Altimeter’s latest Open Research Report (download at will, share with attribution) is embedded below. This report features how large companies have scaled social business across their enterprise. Specific case studies include:
- Whole Foods puts local social engagement into the hands of store managers.
- General Motors organizes for social business internally, then supports regions.
- Amway empowers distributors yet maintains brand consistency
- PUMA scales limited headcount for worldwide engagement
I co-authored this report with my colleague Senior Researcher, Andrew Jones, who’s been involved in several reports with me and knows the market which we cover in a detailed way, and provides unique insights. His deep understanding of the space, tireless research, and pattern analysis was key to this report being published. Please keep us both updated in your industry updates.
Scalable Social Business Tension Dynamics
The interesting thing about this research is that corporations are beyond the ‘why’ social but are now focusing on integration and tying together with all customer interactions. We often see tension dynamics in companies across the following opposing forces:
Six Common Tension Dynamics as Companies Scale Social
|Comprehensive Software Suites
||Specialized Point Software
||Established program managers
||Organic social growth
Companies seeking to scale, should read this report on how advanced companies are scaling, and glean insights. Altimeter has published a number of reports from industry trends, vendor segmentations, market definition and more, and are pleased to bring a more detailed case study on how integration at scale is starting to blossom, find all my reports on the research tab. The report is embedded below:
I’ll cross link to all coverage of this report
Market Positioning Signals Company Capability and Market Maturity
Messaging is often the first thing prospects, investors and analysts see, so it’s important to focus on it as much as core capabilities as we’ve done in our research report which has been viewed 164k times on the vendor landscape. Over a year ago, I conducted the same exercise to compare the positioning of this same space, and wanted to compare the changes in the space based on data and then draw insights.
Method: Visiting Each Vendor’s Website, Like a Buyer
This exercise was conducted in the mindset of the buyer (heuristic review as a social marketer and executive) using the following method: First, I built a list of vendor names, working with Altimeter’s Andrew Jones, then, I put myself in the place of the buyer and imagined their task of sorting through this new space and short listing it. Then, a researcher and I went to each website homepage to glean the keyword set, graph on worksheets and conduct data analysis. We looked at tag lines, slogans, keywords, browser title tags.
After some data modeling, here’s the positioning each of the 27 vendors, including: Actiance, Argyle, Awareness Networks, Buddy Media (Salesforce), Context Optional (Adobe Social), ConverSocial, CoTweet (Exact Target), Engage Sciences, Expion, FALCON Social, Friend2Friend, HearSay Social, Hootsuite, HYFN8, Liveworld, Shoutlet, SocialVolt, Spredfast, Sprinklr, SproutSocial, Syncapse, Targeted Group, TigerLily, Tracx, UberVU, Vitrue (Oracle) and WildFire (Google).
Here’s a list of all the positioning statements. Two of the positioning statements had vendor names included in them, which I changed below to “vendor”.
- One Platform to Manage All Your Communications & Collaboration
- Professional Social Media Management
- Acquire customers, socially
- The world’s only unified social marketing suite
- It’s time to take the guesswork out of social media.
- Powering Social Customer Service
- Create Exceptional Social Media Marketing Programs
- Empower, Centralize, and Localize Your Social Presence
- Complete Social Media Management for Teams and Enterprises
- Vendor Powers Social Engagement
- Succeed with the leading enterprise social sales, marketing, and compliance software
- Social Media Management
- Do Social. Better.
- Vendor is a user content management company providing technology and services to help brands scale social media.
- The only do-it-yourself, all-in-one social marketing platform
- Manage Social Media Across Networks, Accounts, Staff and Brands
- Social Media Management
- Social media management for exceptional companies.
- Enterprise social media marketing, management, measurement and platform solutions
- Social Media Marketing Agency
- Stand out on the social web
- Social intelligence
- Solutions for social media marketing
- Build brands on social with Vendor
- Complete enterprise social media marketing software
- NA: There was one vendor where the market positioning was not clear
Above: Even after over a year, the market still focuses on keyword terms like Social Marketing, SMMS there was increased deviation in market. Last time 40% used SMMS (10/25) or Social Marketing (10/25 or 40%) as the highest frequency. This year, 8/27 used Social Marketing in taglines, which is just about 30%. What was interesting is that we’re seeing some unique identifiers used by just a few vendors, showing that they’re slight differentiation from player to player.
Above: Ironically, most of these SMMS vendors were not integrating social onto their own corporate websites. While 25 of the 27 would link away and promote their social media accounts, only 7 were aggregating discussions from their own market place and a few were explicitly encouraging sharing of content. None had Social Sign On (SSO) which I consider is a sign of social maturity.
Above While not an indicator of much, there was a strong preference for white and blue brand colors. Those that didn’t take to this could potentially stand out if all logos were listed on one page. In my experience, blue tends to be a dominant color in tech field, so there isn’t that much of a surprise.
There’s a number of smaller, interesting findings that I wanted to include from the study.
- There were multiple acquisitions resulting in the influx of the parent brand (Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, ExactTarget)
- We found that 21 of the 27 vendors had business value messaging (offers to improve customer value, business value) and 8 of the 27 had feature and function capability offerings. Tracx and Falcon were able to pull off both at same time.
- In the last study, SMB was marketed as a keyword set, but was not in this current finding set.
- Since being acquired by Salesforce, Buddy didn’t use campy tagline “everyone needs a buddy”
- We found that Syncapse and Hearsay had a much larger keyword set indicating that they have wider capabilities. Our research in previous reports correlated with this as Syncapse scored strong in multiple categories and Hearsay has a strong foothold in Legal, Risk, Compliance, and Financial Services, a unique market to manage.
- The research team was confused by CoTweet’s lack of positioning on the page, and would expect that prospects would be left scratching their head and either look for additional information, or leave.
- Sprinklr had a unique message “Social@Scale” which is both plays to their identifiable capabilities, unique, and marketable beyond a campy slogan.
- Awareness provided a verb based tag, “Acquire customers, socially”, but didn’t say what would happen afterwards (management, growth, support, etc)
- For kicks, there are fewer than expected animal logos, with Hootsuite owl, Tracx primate, Tigerlily grinning feline, and a wing from Falcon. Had Seesmic been around, we would have added a crook eyed Raccoon.
- Spelling-wise, this market is still plagued with oddly spelled vendors names. I find myself frequently have to tell clients how to correctly spell it out, slowing down inquiry calls. This includes vendors like HYFN8, Sprinklr, Spredfast, Tracx, UberVU and Vitrue (Oracle).
Overall the market is still pinning on social marketing and SMMS as a category. There was slight market differentiation matching the deviation as the market continues to mature. Some vendors are finding some unique categories to market their offerings, while some are still going broad to appeal to a larger set. Expect to see more M&A this coming spring as incumbent software vendors need to quickly get in the game, I’ll post more on this in future.
Credits to third party researcher Julie George for the data collection via TaskRabbit.
It’s at the end of the night on the dance floor, do brands know where their social software providers are? Like the end of a dance, social software vendors are understanding who they can partner with –or be confident on going it alone.
Once the lights go on in the next few quarters, the ecosystem will emerge in a new day, with brands stuck answering “Do I buy a suite?” or “Do I invest in integration?”. This post is intended to provide illumination on what’s happening behind the scenes –and who dance stars will be.
Above: Here are the options brands have when it comes to integration social software and services, the ideal scenario is upper right, but at this time, this promise is a lofty one.
I first alluded to this metaphor on an interview on Techcrunch, where we saw acquisitions occurring in spring of many of social vendors to create Social Software Suites (see the growing list).
- Consolidation in a Fragmented Market a Sign of Maturity. In prior posts, we’ve found over 100 vendors in community, brand monitoring, and the recent social media management vendor list is upwards of 40. We saw an increase in M&A announcements in spring from Oracle, Salesforce, Google, esp as fall conference season picks up for these software giants. Up and down highway 101 in Silicon Valley, there are business development meetings where there’s shopping, dating, flirting, and discussions around larger companies seeking to acquire more focused startups who’re seeking an exit. Buyers and sellers are all speaking to multiple potential suitors to see who will be a good fit into their Social Software Suite.
- Two Forces: Top Down Suites Offer it All vs Agile Point Provider Community. The largest impacts will be to the buyers, who will have to re-establish their software integration strategy. Will they go for the one-size-fits all vendor that offers all the needed use cases, or focus in on investing on a point provider that can deliver the best experience for the required job. Each offers benefits and draw backs. Vendors who offer the larger suite will tackle at the C-suite level and go down (longer deal sizes, larger scope, with potential larger pie) vs more agile point players that can quickly pivot, innovate, and partner with system integrators to get the job down.
- New Innovation as Ecosystem Reforms, Services Come to Forefront. For specific software innovators that plan to go-it-alone after the lights come on, they can still be very innovative by developing in the next phase of the social web “Performance Social” that focuses on analytics, data driven decision, and automation of these technologies. Furthermore, we continue to see new case studies emerge from social engagement command centers that bring together service and software players, to new mobile and augmented reality platforms spurred by Google. Expect this to be a booming opportunity for system integrators and digital agencies to partner with both sides to craft experiences for brands. The savvy system integrators and digital services providers will offer playbooks, methods, and teams that can integrate at all levels.
The good news is, there’s another dance the next night, as the market continues to grow and evolve –this is just a new session in the continued evolution of the social software space. In 2008 I hosted an event for software vendors (while at my former employer), social networks, and brands to discuss the future of the market, if you think it would be valuable for me to host again (including service providers), please let me know.
This week, Altimeter (myself and Andrew Jones, researcher) hosted a webinar stemming from the the recent report on Social Media Proliferation, which you can download the full report on this blog post. In the embedded slides and video below, you’ll be able to get additional insights on how we perceive how this market will change in the coming years:
- We’ll see a vendor shakeout, although expect pure play vendors of each of the five uses cases to remain
- Consolidation will occur from market forces of email marketing, web analytics, CMS, marketing automation, brand monitoring, support software and beyond
- These tools, in the long run, will marry into existing communication tools to become a new form of a unified digital marketing platform
Altimeter Webinar: A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation, with Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group on Vimeo.
Above: Video Recording, Listen in
Above: Slides, download on slideshare
I’ll continue to cover this space, and have a series of blog posts with more data that we’ll be sharing, and am happy to help brands with vendor selection based on their specific business needs.
Get account control now –or risk a career of continual social media sanitation. To match the growing consumer adoption of social media, many companies have launched social media efforts with little planning. As social media spreads beyond corporate communications and marketing, business groups are deploying social media without a standardized process. In fact, enterprise class corporations (those with over 1,000 employees) have an average of 178 social media accounts and this number will only grow if left unchecked. Companies that don’t control these accounts are at risk of having abandoned accounts, lack of consistent experience, or untrained employees creating a crisis.
Join Altimeter’s webinar to discuss this report.
We’ll cover the market trends, industry problems, provide new data not in this report, give insight to the future of this growing space. We’ll also be featuring case studies of success of how top brands are showing success, please submit case studies for review. Register for the webinar on Feb 7th, 2012, and we’ll dive in deeper.
This report puts companies in control based on business needs.
Buyers are confused by the number of vendors claiming similar offerings, and as a result spend months making decisions on who to short list. To fast forward the industry, this report serves to accelerate the process, this report contains the following elements:
- A Thorough Methodology: including 71 interviews, a survey to 144 buyers, a survey to 27 vendors, and analysis from a dedicated research team. Read page 4 for more details
- Five Business Use Cases: Based on interviews with buyers, we sought to find out their needs, rather than focus on software features.
- Altimeter Radar: a decision-making matrix that will help buyers to determine which vendors are best for them.
- Pragmatic Guide: At the end of the report, we feature 11 steps with examples and pitfalls to avoid guide all buyers must complete.
- A resource checklist: buyers should use to ensure that they make the best decision with regard to their social media.
Above is the full report, feel free to read, download and share.
This is just the start of this growing space.
We coined the Social Media Management Systems market and started the first industry list in March, 2010 (read all the posts on this topic). Over the past few quarters, we worked closely with Altimeter Research’s Andrew Jones, and we’ve compiled over 13,000 pieces of data about vendors and what buyers need, case studies, and dozens of interview notes. Our experience helping 3 global companies make decisions on these SMMS vendors has helped us to realize the struggle the entire industry is going to have when it comes to keeping track of this fast-moving space. This report, which is a snapshot in time, documents the industry, and we’ll continue to publish changes in this space over the coming years.
Above Graphic: First, Align by the Five Use Cases for Social Media Management.
Above Graphic: Then, Choose The Right Social Media Management Systems based on Business Needs.
Open Research: Use it, share it, and we’ll publish more.
While there are many types of decision-making reports on the market, this one is unique for the following reasons: 1) We realize that one size does not fit all and we do not lump all vendors into one diagram; instead we segment by use case to show different capabilities, 2) Rather than focusing on enterprise class only, we include those that can serve medium-size companies, as this space is dynamically changing, 3) We publish under Open Research so it can be read by all, rather than sold by subscription, and 4) We disclose our client relationships, including vendors that are clients that were in this report, so you have the utmost confidence in our recommendations.
During the editing process, we pulled out pages and pages of content in the editing process, so expect many future blog posts, webinars, and speeches to continue this discussion.
In the following section, we cross-link to thoughtful reviews of the research report. We look forward to comments from those in the community.
- Marketing Pilgram says it’s time to “Take out the social media trash”
- Jay Baer discusses “Taming the chickens”
- Shel Holtz advises companies to get control of their social media now
- Jason Falls says this report will help help your brand, and offers critiques
- David Deal notices that vendors need to mature
- Kyle-Beth Hilfer provides an important legal view, and warns of dangers
- Peter Kim, former colleague at Forrester, discusses “Herding cats”
- Erik van Roekel notes it’s not about the tools only
- The report also reviewed in Dutch, by Erik van Roekel
- Joe Chernov asks: So You Wanna Launch a Global Social Media Program?
- Eloqua: 5 Wows from Altimeter’s A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation
- Bazaarvoice discusses the dangers of proliferation
- Angela Hausman, warns of social media risks
- Stuart Bruce reviews the findings
- Adi Gaskell reviews the report
- Vidar ‘blacktar’ Andersen reviews the report
- Gemma Went says the report was “Handy”
- Steve MacAlpine notes many have to navigate the social media maze
- Jon Gatrell reminds of Solutions, Integration, Fragmentation and Governance
- Customer Think covers the report
- MT Business says this is a “must read”
- Marshall Sponder reviews the pros and cons of the report
- Gerald Hensel of Blast Radius reviews the report
- Todd Defren discusses the numbers from the report
- Jesse Stay, the head of social at LDS reviews the report and provides more context
- Mediatel discusses the report
- Social IRL covers the report, and discusses the upcoming webinar
- Slidescene shares the report
- Aseem Badshah hopes to see consolidate of accounts
Software Vendor Reviews
Update Jan 5th end of day: We corrected the report to notate a correct total of 71 interviews, not 70.
We’re measuring how companies are using social media technologies to connect with their customers and have data back from the field of over 140 enterprise class corporations, many of which have the coveted social strategist role and formalized programs. To find out how far reaching the social media programs stretch into the enterprise we asked two questions: 1) “Approximately how many employees post content to official social accounts?” and then to derive some ratios for cross-tab analysis 2) “How many employees are in your company?”.
We wanted to pose these specific set of questions as it helps us to better understand the proliferation of social business of customer engagement within the hub and spoke model, “Dandelion” and “honeycomb” models. If you’ve not read our report on how companies organize in social media, read the report, and 2011 data.
How Does Your Company Stack Up?
The data set is enterprise class companies, most who are reporting have the social strategy function in a marketing function in global national and US national companies, across multiple survey sets and sample size is 140 respondents. Additional breakdown: So to crunch down the math here’s what it breaks down to for how many are publishing at a company I’ll take the medium of each range of employee set then divide by publisher ratio:
- Companies with 2,500 employees have about 13 employees publishing on the official accounts.
- Companies with 7,500 employees have about 22 employees publishing on the official accounts.
- Companies with 30k employees have about 83 employees publishing on the official accounts.
- Companies with 75,000 employees have about 182 employees publishing on the official accounts.
- Companies with 100k plus average have about 280 employees publishing on the official accounts.
Over Time, Expect More Employees to Publish On Official Social Media Accounts
Here’s my take on what this data means, while we’re seeing a broad ratio now, that ratio will decrease over time, as more employees are anointed to use official accounts, and as the internal culture relaxes, giving more access to publish.
- On average, 1 out of 330 employees uses “official” social media accounts. Overall, few people are publishing on official social media accounts, only 1 out of 330 employees posts to official accounts. One important caveat is the assumption is many are using for their own personal uses, and I would expect the average to be in the ranges of 70-90% as consuming the social content with variations on different production activities. I expect, over time, that more employees over time will use “official” accounts, and connect with customers as processes slowly allow for safe distribution of these roles. Expect that social inbox, and social media management system tools will start to merge with email inbox systems, a push that we already see Salesforce with Chatter and Cisco’s Quad, and IBM’s push into the social enterprise (all are clients btw).
- Smaller companies have more employees publishing, ratio-wise. We found that smaller companies in the 1-5k range had one out of 200 employees publishing, more likely due to a more flexible culture, less regulatory concerns, and well, less red tape. For medium sized companies, we know that social media is an opportunity as a force multiplier as successful content can be amplified many times over at lower cost, and support costs can be reduced by leveraging the customer crowd base. While smaller companies that have more feet on the social street ratio wise, they are likely still at a 1:1 battle with the larger companies with over 100k employees.
- Over time, expect all ratios to drop, as prolific next generation rises into senior roles. We’ll be measuring this over periodically, but for now, I would assert that more employees will be using the official accounts over time, as the younger generation learns their way around the business, climbs up the ladder, and is granted ability to publish. With that said, we already know that employee personal accounts can quickly be associated with a corporate brand, even if they have all the disclosure and polices in place. As you might expect, this all ties into our Social Media Management System research, where we’ll be looking closely at how software, service, and solutions, will help companies coordinate and measure their customer engagements in many social channels.
Thanks to Andrew Jones, Christine Tran, researcher team for their ongoing contributions, see the rest of the “Social Media Management Systems” posts to learn more about this space.