The Stack: The Fifteen (now Sixteen) Classes of the Social Business Software Suite (Q4, 2010)

Update Nov 5: I’ve created a framework based off the following data, and have a full presentation available. Click here to see the full Social Business Stack for 2011, which now supersedes this blog post.

Background: From Three Software Classes to Fifteen (Sixteen) in 4 Years
From When I first started as an industry analyst about covering this space there were really only three classes of companies: Social networks like Facebook, community platforms, and existing BBS and Blogging software companies. Fast forward a few years, this space has grown tremendously with an influx of new types of software vendors as well as specialization from a growing market.

[The social software space has ballooned into a disparate set of technologies, data types, and over 1000 vendors confusing buyers. Despite the explosion of innovation, expect a ‘Social Business Suite’ to appear that consolidate many of these features for enterprise buyers]

Categorization is crucial in managing this rapidly evolving space
It’s very difficult to completely segment this space as many of the vendors cross into multiple categories so I’ve separated it into major function groups.  If you’re completely new to this space, I’ve created this easy to understand slideshare comparing this ecosystem to a marine ecosystem. Here’s my take on how I see the categories taking shape within the Social Business Software Suite, while there’s 15 now, I know this will only grow over time.

Update: Added the social commerce platforms as a category under platforms


The Stack: The Social Business Software Suite
Category Name, Short Description, Frequently Heard Vendor Names

Listening and Learning (2):

  • Brand monitoring: These listening and learning tools provide data to brands by filtering data via scraping and APIs then sorting by keywords.  Frequently mentioned vendors include Radian6, Alterian, ScoutLabs, Visible Technologies, Cymfony, there are over 145 known vendors.
  • Social Analytics and Social Insights: Beyond just monitoring these vendors offer insight to what the data actually means by trying to identify influence patterns, conversion rates, and thereby making pragmatic recommendations on what brands should do:  Frequently mentioned vendors includes Crimson Hexagon, Crowd Factory.  This space is quickly going to become crowded as existing Business Intelligence software vendors move in like SAS, Oracle, Sap, Qlikview.  See how I segment these vendors into specific sub classes.

Social Platforms (7):

  • Social Networks (organic): There’s a large group of social networks all across the globe but Facebook continues to take dominance in adoption.  Yet don’t discount other systems, as when you look closely, Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL are also social networks, and will continue to innovate as well as aggregate.
  • Community Platforms (private or white label): Having tracked  this space for a few years now, and these tools allow companies to have their own ‘branded’ or ‘private label’ Facebook for their customers.  Often used for customer facing, it’s also extended to partners as well as employees. You’ll find vendors that straddle this as well as the Collaboration Platforms as the component features are easy to interchange.  Commonly heard vendors are Awareness, Mzinga, Jive, Telligent, Ingage Networks, Kickapps, Pluck, Lithium, Liveworld, and to some degree,  recent counts have placed this space at 125 vendors, it’s a commodity and most have evolved past offering these features only.
  • Collaboration Platforms: Primarily for internal use within a company, these vendors are quickly extending to also involve partners they allow for teams to work together regardless of distance, time, or organizational models.  Frequently mentioned vendors include Sharepoint, Jive, Telligent, Atlassian, SocialText, PBWorks, and recent entrant BroadVision’s Clearvale.   Furthermore, a subset of vendors has emerged dubbed “Insight community vendors” that allow brands to build communities and derive intelligence and reporting from their reactions and behaviors.
  • Enterprise Microblogging Platforms: A subset of collaboration technologies these features allow employees to quickly connect to each other with micromedia much how Twitter first formed.  Commonly mentioned vendors include SocialCast, Yammer, Gist SocialText, Chatter. Although I started a list, my partner Marcia Conner specializes in this space, and has an upcoming research report on this topic, follow her on Twitter to learn more.
  • Blogging Platforms: While a common feature in community platforms the dominant platforms include WordPress, SixApart, Squarespace and a variety offered at other companies like Google’s Blogspot.
  • Innovation Platforms: Often a feature of the above platforms these tools allow companies to collaborate with customers to build better products.  Early entrants includes Salesforce Ideas, UserVoice and open source Pligg.
  • Social Commerce Platforms:  A late entry, but these vendors provide social promotions, social recommendations, group deals, loyalty programs, social badging, gaming, and the reporting and intelligence behind it.

Aggregation and Integration (3):

  • Social Inbox Aggregation: Tightly related to Microblogging tools, these technologies aggregate an individuals social streams from a a variety of sources via social connections into a single page. Much how Facebook offers this on the newsfeed we’re seeing similar features from vendors like Chatter, SocialText, Gist.  Often these features are integrated into Microblogging tools or Collaboration platforms.  There are a handful of vendors in this space, plus countless features embedded in other platforms.
  • Identity Brokers: Integration of social networks and corporate websites are already starting to happen.  As a result, brands are stymied by the complex ever-changing set of social logins, profiles, graphs, and APIs to manage.  A new class of identity brokers are much like a router and make connecting simple for brands.  The most common vendors include Gigya and Janrain.
  • Aggregation and Curation Solutions: Curation and aggregation are the next set of technologies to emerge as social networks and websites start to integrate.  This efficient solution aggregates the discussions about a particular topic back to a single webpage, bringing relevance back to the corporate site.  On my blog, I’m using tools like Disqus, and at work we’re experimenting with Echo.

Publication, Sharing, Connection Technology (3):

  • Applications in Social Networks: There are over one million of existing applications within Facebook alone, and other social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter continue to allow third parties to develop.  This disparate landscape represents a few solid hits and thousands of long tail apps that will never get used more than a few times.
  • Social Media Management Systems. This recent entrant spurred out of the need for individuals to manage their multiple disparate identities and information from a variety of social networks.  For example, a single individual may have accounts on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, YouTube, etc.  Now, as brands have moved into this space, each sub product or region may have separate iterations of their identity making management a nightmare.   Commonly mentioned vendors includes CoTweet, HootSuite, Sprinklr, Objective Marketer, Expion or SpredFast.  Expect rapid acquisition of this product set if they can’t evolve beyond simple features into a suite.  There are 19 social media management system vendors in this space.
  • Sharing Tools: These dead basic technologies allow an individual to share content they find interesting to their social networks.  Not much more than a feature, these have spread into a variety of other systems (mainly community platforms or email vendors) or we’ve seen acquisitions.  Commonly mentioned vendors are Sharethis and Addthis.

Infrastructure/Core Functionality (1):

  • Social CRM: This set of technologies and strategy enables companies to use a variety of the above technologies to predict and anticipate customers by aggregating content.  Many vendors have SCRM claims, yet we’ve yet to see a single vendor that spans the gaps across all the use cases.  Read the Social CRM report to learn more. Update: I changed this category to “Core Functionality” at the suggestion of Ray Wang, my partner on the research report.

The Future: Expect Consolidation Into a Social Business Suite
It’s been an incredible ride to watch this space grow, and I know that we’re still very early in this nascent industry as we’ve not seen a clear dominant platform in this space.  Yet as we advance towards maturity, here’s what we should expect to see:

  • In a sea of choices, buyers will demand consolidation. Even among the fifteen classes that I’ve segmented out, there are sometimes over a hundred vendors in each of these classes. As the choices increase buyers will continue to demand a ‘do it all’ system that offers more than one system. As a result, we’re already seeing a land grab by some of these vendors to build a single system.
  • Vendors torn between building, partnering and being acquired. If you’re a vendor that’s attempting to offer multiple offerings, you’re on the right track. Any vendor that’s only focused on one of these is unlikely to survive the long haul as the buyers who I’m speaking to are frustrated with the massive amount of choices.
  • Slower incumbents will use a war chest to buy innovation –few will innovate. Expect incumbant enterprise software vendors to head towards the acquisition approach, and then glue these together. Secondly, we’re seeing some vendors like Jive, Lithium, Exact Target, make some key buys (Filtrbox, ScoutLabs, CoTweet, respectively) in order to expand to a suite of services.

In my upcoming report on the social strategist role in enterprise (you can find out how to get a copy here) I’m asking specific demand and buy side questions from the buyers. More data to be revealed shortly.

Disclosure: I work with many of these vendors, yet unlike most analyst firms, we do our best to disclose, as a result, we hope you trust us more. Thanks to Doug Camplejohn for letting me know about an inaccuracy I had with one of the vendor acquisitions, Exact Target acquired CoTweet.

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  • Hi Jeremy great list!

    Do you think more and more Q & A sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers will grow and also be incorporated within white label platforms?

  • bijoor

    Thanks for the overview… looking forward to the upcoming report!

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  • >>
    “Collaboration Platforms … Frequently mentioned vendors include:”
    <<
    Lotus Notes is not even mentioned however 145 million licenses sold to date.

  • “Collaboration Platforms … Frequently mentioned vendors include:” Lotus Notes is not even mentioned however 145 million licenses sold to date.

  • Great list Jeremiah … nice categorization and compilation! Quite handy actually & am all the more grateful for you guys' penchant for open reports. 🙂

    I am aware that there are far too many options available and you are busy as a beaver. 🙂 The innovation category seems bleak though. Spigit is missing there & while Pligg seems just another community platform. New entrant Drupal Commons from Acquia & Elgg are missing in the community platform list. They both have great technical advantages. You might want to dig into their clientèle & business worthiness. At least Acquia is worth a look. Frank Cseh has mentioned about Lotus Connections (licenses sold is different from licenses in use, so I wouldn't rely on that number alone).

    Also, where would you place offerings like Sociotoco or mypeoplemaps in this space? One is a sort of MDM for social profiles & the other is a visual connections graph / route map to reach a person or organization. (I would love to have sociotoco's range and APIs & mypeoplemaps' graphing & routing logic integrated with a CRM for B2Bs primarily, but B2C could benefit too).

  • Great list Jeremiah … nice categorization and compilation! Quite handy actually & am all the more grateful for you guys' penchant for open reports. 🙂

    I am aware that there are far too many options available and you are busy as a beaver. 🙂 The innovation category seems bleak though. Spigit is missing there & while Pligg seems just another community platform. New entrant Drupal Commons from Acquia & Elgg are missing in the community platform list. They both have great technical advantages. You might want to dig into their clientèle & business worthiness. At least Acquia is worth a look. Frank Cseh has mentioned about Lotus Connections (licenses sold is different from licenses in use, so I wouldn't rely on that number alone).

    Also, where would you place offerings like Sociotoco or mypeoplemaps in this space? One is a sort of MDM for social profiles & the other is a visual connections graph / route map to reach a person or organization. (I would love to have sociotoco's range and APIs & mypeoplemaps' graphing & routing logic integrated with a CRM for B2Bs primarily, but B2C could benefit too).

  • Quite interesting & insigtful Melanie! This is an area am beginning to explore & have created my initial notes on the aspects of learning socially (including the pedagogy, Social Learning Theory) here: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B-rVTC0L-DjNZDBiMThjNGYtNWM2OC00NmM5LWEwOGYtOTY1ZmMzMzMwNTUz&hl=en

    Your pointers above would be very valuable for me while considering the various options either available out of box or to consider while assessing their reconfigurability.

    Have you considered Moodle &/or Mahara? They are good for building a community aroudn the learning object. I haven’t looked at them in last years though (as a tech consultant, not analyst). Also, can you use open source community platforms like Elgg, Open Atrium or Drupal Commons whereby learning happens in a social way?

    Thanks a lot. 🙂

    Regards,
    Prem

    Thinker, Tinkerer, Connector
    http://j.mp/prem_k | http://twitter.com/prem_k

  • Quite interesting & insigtful Melanie! This is an area am beginning to explore & have created my initial notes on the aspects of learning socially (including the pedagogy, Social Learning Theory) here: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B-rVTC0L-DjNZDBiMThjNGYtNWM2OC00NmM5LWEwOGYtOTY1ZmMzMzMwNTUz&hl=en

    Your pointers above would be very valuable for me while considering the various options either available out of box or to consider while assessing their reconfigurability.

    Have you considered Moodle &/or Mahara? They are good for building a community aroudn the learning object. I haven’t looked at them in last years though (as a tech consultant, not analyst). Also, can you use open source community platforms like Elgg, Open Atrium or Drupal Commons whereby learning happens in a social way?

    Thanks a lot. 🙂

    Regards,
    Prem

    Thinker, Tinkerer, Connector
    http://j.mp/prem_k | http://twitter.com/prem_k

  • Good points Prem, I need to look deeper into that space. I've not looked at all those folks in depth. The interesting thing tho is that clients are *not* asking me to look there, as the 'innovation' task is the most difficult one, most brands are not ready for it.

  • Thanks Frank, I'm sure there will be many of the 125 that are worthy to be included. Regardless of their fantastic adoption, they are *not* on the lips of strategists that I speak to.

  • Those sites (also LinkedIn answers) appear to be more a feature for the community platforms (most already have this ability) much like ratings, reviews, comments, leaderboards, so I'd assume many of these features would certainly be available to those social platforms.

  • I'm wondering where the classes of education social software fit in here. hmm.

  • would love to know more, can you give some examples?

  • some potential categories would include: assessment, curriculum delivery, PD (prof dev), virtual classrooms, backchannels. but right now most of us are just using existing tools (not specifically developed with educators needs in mind) for the above. the least developed area is assessment. these tools are currently in the works. blackboard and other awful proprietary stuff tends to dominate. but we're all anxious for Open Source alternatives to emerge. particularly those that are customizable. but since most of the tools and categories above are, quite correctly, designed with branding and data-mining in mind (and other commercial interests), educators have greater challenges when selecting from these tools (in terms of ethics, privacy and etc).

  • Jeremiah,

    Great list and categorization. The balloon is full and I am still wondering who will be in front on the innovation track to create THE noise filter for consumers. This is like the conundrum from 10 years ago when BI was just beginning to creep into Enterprise. Acquisition is one methodology, but, technology innovation will lead to a star player.

    Also, for the Software Association of Oregon member companies you mentioned (Jive Software and JanRain), you also left out Webtrends (I know you can't just list everyone). Webtrends is heading down the path with a rate of innovation that will surprise many. Just like how they knew to incorporate the Radian6 technology into their platform 1.5 years ago, there are many more surprises to come.

    Thanks for the great article and keep it up.

    Matt Nees

    President – Software Association of Oregon

  • Thanks Matt, I didn't even know about your association, would love to learn more.

  • McBride Melanie thanks! Do you have any URLs to these types of software? I'll take a look. Or if they are available later, please come back and leave a URL. Very interested in learning more.

  • Tallies with my experience too. 🙂 Clients looking for 'social' are not looking at Innovation management right now and those looking specifically at Innovation management are not looking at crowdsourced idea management solutions. And definitely have no clue of how to marry a crowdsourced process with a traditional managed process of Innovation.

    As John Hagel said: “social softtware adoption starts with tasks (problem solving) and moves to social learning & innovation”.

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    The list is very insightful. Why do you think no vendor has yet to roll out a social CRM that covers more than just a couple of use cases (at most)? I have been waiting to see a Siebel-type CRM that has listening, measurement et al in addition to the other CRM 1.0 stuff like scheduling, resources management, sales insights, marketing campaigns etc. Many marcomm activities are still offline events (tradeshows, exhibitions, seminars etc) and the social CRM systems I have been coming across completely ignore this.

  • Muchiri

    It's early early days, so we have a lot of time before we see these things rolled out. In the SCRM report we had a maturity matrix that had both technology sophistication and buyer demand to forecast needs. Companies are still reacting to social media –let alone get ahead of it and anticipate customers.

  • Excellent overview!

  • Manuel

    Jeremiah, would you consider Autonomy (http://www.autonomy.com) as a brand monitoring vendor?
    Thanks

  • Interesting list of categories, Jeremiah, and thank you for mentioning @INgageNetworks! We completely agree with what you've identified as what's to come, in particular buyers wanting ONE system to manage all their social business needs. Makes the task at hand so much easier to be able to provide all these features, from a community platform to mobile marketing. It what we do.

  • Hyoun Park

    Jeremiah,

    I wonder how much of that is your focus area. We find that the companies focused on innovation either are very large enterprises or very product development-oriented. In your firm, that's probably more in Ray's clients rather than yours. But companies such as Spigit and Innocentive and other more process-oriented vendors are an interesting offshoot of “social” where the goal is not just collaboration: it's a disruptive effort to actively break the current rules and primary revenue engines of the company. (This is not usually a very popular activity). 😉

  • You made me smile with your observation about Sharing Tools “These dead basic technologies…” do you mean they're dead-basic or that the technologies are dead because they were basic?
    I wrote a piece about using RSS (old tech) integrating it with email (old tech) to create improved CRM/engagement (sortof new tech).
    http://creativeagencysecrets.com/2010/09/23/how-can-i-integrate-rss-into-my-email-marketing-programme/

  • Very interesting categorisation, Jeremiah. Thanks for bringing this to the community!

    Innvations platforms is a exciting category. Would you consider mentioning the two actors in this space; Induct Software (www.inductsoftware.com) and Spigit (www.spigit.com)? I have seen and used both solutions and compared to Pligg which from the website seems to come from CMS, these are completely different. Induct is aiming more at industrial clusters and cover the entire innovation management process, whilst Spigit is more aimed towards enterprise idea gathering and qualification.

  • Very interesting categorisation, Jeremiah. Thanks for bringing this to the community!

    Innvations platforms is a exciting category. Would you consider mentioning the two actors in this space; Induct Software (www.inductsoftware.com) and Spigit (www.spigit.com)? I have seen and used both solutions and compared to Pligg which from the website seems to come from CMS, these are completely different. Induct is aiming more at industrial clusters and cover the entire innovation management process, whilst Spigit is more aimed towards enterprise idea gathering and qualification.

  • great, great article…perfect overview!

  • Leo Londono

    Jeremiah, that is a great list and categorization, thank you, wonder if you can share more on SCRM and future trends and Companies leading the way. Thank you!

    Leo Londono.

  • It's still very early days Leo, but one of the best ways to get connected with those that are leading the way is to join the Social CRM pioneers group, it's here:

    http://groups.google.com/group/social-crm-pioneers

  • I meant that because they are both simple for people to use and companies to deploy. They are very simple.

  • I'm not sure, I haven't had a formal briefing and their website is a bit hard to navigate.

  • Hi Matt, regarding consumer noise filter, see paper.li. My cents goes to them for creating an aggregate of your friends tweeted news articles. It has also been said that Facebook is the second biggest (after google) traffic-generator, so I guess next step for paper.li is to support facebook content, and there you have it.

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  • Thanks so much for pulling this list together and sharing it with the world. I'm excited to see how far these tools have come, but I'm a little bit afraid of the potential harm that they could cause. What if they required an operator's license? It would never happen, but it would be awesome. Cheers!

  • Thanks for this great article, Jeremiah, really appreciate you including Visible Technologies in this line-up. To your point, the industry is expanding very rapidly and we see the folks using these software stacks moving beyond the “do I need social?” phase to a more sophisticated question, asking “how do I turn social insights into business intelligence?” This is exactly why we’re investing in the technology and professional services which provide marketers with the crucial Social Intelligence they need. In the future, social media will power businesses the way BI has traditionally, and to this end, brands need to take the next step in social – from ‘listening and learning’ to using these insights to power daily business decisions.

  • Hutch Carpenter

    Thanks for the shout-out Prem. Believe it or not, we are getting the social business software interest in innovation management at Spigit. Some great names – ones that you'd know easily – are signing up the past couple quarters. The social aspect of innovation is emerging as a factor in companies' decisions.

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  • Jeremiah, thanks for posting this stack. This is very useful! I had a question: given IBM Connections is named as the #1 social software platform (based on market share) for internal collaboration by IDC, why wasn't it included in your list of Collaboration Platforms? – http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS22401310

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  • Kelby Troutman

    Hi Jeremiah:
    Great post and well thought out approach to categorizing Social Business Software. We would love for you to take a look at OutStart Participate when you can squeeze some time in to your busy day. In your categorization we would place Participate in the Community Platform and Collaboration Platform buckets. Check out http://www.outstart.com/sbs_overview.htm for more.

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  • Great classification. It would be very interesting to map the classifications as a heat map indicating the number of competitors in each space, the estimated market size for the category and the VC investment — if such data exists at that level of detail.

    Social commerce adoption will undoubtedly consolidate these classifications.

  • wholesale1

    good post..thank you….

  • I would hope that most tools would be simple enough that they don't require too much extensive training. If they do, they hinder the amount of people that can effectively use them.

  • Very good report. However, I see a lot of these developments as pieces of what will be a better development pie for enterprise and individuals.