforms that has pushed the likes of Oracle (ORCL), IBM (IBM) and SAP (SAP) to retool their enterprise software divisions -- said it is cutting the Buddy Media deal because it's bracing for a time when marketing efforts on social networks will represent the lion's share of all corporate technology spending.

The Buddy Media acquisition is not the only major tech deal since Facebook's May 18 IPO. As investors and analysts question Facebook's valuation, some of the sector's most notable names are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to gain a long-term footing in the potential revenue streams to be opened by Facebook's near 1 billion user social network.

On May 23, Oracle spent $300 million to buy Virtue, a competitor of Buddy Media that offers services to manage and publish social marketing campaigns. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said that, prior to the deal, he considered buying Buddy Media. IT giants like IBM and SAP have recently defined multi-year M&A and spending targets to grow their social network-based analytics and services.

As part of a digital marketing-based turnaround effort that will also leverage traffic on social networks, Adobe (ADBE) bought Web analytics specialist Omniture for $1.8 billion in 2009, in a move that gave the publisher of Acrobat software its " crown jewel," according to a top shareholder.

In fact, the tech bellwethers' bets on social media-based spending may be Facebook's most notable vote of confidence amid a near 30% post-IPO slump and a flurry of newly-issued sell recommendations from analysts, highlighted by a $25 a share Facebook price target initiated by Bernstein on Monday.

In Monday afternoon trading, Facebook shares were off over 2% at $27.07.

Buying Buddy Media furthers Salesforce.com's "marketing cloud," which seeks to capitalize on a shift in corporate tech spending away from server-based information. The deal bolsters Saleforce.com's analytics offerings that provide companies with a way to measure the effectiveness of their spending on social media marketing campaigns.

Stock quotes in this article: CRM, FB, ORCL, ADBE, GM 

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