Watching Elon Musk and others attempt to buy Twitter got me thinking about the time Salesforce wanted to purchase the social media platform.

Back in 2016, around the time of Salesforce’s Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco, rumors ran rampant that the company was ready to spend $20 billion to purchase Twitter. It would eventually back off when investors balked.

Salesforce was a much smaller company back then, and the deal would have been a huge stretch. Perhaps the company’s interest stemmed from the fact that Microsoft had recently bought LinkedIn for $26 billion, and Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff wanted to add a social component to his cloud CRM company.

Other companies were rumored to be interested back then, including Microsoft, Google, and Verizon (TechCrunch’s owner at the time). But Salesforce emerged from the pack as the most interested buyer.

Why Twitter? The idea was to combine the social component of Twitter with sales and service on the Salesforce platform. But it was not to be, which the company made official on October 14, 2016, when Benioff told the Financial Times that it wasn’t the right fit.

In hindsight, it was probably better for Salesforce to pass, as the vendor was busy enough. Holger Mueller, analyst at Constellation Research

Salesforce would eventually buy Mulesoft in 2018 for $6.5 billion and Tableau for $15.7 billion in 2019, two deals that were worth almost as much and were, arguably, a much better fit for the CRM giant than Twitter would have been.

Twitter thus remained an independent platform and there was little known M&A interest in it until recently.

But what if history went a bit differently and Salesforce acquired the company? We spoke to some analysts who cover the CRM industry to get their thoughts.

Maintaining focus

To start with, Salesforce investors didn’t like the idea, and Benioff had to acquiesce eventually. Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, said investors were straight up against the deal.

“I think at the time it was hard to justify the price tag, but I’ve always thought the right buyer could’ve done something significant with Twitter,” he said. “If Salesforce had pulled the trigger, it would’ve been interesting to see what that combination could’ve done, especially now with Salesforce+ (the company’s media arm) being in the mix.”

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