Just 6 quarters in and this space continues to heat up with nearly 30 vendors. We’ve done over four due diligence calls with VCs in this space in last 30 days, and Altimeter are helping a couple of brands short list their vendors for RFP inclusions –brands know they need an enterprise solution.
This scope of this post is for the pure play vendors and does not include the numerous entrants that will explode into this space from the incumbent software category. To help move the industry forward, here’s my perspective on the space, all which I’m telling buyers as well as investors.
Matrix: Challenges and Opportunities Abound for Social Media Management Systems
-VC Funding for Rapid Growth
-Demand increases as brands adopt more accounts
-Overall small space, with 30 vendors, few enterprise incumbents, yet
-Low switching costs: easy to unplug now.
–Lack of market differentiation
-Rapidly changing data sets and APIs, hard to measure
-Commodity feature set
-M&A in incumbents move in, rapid exit.
-Integration yields new value
-Future state is customer intelligence platform or multi communications tool
-New entrant can ramp in 5 quarters, or incumbents can quickly build
-Incumbents will move in from many sectors: CRM, Brand Monitoring, Web Analytics, BI, Support Software, Email Marketing, Community Platform
Buyers Must Understand This Rapidly Changing Market
Corporations who are seeking to buy in this space must place their bets carefully, they need to factor in the following three future trends that are starting out now, buyers must:
- Expect only a handful of Enterprise class “Pure Plays” to Remain Standing. In most emerging technology categories there’s only enough room for three vendors: First, better, and different, and that will come to be true here as well. In the long run there will only be a handful of true enterprise pure plays that will stand the test of time. Compare to the community platform space where we see dominance from just two players now –the rest have gone into niche verticals, or platform integration strategies. Buyers must be very careful on who they choose now as unplugging these systems will be difficult as the ‘seats’ will roll out across the enterprise, and if your business units don’t like your choice, they will adopt another vendor without your agreement.
- Expect Pricing To Remain Low Until Brands Move Into Multiple Hub and Spoke “Dandelion”. Altimeter’s data indicates that the average enterprise company now has 178 corporate social media accounts,Vendors know to keep pricing low in this rapid market, given the number of entrants and VC injections, ‘growth’ is the primary goal. Buyers need to be aware that switching costs increase considerably as the company moves from centralized to hub and spoke to “dandelion”, and the SMMS tool spreads into many business units (see all five org models). Expect pricing strategies to change as your company moves into a higher adoption rate, and check contracts now. Seek packages for ‘all you can eat’ packages as your company moves into this model.
- Look Carefully at Partnerships and Investors to See How They Will Integrate. System integration will be a deciding factor for buyers, as most are realizing the need to integrate these systems into legacy support, email, CRM systems. In fact, Altimeter’s data indicates that integration is one of the top spends ($272k annually) for self reported advanced companies indicating that this will be the primary goal as the market integrates social as a horizontal. To understand, ask your vendors to show their roadmap, indicate their partnerships. Look further by understanding who their investors are, who will often broker partnerships and even foster M&A marriages. Lastly, ask about the SMMS’ platform strategy to connecting to existing APIs and how they’ll offer their own for partners to use.
To learn more, read all my posts tagged Social Media Management Systems.
How many social media accounts does an advanced social business have? Well, when we look at mature companies like Microsoft, we find large indexes, or CPG giants like Coca-Cola each deploy their own, then even regionalize, or any large retail or hospitality brand that has regional stores with their own specific accounts like each hotel at Four Seasons with their own Twitter accounts.
Altimeter’s continued research on the Social Media Management System (read all posts) space has found some interesting findings. In fact, our recent survey out to corporate marketers at large corporations yielded a surprising number of social media accounts.
Above: Companies average an overwhelming number of corporate owned accounts: 178. Note: This does not include personal accounts that an employee would take with them if they left the company.
Number of Accounts To Increase as Social Business Matures
The above data is a sample of the data we recently got back from the field on the growth from 140 global national corporations with over 1000 employees averaged. Large corporations have dozens to hundreds of products, and each can be regionalized spurring on the number of accounts, plus corporate level accounts, as well as campaign focused accounts created by agency partners. While 178 seems like a lot now, it’s only going to increase, what’s spurring this growth? This is an indicator that companies are shifting into hub and spoke and multiple hub and spoke, also known as “Dandelion“, which our research on maturity models indicate this a growing trend. Beyond the data, it’s just common sense as each business unit beyond corporate communications wants their own account.
While Only 6 Quarters In, Number of Vendors Nearly 30 -Expect Over 100
In fact the number of vendors continues to increase, just yesterday I added Webtrends, Targeted, and SproutSocial onto The List of Social Media Management Systems. While only about 30 vendors now, this will continue to grow, I expect the category set to reach 100 vendors just as I saw the same patterns with the community platform space, also a commodity marketplace. In fact, expect more software incumbents that help to manage communications (email, marketing auto, crm, analytics, customer support apps and beyond) to integrate these features by building or buying in rapid succession. In fact, the Financial Times just published a piece on the growth of this space, and cited our research on spending.
Corporate Social Strategist at Risk Falling into a Role of Sanitation
So what does this mean for the Corporate Social Strategist, who we conduct research on frequently? This is an indicator that if they don’t have a strategy to safely manage growth they are going to head into the ever reactive sanitation role of social media helpdesk soon. What does the Helpdesk look like? It’s simple: they are constantly responding (but falling behind) on requests from stakeholders who want their own social accounts. If they don’t provide a strategy, the business units deploy it on their own. The end state? the strategist still has to clean this up or close down accounts –it never ends.
We’ve found that savvy Corporate Social Strategists have deployed the following strategy:
- Get Ready Internally: First, got their company ready by setting up internal requirements checklist for Business Units before they asked. This would include needs, education, process, policy and continual training and communication
- Develop and Audit Process: Internal inventory and audit of all accounts, and a ‘certification’ program to ensure business units agree to the above item, then they are listed on the official index lists as sanctioned.
- Enterprise Workflow: Deploy an enterprise wide process on how information will be listened for, triaged, tagged, accounted for, and reported in a daily routine as customer data flows across the enterprise and beyond
- Provide Software: Finally purchase an enterprise wide Social Media Management System that meet the business needs listed above, and integrate with customer software platforms
- Rollup Reporting: Provide enterprise wide reporting to executive heads by aggregating data from the disparate business units.
Currently we (Brian Solis, Andrew Jones, Christine Tran, Zak Kirchner and myself) helping brands with vendor selection, and will be publishing a report on this topic, and are happy to provide additional data and analysts perspective to press and media.
Up front disclosure: Altimeter believes in fostering trust with the market, and we disclose who our clients are, providing they agree. Some of the vendors listed below are clients.
Summary: Nascent Market Appears Similar, Confusing Buyers
Overall, the Social Media Management System (SMMS) space lacks market differentiation when it comes to market positioning, which is often reflective of feature set. Furthermore, many of these low-barrier technologies are being developed rapidly, and a feature war has set in. As a result, buyers are often confused, resulting in longer evaluation and consideration phase, and heterogenous mix of vendors in an RFP processes. Furthermore, the lack of market differentiation hurts vendors, who may have greater sales costs, and longer sales cycles during a convoluted RFP process. This is normal in an emerging market, and expect the maturity of the nascent SMMS space to follow similar patterns to the maturing Community Platform space.
Buyers often indicate they are very confused by the vendors in the Social Media Management Systems space, let’s probe to find out why. One initial observation is the explosion of over 25 vendors in a short period of time, the following analysis is based of the following vendors: Argyle Social, Awareness Networks, Buddy Media, Constant Contact, Context Optional, Conversocial, CoTweet, Engage Sciences, Expion, Hootsuite, MediaFunnel, Moderation Marketplace, Mutual Mind, Objective Marketer, Postling, Seesmic, Shoutlet, SocialVolt, SpredFast, Sprinklr, StrongMail, Syncapse, Vitrue, and Wildfire.
Why Positioning Is Important
Messaging is often the first thing prospects see and as a result, where I will focus today. Why? This is the first thing that buyers see (positioning) before even evaluating the feature set. Furthermore, I’ve done a similar exercise before with the community platform space a few years ago, a space I draw clear parallels as the SMMS space follows suit. Clearly this isn’t a comparison of features or offerings (we may do this in our next report), but a sampling of what prospects see as they first glance at this emerging and growing market.
Method: Visiting Each Vendor’s Website, Like a Buyer
Here’s how I conducted this process: First, I put myself in the place of the buyer and imagined their task of sorting through this new space and short listing it. Then, I went to the website homepage and sought to find the dominant messaging that would resonate from the vendor: tag lines, descriptors or even the HTML title at top of browser. If they didn’t have this, I had to go to About page or even Product page in some examples. To show my work, I’ve also provided a Google sheet where you can see my tallies across the 25 vendors.
List of Positioning Statements from 25 SMMS Vendors
Here’s what I found (vendor names removed) can you identify which of the messaging applies to which vendor? (answers in link below).
- Social Media Marketing
- Offers you the most comprehensive suite of features designed to take your social media campaigns to the next level.
- Social Media Management System and Content Aggregator for publisher and Developers
- Social Media Management for Business
- How Business Gets Social
- SocialVolt Social media management software for Businesses and Agencies
- Social CRM Enterprise Software for Social Media Marketing
- Social Marketing Software
- Every Brand needs a Buddy
- “Vendor” is a social media management system (SMMS) that helps businesses get closer to customers to create online engagement where it matters most.
- Build and monetize your Facebook and Twitter following through social campaigns
- We make brands social
- Interactive promotions for brand marketing by “Vendor”
- Social media marketing for small business
- Enterprise Social Media Management
- The Social Marketing Suite is the leading fully integrated, software as a service platform for managing social media presences
- Social Media Management System
- Is a social media publishing solution that enables marketers to monetize their investment in the channel through the proper application of proven direct marketing principles.
- Your Social Media Management & Technology Partner
- Engage Everybody. Everywhere. Easily. Create on brand identity, managed from one place, living simultaneously, on many sites and devices
- Power your brand on Facebook + 100 other social sites Create, manage, and measure all of your social media marketing communication with one powerful but intuitive tool.
- Social media applications for web, mobile, and desktop
- Provides small businesses with the tools, alerts, and insights to get the most out of social media.
- Social Media Dashboard for the Social Enterprise
- Social Media Dashboard
See Answer Sheet with Vendor Names
To see the name of the vendor and the associated messaging above, see the answer sheet.
Above Graphic: Most vendors have centralized their messaging around “SMMS’ (10/25) or “Social Marketing” (10/25) yet few have evolved messaging to either specific markets, verticals. There were stronger mentions in differentiation around market purpose: with more focus on Business (4/25), Enterprise (3/25), and even SMB (2/25). However, there is differentiation in terms of channel with a peppering of mentions around Mobile, SCRM, Facebook/Twitter. Overall, when removing company name from taglines, most taglines (aside from Buddy Media) were indistinguishable from the next.
- Market Positioning Centered on variations of “SMMS” and “Social Marketing”. High adopt of category term, Most vendors (10/25 vendors), adopted the term Social Media Management System or Dashboard in their primary messaging. Secondly followed by high adoption of permutations on the phrase “Social media Marketing (10/25 vendors). While I certainly encourage the adoption of the term SMMS (which I use as the category name since March 2010), the term Social Media Marketing isn’t fully representative of the overall use case, which can include support and customer service. Furthermore, four of those those that did use the terms SMMS, didn’t have follow up descriptors helping to differentiate.
- Some Vendors Lacked Appropriate Descriptors. During my visit to all 25 vendors pages, not all of them had consistent taglines, descriptors, or positioning. In some cases, I had to go to the product pages to find out exactly what they do, which can be a turn off for buyers. I’m sure that many vendors will suggest that I got the wrong messaging they were trying to convey, but I treated each experience the same, acting like a buyer, if I didn’t get your intended message, that in itself should be evaluated, as likely your prospects may be experiencing the same.
- Despite a Market of 25 Vendors, Few stood out from Pack. Take a look at that list above, these positioning statements are pretty much the same, there’s no doubt why buyers are so confused. This space is confusing, they all look alike, except for Buddy Media. yet despite being the sole stand out, their tag line isn’t descriptive of what they offer, nor a value statement. Traditionally, marketing tag lines require years of investment and market awareness before shifting to a non value-statement tag line. While cute, I don’t think it’s as helpful compared to their title statement “Facebook Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Power Tools for Facebook” which is descriptive, if Buddy could merge both catch line and descriptor, they could be a contender to stand apart.
What It Means:
- Lack of Market Positioning is a sign of lack of Product Differentiation. While we’ve not made a direct causation between similar features and positioning statements, we know from vendor briefings and client meetings that the offerings are often the same. As a result, buyers rely on WOM between each other, as well as viability and vision crafted by each of these vendors.
- Immature Market Lacks Educated Buyers –and Vendors Not Sure Future Vision. The market confusion isn’t just stemming from the vendors, buyers are still getting educated on this space as we know that adoption is growing –slowly.
- Rapidly Changing Feature Set Will Continue Confusion. This space is early, it’s just over a year old from category naming and it continues to evolve. Expect the vendors to ever battle over features, matching what other competitors beat them in bids. Like the community platform space, we saw similar confusion and then market clarity as winners emerge.
Continuing Altimeter Coverage on the SMMS Space
We’re currently doing data cuts on a survey to 140 enterprise buyers on the SMMS space, and about a similar amount for the SMB space, and have data on: number of accounts companies have to manage, number of business accounts, top feature desires, feature satisifaction, adoption rates. Altimeter clients have access through advisory opportunities. Also Brian Solis is helping with vendor selection for a global national brand, as do I short list for buyers. Altimeter Group will be producing a report on the SMMS space, follow me on Twitter, and Andrew Jones to learn more.
Front and center industry analyst disclosures: Your trust is important to us, as such, we strive to disclose our client relationships, some which are listed in the following post, read Altimeter’s disclosures page.
Research Summary: Growth in Vendors and Market Demand –Yet Space Is Immature
Social Media Management Systems, like CMS systems for websites, these SMMS systems (see list of all vendors) help companies manage, maintain, and measure thousands of social media accounts, are the next growth market for the social business category. While saturation is at 58% of corporate buyers, the average deal size is a meager $22,000 but will expect to grow to six figure annual deals in coming quarters to meet market demand. This growing space has low barriers to entry, which result in a flood of clones, but expect only a handful to remain after a shakeout to serve enterprise-class buyers. Buyers and investors should focus on vendors that understand business –not just technology, offer services and reliable SLA, and deep integration with other social systems. In the future, this technology set will mature to grow into a data company that will extend it’s scope beyond simple Facebook and Twitter and impact how marketers approach the market, product innovation, and supply chain.
[Although the nascent Social Media Management System space is only one year old, 58% of corporations have adopted at least one of these 28 vendors]
Altimeter is conducting a formal research report on the SMMS topic (see research agenda for 2011), However, I wanted to give a year end state, after coining this category 12 months ago and listing out vendors, read the List of Social Media Management Systems
Above Graphic: Market Saturation and Average Deal Size of the Social Media Management Systems (SMMS) by Corporate Buyers in 2010-2011
Year One in Review: New Entrants, Acquisitions, and Growing Deal Sizes.
Just a year ago, we saw the rise of the new category Social Media Management Systems, (I must give credit to Cisco’s Social Strategist LaSandra Brill for giving me the kick to start it). To understand the macro trends of this industry, read with the Social Business Stack, which shows SMMS as only a component of the overall purchase set for corporations. Here’s a breakdown of what’s occurred in the past 12 months:
SMMS By the Numbers:
- Growth rates rose 11% from corporate buyers. In 2010, adoption of SMMS systems by corporate buyers was already at the 52% and in 2011 buyers indicated they will be at the 58% adoption rate.
- Deal sizes grew 57% in last year. While there was significant relative increase in deal sizes the overall average annual deal size per corporate was $14,000 in 2010 and rose to $22,000 in 2011 according to our research of 140 corporate buyers.
- Large corporations spend $68,000 per year. For corporations with over $10 billion in revenues, the deal sizes ballooned to $68,000 per year on average, demonstrating that the larger corporations need these tools in order to manage their hundreds of accounts. (more data here)
- 65% Increase in vendors in last 12 months and growing. When I started this list, there was 15 vendors after launching the list after the first week. Today, the list has grown to 23 vendors (and I’m continuing to add vendors, with a market growth rate of 65% increase in new entrants, this will only continue this year.
- Growth markets in consumer facing and large corporations. While I noticed that Telecom and Tech were early adopters, I’m seeing growth opportunities in Retail, Hospitality, Restaurants, Consumer Tech, CPG, and all Regulated Industries.
- Consolidation: at least three acquisitions. CoTweet was recently acquired about a year ago by marketing platform ExactTarget, months later Objective Marketer was acquired by Email Vision, and just in this past Feb Constant Contact acquired SCRM company Bantam Live which has some SMMS features, all which are email/direct marketing solutions. Among all these acquisitions, we’re seeing these tools tie into greater marketing platforms for additional value.
- Some early forerunners –but don’t expect a clear winner. I’ll do more detailed analysis on these vendors later, but right now I’m hearing from buyers the following vendors: CoTweet, Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Spredfast and newer entrant Expion. Interestingly, former Community Platform vendor with enterprise experience Awareness Inc has double downed on this market and shifted away the saturated community platform market by launching Hub.
- Early vertical focuses have emerged and partnerships. We’ve already started to see verticals appear, such as GOSO for the Automotive dealer space, and expect this to continue in specific markets like hospitality, restaurants, travel, CPG, and Retail. Another new entrant was an entry by initially a consumer tool Seesmic, who received funding by Salesforce –the first enterprise vendor now with integration with social aggregation tool Chatter, and now Yammer. There was only misfire, as KeenKong changed their product strategy and never launched in this market.
Market Demand: Six Forces Spur On This New Category
There are a handful of forces that are increasing the demand for this year old category, among them (but not limited to) include:
1) Corporations Struggle to Manage Hundreds and Thousands of Accounts
The target market is hospitality, retail, and CPGs. Each of these corporations has dozens to hundreds of unique brands, and then regional rollouts. For example, some hotels could have up to 15 brands, and each having 4,000 hotel locations (half being distributed franchises), each with 10 social media accounts (there’s more to the social web that Facebook and Twitter, across a variety of languages. Furthermore, there’s high turnover in the localizes marketing and sales manager, who also lacks a background in online communications.
2) Kenneth Cole and Chrysler Debacles Prove Need for Parental Controls
In the last few months, we’ve seen some severe examples of mis uses of corporate social accounts which could have been prevented by having a process and toolset to support (see the long list of “punkings“). In particular, Kenneth Cole’s ill-fated tweet tying the Egypt situation with spring sales was met with a riotous reaction, and last week’s Chrysler’s F-Bomb tweet resulted in firing of an entire agency. As a result, expect that many regulated companies will demand compliance regulations with social media, and be mandated to invest in SMMS systems to preview, flag, an process content before it’s published. Of course, this brings forth a few challenges such as less real-time approach, and a more sanitized corporate approach to discussions that will ultimately decrease credibility as authenticity may waver.
3) Expect Regulatory Industries to Require This Safeguard System
Similar to the mess-ups listed above by Kenneth Cole and Chrysler will cause regulatory industries to give pause on how employees will use these technologies. As a result, expect healthcare, pharma, insurance, auto, finance and beyond to start looking at using these tools for all employees and even corporate accounts. Expect a keyword filtering system and workflow to be put in place to monitor then recommend a course-of-action to correct deviant tweets and Facebook messages. The downside? The rapid pace of the real world conversation will be slowed for many, but expect seasoned veterans to unleash the SMMS shackles for open conversations.
4) Direct/Email Marketers Want a Piece of Social Marketing to Blast in New Channels
This toolset is an attractive addition to existing direct marketing platforms like email marketing suites that are used to publish thousands of emails to customers on a daily basis. Direct marketers, who want to get on the social bandwagon are finding religion and are now blasting content on social channels to networks comprised of news, deals, and offerings with mixed engagement and interaction.
5) Agencies Know SMMS Provides Client Lock-in and Recurring Revenues
The social media service industry knows they must be value added beyond strategy and community management. They are seeking recurring revenues for accounts on a monthly basis in order to glean the hundreds of thousands per client, see data to learn more. By using SMMS systems, often coupled with brand monitoring and reporting services, they are now able to be full-service to listen, engage, and measure how companies are interacting with their customers on social channels. By partnering with SMMS systems some are white labeling the service, and using this in front of clients as a value added software, suggesting a perceived lock in with data and reporting –giving agencies the opportunity to become the Social Media Agency of Record (SMAoR).
6) A Complementary Toolset for Social Platforms, Social Commerce, Brand Monitoring Vendors, Marketing Automation
First, understand how SMMS fits into the overall Social Business stack. You’ll notice it’s a sister technology to the technology “aggregation” displayed to the left of it. You’ll also notice that it’s below brand monitoring firms, and sits on top of Social Platform technologies. To the left of it you’ll find it is part of the data story in infrastructure and to the right of it services. Other places to watch for acquisitions will be social commerce platforms, as well as marketing automation platforms as they must spread into this space at a rapid pace to glean the revenues.
Predictions: Vendors Move-out-of-Garage to Meet Buyer Needs
These companies are young and early, and lack maturity like the established community platform space, here’s a few closing thoughts:
- This One-Year Old Space Shows Parallels to the 5 Year Old Community Platform Space Similar to how in 2007, how we saw trends for the Community Platform market, labeled it, and went on to research the space, I’m seeing similar trends (entrepreneur styles, deal sizes, market saturation) in this early SMMS market, just one year in.
- Vendors startup mentality clash with real buyers needs. Many of these garage startups lack understanding of corporate buyers. Not uncommon to seed, angel, and A round vendors, a majority of these vendors lack corporate buyer perspective. To learn more about the buyers of SMMS read the report about the Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist.
- Vendors will finally offer and enterprise class service level agreements. Mainly focused on platform development, and also being discouraged by investors to add services to the mix, most of these vendors lack the staff to serve a corporate buyer who needs a high degree of hand holding in social business. Better yet, read Petra Neiger, one of Cisco’s Corporate Social Strategists perspective on what’s needed for buyers.
- Analytics and reporting to be a core focus on 2011-2012. These early platforms are focused on management of the social channels, and most do not have strong analytics and reporting technologies. Furthermore, they are often not connected to other reporting systems, and are data silos.
- Expect corporate adoption to reach 90% within three years . Expect market saturation to hit 90% range in three years, and average deal sizes to exceed $100k per year on average corporation –just as the Community Platform space have experienced over the past five years. Vendors that can align their product roadmap to the SMMS maturity roadmap stand to be one of the standing contenders.
- Deal sizes will reach six figures on average. I saw this trend before with the $25-50k deal sizes with community platforms about 5 years ago and have watched them balloon to $200k-300k for advanced and larger corporations on an annual basis. I expect similar patterns to emerge here as new functionality is offered and as the SMMS connects to other systems for lock in. Right now the average SMMS deal size is a mere $22k, yet as we segment out corporations with high revenues (over 10 billion, annually) they are already clinching $68,000 deal sizes –remember it’s only year one. Read more about how corporations should spend on social business.
- Market will reach over 100 vendors. Just like the crowded brand monitoring space (150 vendors) and community platform space (125+) vendors expect this category go balloon due to low barriers to entry, VC funding, and commodity technologies. In the long run, only a half of dozen will matter to the enterprise, as market consolidation will occur. Expect the 90+ that don’t become first of mind to corporate buyers to head into specific market verticals and SMB focus.
Well that’s my perspective after watching this space for the last 12 months, while I’ll continue to give updates, expect another wrap-up next March in 2012.
Update: This is cross-posted on RWW
Below is an embedded powerpoint. If you can’t see it (perhaps from email) please see the blog post to access the presentation.
Last night, I was invited to to present my research findings to the VC community on Sand Hill road at National Venture Capital Association presented a forecast of where the Enterprise Social Business space was headed in 2011. Below, you’ll find a reduced version of my slides and most of the salient points. I’ve removed much of the spending data in 2010 and 2011 as I have a formal research report coming out in the near future which will publish on this blog.
The social business category is quite difficult to track, in part due to the constant investment injections this room as provided. I provided my view of the entire category and presented the 7 major categories and 18 specific classes within the space, here’s a former blog post where I was laying out the stack, although this presentation supersedes the post. Also, you’ll find a few snippets of enterprise buyer objectives for both internal and external, and I provided the attendees with recommendations on what I would do if I were in their shoes.
Above Framework: The Social Business Stack: 7 Categories, 18 Discrete Classes, for 2011
In closing, I told these top VCs that much later in my career, I plan to move closer to the investing space. But first I must get more experience under my belt, I recognize I still have a lot to learn as an entrepreneur just passing year one.
(Credits: Thanks to Altimeter’s Charlene Li and Christine Tran for ongoing collaboration)
Pain: Social Media Teams Are Challenged To Respond To the Distributed Conversations
I’m starting to get a few briefings and requests from strategists LaSandra Brill, about new technologies that enable social marketers to quickly manage, maintain, and conduct reporting on multiple channels. The issue of lack of scale is resonating with social strategists –as a result, the market is developing new tools that will help them manage them. This is one component of Social CRM, which if you haven’t heard about, please read the report on the 18 use cases of Social CRM. (Update: This is only one software segment in the overall Social Business Stack, which you should first understand)
Above is the full report, feel free to read, download and share.
Update: Jan 5th, 2012. After nearly two years of watching this nascent market, Altimeter has published a report segmenting the growing vendor space.
Solution: As a Result, Social Media Management Systems are Emerging
Like CMS and WMS for centralized website management, Social Media Management Systems (SMMS) empower social media teams to manage multiple distributed social channels from one location –enabling the opportunity to build deeper relationships by being in more places at once.
Definition: Social Media Management Systems are collection of procedures used to manage work flow in a disparate social media environment. These procedures can be manual or computer-based and enable the manager to listen, aggregate, publish, and manage multiple social media channels from one tool.
How it works: Three simple features In the most basic sense, these management tools do the following: 1) connect with social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. 2) Allow the manager to quickly publish from one location to each of those channels, some provide ability to customize to each channel 3) Aggregate and Manage social data. The system allows the manager to see an aggregated view of what’s happening (from views to comments) and may offer some form of analytics and conversion metrics.
List of Social Media Management Systems (SMMS)
Sorted by alphabetized order by parent company, not in priority or capability.
- Argyle Social: Provides features to publish and schedule, manage a social inbox, measuring tools, and white label solutions.
- Awareness Networks, Social Marketing Hub an enterprise class community platform has launched their own tool that has Facebook, youtube, flickr, Twitter, and of course connect with their own community features. In particular, this is an existing enterprise class vendor (previously I’ve published thorough research report on them) which bodes well to their level of potential levels of service, support, and market viability. (they’ve briefed me)
- Buddy Media: Has a set of management tools that help brands with Facebook, Twitter, and monitoring and reporting. You’ll find iterations for both brands and agencies. They have case studies from large brands and media on their site.
- Constant Contact: Purchased Nutshell Mail which has keyword monitoring systems that can empower small business owners to receive alerts about their social networking accounts. On Feb 28th they acquired SCRM company Bantam Live which has some SMMS features, for sales and marketers. (hat tip to Dan Ziman)
- Context Optional offers management tools for moderating Facebook pages
- Conversocial: Offers solutions to help managers to plan updates and learn what type of content resonates the most with your fans and followers in social networks like Facebook and Twitter
- CoTweet was recently acquired by ExactTarget. They provide Twitter integration tools, scheduling, workflow, listening tools, multiple author management, and management dashboard tools
- Distributed Engagement Channel by DEC Their system offers the ability to publish content, moderate UGC submissions, and track and optimize channel performance. They also have features such as ID integration, media handling, and reporting.
- Engage Sciences: Allows marketers to launch social promotions to engage customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and corporate websites, whilst aggregating, filtering and storing streams from across the social web to allow companies to easily showcase the voices of advocates.
- Engage121: This group focuses on: Enhance brand image through consistent social media messaging, Empower local outlets with social engagement tools to get started in social media, Mobilize employees as brand ambassadors, Monitor and manage permissions of thousands of local agents and franchises
- Expion Expion allows large Enterprises to publish and aggregate social media conversations that can scale to hundreds of local based Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels, etc. The tool has the ability to listen, publish, manage, respond, govern, and glean intelligence across these channels.
- Hootsuite Integrates Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Whereas before you could update Facebook and LinkedIn through Ping.fm functionality, things are different now. Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are treated similarly to Twitter accounts: you can create columns from these social networks, read your friends’ status updates, and update multiple Facebook accounts. Facebook integration offers in-line commenting.
- Involver: Audience Management Platform provides marketers with the solution for publishing content, monitoring conversations, managing applications, and tracking performance.
- MediaFunnel offers integration with Facebook and Twitter. They have several permission based workflows that include a variety of roles such as a contributor, administrators, publishers. This is not unlike traditional editorial processes used in CMS systems.
- MessageMaker: A social media management system (SMMS) that lets you publish and manage targeted content across a large number of social interaction points while generating actionable intelligence.
- Moderation Marketplace Provides Social Media Management and Content Aggregation solution designed to be delivered to your clients under your brand.
- Mutual Mind offers brand monitoring, permission based workflow as well as reporting tools.
- Objective Marketer provides managers ability to structure their messages by campaigns, features include User Management with roles and permissions and workflows, scheduled content, integration, analytics and reporting. The tell me their current client makeup is 60% Enterprises, 30% Agencies and 10% Bloggers / Independent Consultants. (in Jan 2011, Objective Marketer was acquired by Email Vision)
- Postling allows for individual clients or brand to manage assets like blog, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, and Flickr accounts from a single management system. There is also comment aggregation as well as workflow between teams.
- Seesmic. Seesmic offers support for multiple Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Ping.fm, Foursquare and Google Buzz accounts. Also offered on iPhone, Android wp7 and Blackberry. Languages translation support includes: English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and more. Seesmic has received investments from Salesforce and has an integrated offering with Chatter.
- Shoutlet offers a multi-user application that helps global brands, small businesses, and marketing agencies build, engage, and measure all of their social media marketing communication via one platform.
- SocialVolt Provides STUDIO which is a complete social media management platform that integrates all the tools a company needs to successfully engage with their clients on the social web.
- SpredFast is an up and comer who recently briefed me, this Austin based company offers the core features and claims to have a 40% enterprise customer base. They have partners with Convio, Radian6, Crimson Hexagon, Sysomos, Trackkr, IBM, Porter Novelli, Sierra Club, HomeAway. They position their product as collaborative campaign management and offer features such as scheduling content, features that integrate with events and social stream like features similar to Friendfeed. (they’ve briefed me)
- Sprinklr offers social media management tools, it’s interesting their website has a strong focus on listening first, before the publication.
- SproutSocial: Sprout Social brings it all together to help you listen, engage and build loyalty to grow your audience and your business.
- Strongmail, a traditional email marketing platform offers platform that tracks the multi-stage sharing activity of the campaign all the way to conversion, analysis on reach, sharing activity, CT’s, feedback on Facebook fan page wall posts.
- Syncapse (formerly SocialTalk) provides integration with Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and MoveableType, this management tool provides governance, workflow, scheduling and other features.
- Targeted: Targeted ESP™ (Enterprise Social Port): A social media management system that is designed specifically for large enterprise networks, channel management and distribution networks. Targeted ESP™ is specifically designed to syndicate content and empower the end user while reducing the workload for corporate management. The platform allows not only the distribution of corporate-approved messaging to the local level, but also the aggregation of direct social network data and social intelligence reporting metrics.
- Vitrue: Update may 2012: Now acquired by Oracle. social media management systems, that has integration with Facebook and Twitter, they offer scheduling features, and the ability to link multiple Facebook pages together.
- Webtrends: Webtrends offers a solution to help marketers quickly define and execute on social marketing strategy. Solutions is offered as self and full service subscription plans to meet various social marketing needs.
- Wildfire: Offers features for social sweepstakes that promote word of mouth as well as ability to manage and publish from their platform to multiple social networks, with analytics.
This vendors never want to market or went into deadpool
- KeenKong offers a dashboard like management tool that not only aggregates the conversation from Twitter and Facebook, but tries to make sense of it from Natural Language Processing. (Update March 2011, they have since gone stealth and never launched, hat tip to Blake for pointing this out.)
Before you jump into the market and utilize these tools, first follow this guiding principles.
- Get personal with your market –avoid social media spewing: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Spewing corporate content to every known social channel may make your life easier as a marketer, but could cause serious ramifications to the trust of your community. Remember that like fraternity row, each frat and sorority house has a different set of relationships, language, and interests –don’t think one type of content will fit all.
- It’s the people stupid –not carpet bombing: One of the promises of social is to build meaningful relationships with customers –not apply traditional spray and pray marketing tactics. By using these tools, you could be missing out on true relationships that could be deeper, with more loyalty, and the benefits of advocacy.
- Don’t get spread too thin: Being in all places at all times can mean you’re nowhere all the time. Pick your battles and remember that the needs of the LinkedIn community are far different than those of MySpace, be selective by first knowing your socialgraphics of your customer base.
Use These Tools After You’ve Developed a Social Strategy
Every technology has upsides and downsides, there are always tradeoffs. While these tools may help social strategists manage an unscalable situation — they have downsides:
Industry Insights: A Commodity Feature, With Bandwagon Appeal
Expect nearly every community platform (there are over 100) to launch these types of features, quickly followed by host of startups that specialize in this, then also the CoTweets of the world and other Twitter platforms like Seesmic to quickly get into the enterprise game. In a few quarters, expect the traditional CMS and WMS players to finally wake up and get relevant, followed by app developers in Salesforce appexchange to launch their own iterations. In the long run, this will be commodity set of features, just a check off in the overall suite of social business software but an important component of Social CRM.
If you know a vendor that offers these features, please leave a comment, I’ll take a closer look, and plan to take some briefings with some of these vendors. Note: I’m making many changes to this post, it’s being altered in near real time