Research has found that out of 55 Social Business Startups that a majority (69%) have received early and late stage funding, averaging $14m in total funding. A significant 31% have not taken investor funding, which we’ve listed 6 reasons ranging low costs of operations, self-funding, VC avoidance, and market saturation of startups. 18% of startups had achieved a material event (acquired or IPO) and of them, 40% we’re not funded. Expect three macro trends in 2013 including: 1) Startups focus on business value to battle software giants, 2) Investors hot on SMMS market, but wary of vendors who lack differentiation, and 3) As Social Business Software market matures, expect growth in late stage investments
I’m continuing industry analysis of Social Business Software funding and will do a series of data cuts from my sample of 55 software vendors to tease apart trends, insights, and built a forecast for what is to come. First, read part one on The State of Social Business Software (including methodology of this study), which dissects into funding amounts, averages, and frequency of funding rounds. I interact with VCs, startup entrepreneurs, software giants, brand buyers, press and media to obtain multiple points of view.
Above: Figure indicates that while two-thirds were funded, a large set of social business software vendors were not funded, a rate greater than I expected to see.
Above: Of the two-thirds who were funded, a majority of them raised a small amount of money, most commonly under $10m, a paltry amount compared to funding rounds in other tech categories in prior decades.
Above: The industry ratio of 18% of startups achieve a material event, still holds as an industry benchmark. I found that consumer based startups may have a lower rate of material event, but with larger returns. Interestingly, 40% of those who achieved a material had no public records of funding from angel, seed, or venture investors.
Key Data Points
After cutting/comparing/probing this data sample of Social Business Startups (not consumer startups like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) the following data points were discovered:
- A total of 55 Social Business Software Vendors were selected for this sample set.
- 17 (31%) did not take funding per our searchers on public websites, press releases, S-1 filings and Crunchbase.
- 38 (or 69%) were funded in public records listed as Angel, Seed, or various Venture Rounds
- Of the 55 startups, 17 we’re not funded, and the majority who we’re funded (16) received less than $10m in total funding
- 7 startups were acquired by larger corporations (Buddy Media/Radian6 to Salesforce, Context Optional to Adobe, Viture/Involver to Oracle, etc)
- 3 startups achieved IPO (Liveworld, Bazaarvoice, Jive)
- A total of 10/55 (18%) of startups have achieved a material event.
- 6/10 (60%) of the startups who achieved a material event (IPO, Acquired) were funded.
- Of the 6 startups who achieved a material event, they averaged total funding amount of $26.3 million.
- Of the 6 startups who achieved a material event, the largest round raised was Buddy Media’s D-Round at $54 million.
Material Events, defined, debated.
For the purposes of this report I’m defining a material event such as an acquisition by another company or IPO for publicly traded shares. There have been many arguments made that successful companies do not need a material events, if they can yield consistent dividends to investors. The challenge is that the venture model requires multiples returned per fund to LPs in order to raise monies for future funds. VCs tell me “You’re only as good as your last fund” and with fund management being 5-10 years, there’s a time clock on returns, causing pressure on executive teams to achieve a material event. It’s also worth noting that in some cases, an acqusition occurs because a company is distressed and is auctioned as a fire sale.
Nearly One-Third of Startups Avoided Funding
Six Reasons why Startups Don’t Obtain Investor Funding
While over 2/3rds of startups took funding, a surprising 17 (31%) did not take funding in the form of seed, angel, or venture funding (A, B, C, D, rounds). This number is shockingly high, as in previous decades tech startups were dependent on Sand Hill investors to anoint companies to market. Today’s market has changed and startups are not dependent on VCs. Even of those who achieved a material event, 4/10 (40%) did not have funding. There are six primary drivers why entrepreneurs have confided in my why they don’t take funding
In near future, I’ll post why 60% of startups prefer funding, surprisingly, it’s not just about the money.
||What Entrepreneurs Don’t Tell Anyone
|1) Self Funded
||In most cases where I see self-funded startups, often the executive team are self-funding from prior wins as a serial entrepreneur.
||This means more money for them, control. In some cases, the serial entrepreneurs I’ve met are doing this company both for personal accomplishment, fun, and are no longer driven by monetary gain alone.
|2) Company Too Early Stage
||A large portion of startups in our sample set were early stage, (many in SMMS market) who do not yet need expansion and growth funds.
||In some of these crowded markets, they’re struggling to get favorable terms as first time entrepreneurs, slow growth, or in a crowded market.
|3) Low Costs to Start Company
||Today’s startup needs a few 10′s of thousands of dollars to get going, with recurring SaaS licence revenues, they can sustain after one year of landing a few key brands.
||Cloud technologies, open source, virtual workforces, and overseas developers make today’s startup a low cost.
|4) Seek Lifestyle Company
||Often a controversial discussion in tech circles, many entrepreneurs want to avoid pressures of a material event put on them by investors
||Being an entrepreneur is tough work, when your company does well, the board may want the founder out, requiring them to go to beach get board, and get itch to restart. An addictive, never ending cycle.
|5) VC Avoidance
||Unfavorable terms, pushy board members, or lack of value-add cause entrepreneurs to shudder. Additionally, the time required to pitch, negotiate, expose secret plans, and deal with new influencers on board a risk if they don’t see eye-to-eye.
||Many serial entrepreneurs confide that they’ve been burned by VCs in the past, and as a result seek to avoid them as long as possible.
|6) The Startup is a Bust
||Some startups are clones, unoriginal, and will not succeed and VCs simply know a failure when they see it. In fact, we track 28 SMMS vendors in the active market.
||Entrepreneurs are prone to bluntly admitting this. Instead, expect euphemisms such as “strategic roadmap pivot to respond to changing market conditions”. ahem.
Market Trends: 2013 Social Business Software and Funding
Expect three macro trends in 2013 when it comes to social business software, their buyers, investors and last year’s activity, they include:
- Startups focus on business value to battle software giants. Have At the high level, social business startups must focus on value creation and market domination as after the rash of M&A in 2012 (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, Google), this has left an opening for independents to build value while blue chip software companies re-tool and figure out their suite strategy up until the second half of 2013. With the IPO exit taking a major beating from Facebook, Groupon, Zynga, and questionable results from Bazaarvoice, social business startups must focus on recurring revenues through business value to clients.
- Investors hot on SMMS market, but wary of vendors who lack differentiation. While the brand monitoring, community platform, ratings and reviews space has already consolidated, VCs look at SMMS market, despite a handful of acquisitions. My time on Sand Hill road has yielded excitement and hesitation from VCs examining the fast growing –yet crowded– social media management systems space. Expect SMMS vendors who can achieve market differentiation and integration with larger blue chip software players to be ideal for investor funding –our findings indicate the market is not strong at differentiation.
- As Social Business Software market matures, expect growth in late stage investments. There’s room for independent players who’ve not yet been acquired to land and expand their enterprise clients, some claiming 400 year over year growth in revenue run rates as social licenses are spread enterprise-wide. As these companies seek funding to grow in international markets, hire seasoned enterprise sales and account teams and acquire smaller competitors, they’ll need late stage investing over $10m, which bolsters overall valuation before a material event.
Future reports to come: We’ll explore status of top funded investments, which VCs are most active in funding Social Business Software, and other data cuts.
Social Business Software vendors (Startups that offer social technology software and solutions for corporations to use to interact with employees, customers, and partners) have raised on average $14m with the most common round being an A-Round at $5.2m. A few vendors have received large D-Rounds, however most are receiving $5-10m rounds from a series of investors. Brands must ask vendors at least 5 questions on who and how this money is and will be used, to understand the strategy before buying.
[Funding in social business software is an indicator of a Vendor's potential to quickly accelerate to meet the needs of corporate customers]
Why this Research:
As an Industry Analyst, I look at The Three Spheres of Web Strategy of the market to understand it: 1) Consumer behavior (who brands want to reach 2) Brand appetite (customers of software vendors) 3) Technology providers (those who aid brands, like these players). On a weekly basis I interact with Brands, Media, Software Vendors, and Media to exchange information. I wanted to bring some hard data to the conversation on the funding aspect which fits in the technology sphere.
[Investor relationships with software vendor shape the direction by providing guidance, network access, and may guide a 'material event']
Above: Figure 1 indicates that across these 55 startups, the total funding amount was $765. Please read method and scope below to understand this is not the full space.
Above: Figure 2 indicates that on average, Social Business Software vendors have raised $14m in funding.
Above: Figure 3 indicates that on average, the average funded round is the A-Round.
After probing the data for hours, I found some interesting trends in the market worth notating.
- Total Funding across these 55 active vendors is $765m. with most funding occurring in last few years however some vendors like Lithium have been present for over a decade. This is a relatively small amount of funding in the VC space, as some giants like Andreessen Horowitz are managing over $1b for a fund, and my finger to the air estimate is that many a Sand Hill VC average around $400m per fund in my space.
- Funding is significantly smaller compared to consumer cousins. For comparison, Facebook received a total of $2.2b of funding, and Groupon with $1.14b and Zynga with $860m. I’d argue that the returns on B2B players revenue (on a percentage basis) may be higher. While bluechipper Facebook is on track for a potential $4b runrate, but Zynga and Groupon have questionable destinies. Furthermore, the startup costs for Social Business Software vendors is low with open software, cloud infrastructure, and sometimes virtual workforces.
- On average, vendors raised $14m across all rounds. On average, these startups took a relatively modest amount of revenue over the lifetime of their companies. While the scope of startups includes both established and early stage, $14m is a relatively modest amount when software salaries, the high rent in coastal cities, and compared to consumer startup giant funding, is relatively small. Many vendors boast annual revenue streams of about $5m-$10m of SaaS best repeatable revenues in my interactions over past 5 years, with exceptions on both ends.
- The A-Round is most commonly funded round. The A-Round investments lead the back, 8 of the total 88 investment events (33%) were at the A-Round at $5.2m. This crucial round demonstrates to the investors that they’ve received corporate traction in an addressable market, and are ready for faster growth to keep up. For further momentum, the most common round was a B-Round which comprises of 22 of 88 events, (25%). Although there are fewer D rounds, the average value exceeded $42m, a goliath size readying the company for a material event.
- D-Rounds lead the largest portion of overall funding dollars. This later stage fund is often ‘double down’ money by VCs who look for companies that have proven their mettle and are ready for expansion at a rapid pace. (product, sales, territory, aboard offices and M&A), or are preparing for sale to third parties (Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, Adobe have rapidly entered this space). In some cases, late stage dollars increase overall value of software firm to raise valuation amounts before a material event.
- Confusion over terminology of funds makes tabulating not clear. The amorphous term “Venture Round” spanned funding that was pre-A and even post-C (like Gigya). In some cases, some vendors received only 1 round of funding and titled it Venture Round, which could be assumed as A. In some cases Venture Round was an extension of a A-C round (Gigya’s latest large round was listed as a venture round, post-C), and while that data is likely listed in the S-1, I chose not to dive into it to dissect for purposes of this industry level data.
- Only 18% of Startups had a Material Event (M&A, IPO). For some startups the mecca is a reaching a material event, which would involve M&A or IPO. While it may seem like there’s been a rash of M&A activity, in this particular data set, only 7 of the 55 vendors (12%) have been acquired and a notable IPO of Bazaarvoice with the media questioning the performance of stock, also LiveWorld went IPO nearly a decade ago. So that’s 10 materials events out of 55 companies, a 18% rate. Granted, a few vendors that were acquired did not make this list, but overall, there’s been few material events. (edits made to this section, see footnotes)
Five Questions Brands Must Ask Software Vendors
Brands are making million dollar commitments to these software vendors, and often their careers, and quality of worklife will pin on choosing the right vendors. Beyond features and functions, buyers must pay attention to the root of funding as it shows financial stability, ability to grow, and credibility from third party investors who also believe in the company. As vendors pitch brands their software and services, it’s important to carefully pay attention to the slide on funding, as it helps to give an anchor point on where the firm has come from, and how fast they may grow in the future.
- How much have you raised and from whom? What other software companies are in the VCs portfolio are related? Find out who has invested and look at their websites for a track record of successful investing in enterprise software. They’re often key advisors, or make connections for the startup, you’ll want to know every angle.
- What is that money going to be used for? How have you used it in the past? How will this help customers? As you look under the hood, find out how they’ve used investor dollars in the past, and look for key acceleration points, if you don’t see this, raise a red flag. For recent funding, ask how they’ll strategically use this.
- Do these investors advise your company on a frequent basis? Are they on the board? Ask specifically what each round was used for, and what were the business impacts. As firms raise new money, have a frank discussion on how they’ll use it going forward.
- So you raised a big ton of money, are you going to sell the company? If a vendor has raised significant money as a later stage, have a frank discussion on their exit, while IPO is no longer attractive in today’s market conditions, we’ve seen a number of acquisitions occur which will impact customers.
- You haven’t raised much at all, why? If a company has not raised much funding, find out why and how. Question if they’re going to match growth rates with competitors who have cash on hand to do expansions and potentially purchases of competitors. In some cases, vendors have inability to raise much money, due to VCs passing up on the deal, due to issues, it’s key you track this.
Methodology and Scope
First, we developed a data set of vendors based on feedback from my initial vendor set who we hear about from clients, press, and VCs, as well as took in input from Altimeter’s research team. Then, I commissioned a researcher to conduct public research to collect all this data with sources and I vetted data content.
This research was conducted across 55 social vendors spanning 6 sub-categories including: Social Media Management Systems (like Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Buddy Media), Social Commerce (Bazaarvoice), Social Integration (Gigya, Janrain, Echo), 2 Gamfication (Badgeville, Bunchball), Community Platforms (Lithium), Listening (Radian6, Social Bakers). A majority of the sample set are SMMS vendors who are the most active funded at this time. The time tables on these funding notes typically span 1-5 years, but there are records of some longer term vendors that were included that have been funded over 10 years ago.
This study does not include funding from consumer startups Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Zynga who all leave these other vendors dwarfed with total funds amassed. This is only a sample of 55 vendors out of 100s, the total sample size was intentionally limited vendors on my ‘coverage radar’.
I’d like to thank the following people for their assistance: Jennifer Jones for her guidance on the VC landscape, Nadim Hossain (seasoned Social Business Exec), Blake Bartlett (Battery Ventures), Andrew Jones (Altimeter Researcher), Christine Tran (Altimeter Researcher), Julie A for data research.
Social Business Software Vendors Evaluated (55):
- Argyle Social
- Awareness Networks
- Buddy Media
- Context Optional
- Curata HiveFire
- Dialog Solutions
- Echo (Aboutecho.com)
- Engage Sciences
- FALCON Social
- HearSay Social
- Mass Relevance
- Meltwater Buzz
- Nielsen Buzzmetrics
- Sociable Labs
- Social Bakers
- Targeted Group
Future Data Cuts I’ll explore:
Funding across category types, top VCs funding Social Business Space, profile of the top 5 Funded Social Business Software startups. Please check out my full body of research
to learn more about my coverage.
(Update: I discovered another material event after posting this, and have updated these numbers to correctly list 18% –prior was incorrectly listed at 16%, Jan 10, 2013)
Community managers are the most powerful group on the internet, they manage the largest social accounts –but ironically are hidden behind the scenes.
It’s that time of year again, to send a kind note to the Community Managers who have helped your company, or you as a customer using social media channels. Like System Admin day, or Administrative Professionals day, we take one day a year to thank and appreciate those who are helping us connect to customers in a sometimes thankless job.
While no gifts are required, the purpose is to give a genuine thank to the never ending, often thankless job of supporting customers and balancing internal stakeholders, a tough balance when the whole world is watching. Whether you’re a community manager at a tiny startup in India, or the head of community at Adobe (hola Rachel Lux) or community manager at an agency like Edelman representing your clients, now’s your time to shine.
Or, if you’re a community manager, write about why you are doing this role and what drives you to get up every morning to do your job.
Over the years, this even has become a global phenomenon, as people organize in person events, workshops, conferences, cocktails, dinners and publish digital artifacts. I’ll cross link to all who are planning an event (real world or online) in the hopes or coordinating as a central place.
So please, leave a comment about your upcoming event
Global and Online
Asia Specific Events
Europe Specific Events
North America Specific Events
- Atlanta is hosting a physical event
- San Francisco will host an event in SOMA area at 6pm, (I’ll be there)
- Boston is hosting an event
- Chicago is hosting an event
- Austin is hosting an event
- Atlanta is hosting an event
Community Manager of the year Contest
Oracle (Vitrue) has created three videos of Community Managers, who are the finalists, watch in here, and learn about their position. They’ll be announcing the winner, on Jan 28th on Facebook
. I’m one of the judges, and have given my feedback.
I’m adding to this list, and sorting the list as the events are added to the CMAD twitter stream and in my comments below.
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.
Left: A social network mapped out, this one is of influential photographer Kris Krug’s social graph.
These breakdown posts often contain content that didn’t fit into research reports, and contain input from industry experts or deeper client engagements, see other ‘breakdown‘ posts.
Unsure how to deal with the most passionate communities your market has to offer? One of Altimeter’s large brand clients was struggling with this same question, a brand cannot simply waltz in without fully realizing the commitment being made and impact to brand relations. Our client specifically wanted to know from myself and colleague Sr Researcher Christine Tran on the “best way to enter and exit a passion community”. I interviewed Jenna Woodul from LiveWorld (software and services), Robb Meier from InternetBrands (they host/manage lifestyle communities and Stefania Pomponi B. from Clever Girls (manage a network of influencers) to get their take on this specific task.
A Passion Community Defined: Is one that contains highly focused brand and lifestyle advocates often on a third-party (one which you have no control over) website that the brand does not manage. This is a high-intensity group, containing members that pose opportunities to engage with influencers, but also risks of brands being unable to manage in a scalable manner. The most engaged members of these communities, we will refer to as Passionistas.
Passion Community Scenarios
|Don’t Engage Passion Community
||Do nothing. For some brands they choose not to engage these communities, but most often they are monitoring. I know of one airline who was observing Flyertalk, but involved in the other, in order to find out how customers were “gaming” the system.
||While not engaging can mean less resource commitment, it does not mean less risk. By not engaging, brands may not have a foothold for product launches or dealing with crises that may arise.
|Dive Head First
||Many a companies, and their agency partners, may dive headfirst into passion communities without first bothering to plan. In most cases, companies have already deployed some resources or have an adhoc community manager involved.
||Rapid deployment, often without having to deal with legal or corp comm checking off every step, but the downside may be much greater as companies are unable to scale, deploy resources, or answer all the questions.
|Approach with a Strategy
||Companies that step back, analyze the situation, the develop key relationships are examples of these scenarios. This can include either a long term or short term engagement.
||While the chances or doing it right increase, the opportunity to do it fast, or even beat competitors to reach these groups.
Risks to Engaging a Passion Community
What are the risks of jumping into a passion community without a strategy? We have identified at least four key risks: 1) May setup unrealistic expectations with passion customers who may now expect your commitment, 2) Disrupt your existing customer relations business processes for sales, support, or communications. 3) Trigger discussions around your product or company that you’re not prepared to discuss, 4) May disrupt the business model of the hosts of the third party site, who may be monetizing the support or service of your product line.
Case Example: Top Tech Company Jump Head First –Then Backs Out
A few years ago, a top tech brand shared with me they involved their highly coveted engineers in a discussion at Digg (pre-Reddit era), only to be surprised and slightly overwhelmed by the amount of questions and discussions that no human nor one brand can respond to. The tech community reacted so positively to see this blue chip involved that it created such a large set of questions that this brand had to reset expectations, and ensure there were enough resources to provide the right experience.
Key Principals of Passion Community Engagement
- Passion communities may outlast your brand. Often, communities have existed before your brand, and may also exist if your brand ceased to exist. Robb Meier of InternetBrands shared that; “I think the biggest point you make, is that passion communities existed before the brand knew of them, and will very likely continue on, even if the brand doesn’t. Prime examples are the thousands of Vehicle model specific communities, based on cars no longer in production. Brands should recognize that passion communities have their own power source. Don’t attempt to become that source, instead, figure out a way to complement the existing energy grid”. Remember, these communities can self-sustain –even without the brand.
- Passionistas may be a small group that don’t reflect your larger customer base. It’s key to remember that these passion members may not reflect the greater market, and brands should understand their place in the ecosystem. Robb shares that; “One other side point, is that in a typical passion community, the vast majority of the discussion comes from a small percentage of the participants, usually less than 10%. If a brand can engage community members from that group, they can potentially realize far more benefit, than by trying to engage the community as a whole.”
- You’re a guest in their house –even if the community is about your brand. These communities often are self-maintaining without brands around, Jenna Woodul from LiveWorld shares that; “Pasionistas have a very proprietary feeling about their community; it’s their space. Until you’ve been around long enough that you really become a accepted member, comport yourself as a guest. If you don’t plan to stay and become a member, consider arranging with the moderator to go in on a promoted forum event basis.”
- Expectations on brand involvement may have already been set by them. Passionistas may already expect brand to participate, and may be upset if you haven’t already. Once you enter a community as a brand representative, the community may expect you to stay and participate. Robb shares a couple of points; “Passionista’s may be upset when the brand comes to discuss, especially if the brand rep can’t provide an in-depth enough amount of information.”
- Third party business models may create a unique dynamic. Third party web hosts (forums, communities, user groups) may have a business model around the community that may stem from ads, education, cross-selling services, sponsorships, or lead generation activities. They make work with your competitors, or offer their own complimentary product or service.
Three Stages for Engaging Passion Communities
Stage 1: Preparing: with the Ears and Eyes
- First, deploy a listening station. Don’t jump in without first knowing your community, take the advice from Jenna at LiveWorld that: “Assuming the forum is publicly accessible, have an internal team or outsourced agency listen and report on both issues and culture before you go in to a Pasionista community. What are forum members saying about your brand already, and what is the prevailing sentiment behind it? Listen for the community culture — how people interact, the tone they use with one another, how they treat new people, the role of the forum moderator, the leaders/influencers.
- Conduct analysis of topics and cultural nuances. Listening alone is not sufficient, companies must make it actionable by analyzing the tone, frequency, and who the key leaders are. Robb from InternetBrands writes: “The nature of text based communication is such, that careful attention must be paid, as each community has grown around different conventions. Words may carry entirely different meanings between two similar, but separate communities. Making a communications gaffe in text, can have consequences that are far reaching.”
- Identify the Influencers, specific tactics may be required. Find out who’s really running the show, Jenna suggests: “During the listening prep phase, identify the squeakiest wheels and, if possible, plan how you might give them some ownership in your brand-relevant message (e.g., providing them with materials and/or answers). That helps to affect the tone they communicate to others”
- Then make the decision to engage –but have clear goals up. Brands must have clearly defined goals in place, priorities and success metrics, and the proper resources setup with commitment from the orginzation on how and who will interact. Be able to articular these goals both internally, as well as externally, in the next phase. As discussed above, a decision may be made to not engage, and that may be a sensible decision rather than brand risk.
Stage 2: Build Rapport with Community Leaders
- Build a relationship with community owners or moderators. Recall the prior principals, some website owners may be threatened by the presence of a brand as it can offset community management, or even revenue capabilities. Jenna from LiveWorld suggests that brands should: ”Create a relationship with the moderator or owner of the page. Explain what you are planning to do and get their input”. I’ve observed situations where community owners discourage links to other competitor communities –even those owned by the brand –as it disrupts traffic and monetization options.
- Be accessible to community leaders and influencers.. Offer a direct line of access to the key influencers or website owners, they’ll appreciate the special access, and your willingness to do business on their terms. Jenna from LiveWorld suggests you make yourself very accessible to the community managers; “Make sure that the moderators have your direct contact information so that if they get complaints when you go in, they’ll need to engage you when it happens. If they can’t get you, you lose the chance to give your side of a story or offer a possible solution.”
- Engage the community –but with clear goals outlined. Once you’ve built a set of agreements with the website owner, be prepared to enter the community, but be clear on goals. In some cases request that the website owner introduce you to the community or even key influencers in private before meeting the masses. When entering, beyond the civil pleasantries, be clear on your role, will you listen? respond? support customers? Will you source ideas? If you’re not going to support products or answer questions be clear on where you plan to do it. Lastly, be clear on what topics are off-limits, and the best way is to indicate where you want to focus the discussion –not list a bunch of limits.
Stage 3: Engaging when you’re a Guest –Mind your Manners
- Deploy best practices as you engage with community. Now that you’re engaging with the community, a few tactics we learned: Go in as a person –not a logo. Logo’s don’t have mouths (unless you’re selling orthodontics and that’s still weird). Consider creating a dedicated thread to consolidate conversations on one topic that can be answered there, esp around support, so if you need to be focused on lifestyle and marketing discussions, areas of focus can be maintained. Jenna from LiveWorld suggests brands should have a measured approach: “Begin your engagement with responses, versus starting topics. Once you get past the listen and learn part, start commenting and adding value to the discussions happening in the community — not as an authority; just as a participant. By responding to other people’s topics, you are engaged in what they value vs the topics you select. Once you are an active part of a community, then begin to start discussions.”
- To scale, work with outsourced agencies –but only if your brand can digest this. The concept of outsourcing community outreach to PR, or specialized groups is an often debated ones. The upside is scale and community expertise, but the downside is lack of control, and potential inability to discuss deeper topics that only brand management teams may know. Savvy companies know that not all services should be outsourced and will apply the right mix, see this matrix on community management outsourcing to learn more.
- Exist as graciously as you entered. For some brands, entering a community is a short term engagement, depending on company goals, community needs, and resource allocation. It’s key that brands exit as gracefully as they entered by: being clear with community owners that their time will taper off, then letting community members know where the brand can be found.
Pragmatic Recommendations: Key First Steps
We’ve found that to be successful, companies need the following two pieces in place before moving forward:
- Prepare your orginization for the politics ahead of time. Companies that are very bureaucratic will struggle to quick questions posed by passionistas. Companies must deploy education, and risk mitigation plans, in advance, in order to prepare the company for the real time discussion that will occur. Make it clear on what your company will talk about –and not talk about. Stefania Pomponi Butler from Clever Girls expressed that: ”only to take days and weeks to reply to direct questions with awkward, formal corporate statements that need to be run through 27 levels of approvals. At that point, it’s probably better for the brand to be completely uninvolved.” I agree.
- Obtain resources to engage at levels the community will require. This isn’t a press release, these are real world relationships that just happen to be on online channels, and you must treat them as such. Stefania from Clever Girls reminds companies must be prepared: “Not only in terms of budget & time allocated to involvement, but in terms of really thinking through staffing. Meaning, “Who is going to be the brand rep. and how much authority will s/he have to respond and engage in a useful way?”. I agree with Stephania, that not only do dedicated resources need to be in place, but working with outside providers and agencies can help leverage off hours and campaigns that require intense engagement over a short time.
- There are some passion communities that you should not engage in at all –just avoid. If a community doesn’t want you there, it may be best to avoid completely, or deal with friendly individuals on other channels. Jenna from LiveWorld reminded that anti-brand communities or even competitor communities should just have an ‘ears-only’ strategy of listening –no engaging. This stance of listening in, and knowing key times to go in to correct ill-facts, or respond to specific questions may be appropriate, but caution is required.
In closing, this is a brief breakdown of engaging with passion communities, but kindly leave a comment if you’ve further resources, recommendations, or expereiences.
(Above pic: Techcrunch Disrupt featured 329 global startups over 3 days in San Francisco)
I just visited dozens and dozens of startup booths (so you don’t have to) at the massive Techcrunch Disrupt held in San Francisco, I also attended in 2011 and published my notes. I’ve been attending Techcrunch events since they were held in Mike Arrington’s backyard with beers, bbq, and a bouncing black lab over 5 years ago, they’ve come a very long way and Mark Zuckerberg said it was larger than his own Facebook conference.
There was an all-star cast of tech-arati including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Marc Benioff, Jack Dorsey, Tim Draper, Ben Horowitz, David Sachs, Kevin Rose, Aaron Levie, Cory Booker, and even Jessica Alba. In addition to the main stage pronouncements there was 204 companies in the startup alley as well as vertical specific days, and 125 in the international rows. I attended the third day, which had many international startups, as well as hardware innovators. Here are some of the interesting companies segmented by market:
Early Funding Birth B2B, SMB, and Enterprise Startups
New opportunities to serve businesses, both small business, enterprise and local merchants emerged, here’s a few worth noting:
- Taptara: The real standout enterprise player I saw was Taptera, which stems from former Genetech mobile team who spun off this enterprise class provider of mobile apps that stem around field productivity, collab, and collateral features. They have 6 major features including a directory system called Colleagues, Collateral built on Salesforce for curated content, Crescendo built on Box.net which offers presentation features for tablets and beyond, an Events feature that Disrupt was built on, and Concierge a Social profile CRM tool for sales teams. Business model is $10 a month per seat, with 20 employees, and only 15 mos old after raising just over $3.25m (pic)
- Alicanto: This novel approach for SMB retail: Alicanto is a virtual CMO for local marketing. Small mom and pops that are struggling to battle with big box and chain QSRs will need this contextually relevant artificial intelligence to provide non-MBA business owners to effectively market with ads, direct marketing, and even suggest partnerships with local merchants. (pic)
- Moovia: If Linkedin and Basecamp had sex. This application first provides employees with collaboration tools, but then encourages teams to score colleagues with their team based skills. As a result klout like points are distributed based on skillsets, and data can be used in a variety of other ways in the future. (pic)
- Kerio Workspace caters to SMBs offering a collaboration toolset built on their existing program. This company has been around since 1997, has 200 employees and stems from a legacy of voip products and beyond. This collaboration tool offers a heavy duty user interface for heavier collaboration with social features.
- The Fan Machine: Social marketing platform The Fan Machine caters to marketers to reach French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish. They’ve 25 employees and have received $1m in funding and strive to compete with Buddy Media, Wildfire, and Extole.
- Freshdesk, which is 1 year old, offers social support and call center SaaS technology for SMB. With 80 employees and $6m funding, they tout 2k customers and offer 3 modules including: 1) Email., call and ticket systems. 2) P2P support tools, 3) Social CRM and news feed management of customers complaining in public. Biz model is $9 a mos per agent with an average of 10 agents. Competes with Zendesk.
- Superlead, a Brazillian startup offers lead generation tools for SMBs that include landing pages, lead gen pages, call to action features, and analytics. With only 7 employees they’ve raised 350k Euros.
Blue Chip Tech Companies offer Infrastructure to Fledgling Startups. Rackspace, HP, Best Buy, Ford, Microsoft all had booth presences to reach out to startups to offer infrastructure, business accelerators, resources, and partnerships. Here’s a few of the booth offerings:
- SAP was featuring big data quant analytics platform Hana, and showcased white label retail apps. They’re seeking to partner with startups and get them on their platform at early stage. (pic)
- Best Buy was here on hardware day offering a business accelerator program called New Blue, designed to help innovators get resources, distribution, and opportunity under existing BestBuy product labels called Insignia and Rocketfuel. (pic)
- HP, Rackspace were offering cloud and hosting to the myriad of fast growing startups.
- Ford has launched a Silicon Valley lab and offers both BugLabs (SW) OpenXC (HW) for developers to get involved. (pic)
Consumer Startups Revolved Around Themes –With a Few Interesting Technologies
Across the hundreds of startups featured, I walked by every booth, here’s a few consumer style apps, websites, and hardware companies that caught my eye:
- Shopperception, a South American retail startup, uses $100 Xbox Kinect bars to analyze real world shoppers to measure engagement pre point of sale and had several analytics dashboards. (pic
- Game Genome Project offers a “Pandora for Games” to recommend which games (and soon apps) which users should find and use They’re business model is a CPA model
- MakerBot, 3D printer, will be available for $2k and creates plastic figures, tools, toys, and devices, and will move to other forms of more pliable materials in the future.
- Interaxon, a Brain wave scanner, is a headband which measures brand activity, and will have uses for gaming, workplace productivity and eventually grab multiple forms of brain activity to track our Body APIs. (pic)
- Government sponsored Enterprise Ireland was present and has an evergreen fund of $350m for startups and larger org. Code 2040 offers a summer internship for US students of Latino and African American heritage who are interested in technology.
- BoostedBoards, an Electric skateboard takes you uphill and home for $1200. Made $100k on kickstarter (pic)
- Double Robotics, an iPad Robot is emerging, and for $2k you can be in two places at once with this remote controlled robot. (pic)
- Zoop, a Square competitor from Brazil has three input capabilities for local merchants includes Pin based security entry. NFC, SmartCard, Magnetic strip canning. They take a 2.75% fee charged to local merchant. (pic)
- Totally.me, a pre-launch social aggregator claims better than Flipboard with Pinterest style feed display. Content is de-duped and has other aggregation and features. (pic)
- Chronos offers a body data tracking application that tracks your daily time usage by your phone. This can be used to optomize how you spend time during the day, and competes with Latitude and Lift but claims more automated features. Biz model is fremium with lead gen CPA and ad models.
- Lit, a highly coveted free statndinga motorcycle stays upright with gyros. (no not Greek food) (pic)
- SuperManket: This one made me shake my head in amusement as well as practical application. SuperManket (yes “Man”) is a new dating tool where men advertise themselves to women (who control the experience). See screenshot of list of options, apparently “aging millionaire” was a top way men wanted to self-describe themselves. Business model is fremium and male members pay for positioning (think SEO) and ability to see who’s peeping their profile. (pic)
Most of these startups will not stand the test of time, and from year to year, I didn’t see as many trends changing other than the lack of SoLoMo companies from Disrupt 2011. One of my mottos is ABR: Always be Researching, and I hope these findings helped others who couldn’t attend the event.
Request: We want to hear from you. Tell us on your blog or website how the “Sentient World” impacts your business (positively or negatively), and we’ll cross-link to the conversation.
Altimeter Group continues its blog ring in September and October to deepen understanding of our three research themes. The next theme of focus is the Sentient World. Consider these key questions when contributing to the conversation on your blog or website:
- Sentient World rolls up trends like internet of things, body data, big data, cloud computing, nfc and beyond, I presented a keynote at LeWeb discussing this theme, see video.
- Once the information exchange begins, how can companies and users participate?
- How do dialog and conversation shift as consumers begin establishing relationships with inanimate objects?
- What content should organizations offer, and how can employees, customers, and partners leverage this content?
- What are the pertinent elements of “new data” that should be used as signals and metrics of interaction, performance, and satisfaction, or its opposite?
- What are the appropriate metrics, and how is success measured in this new world?
Additional blog ring information and related posts on the Dynamic Customer Journey can be found here. Look here for Adaptive Organization posts.
What’s smarter: A college grad, or your future fridge?
- The research theme of focus for July and August will be Sentient World (SW). Short-form definition: As more inanimate objects start to develop data and intelligence as they connect to each other, a network of autonomous interactions will emerge. In the future, our devices will be able to manage, analyze, report, predict, forecast, and more — while humans experience their days more intelligently and efficiently. Understanding the intersection between physical and digital, while discerning signal from noise will become base-level survival skills for organizations. Read the full SW description on our website.
- Be on the lookout for each Altimeter analyst to share their take on how SW applies to their individual specialty. Altimeter analyst blogs can be found here, and all posts will also be aggregated on the main Altimeter Blog and SW theme page of the Altimeter website.
- In addition to aggregating Altimeter analyst blog posts, we will also post a link to all thoughtful blog posts submitted by our readers. You can submit your post using this form. Posts that we determine as especially insightful will also be linked to from the main SW theme page on the Altimeter Group website.
- All submitted posts will be linked to in individual tweets via Altimeter Group’s Twitter account (@altimetergroup).
All questions regarding the blog ring may be directed to jaimy [at] altimetergroup [dot] com.
We appreciate your assistance in helping to drive industry research, growth, and conversation in a community environment that all can benefit from. Feel free to reuse the Sentient World icon found in this post, as well as our themes webinar: http://slidesha.re/JtB2S5
We look forward to reading your posts!
Thank you to Jaimy Szymanski (Altimeter Researcher) for drafting this post and being a leading force in Altimeter’s research efforts around these three themes, you can follow her on Twitter or read her bio.
The purpose of this post is to be a living document and industry reference on the topic of social media teams, as part as my ongoing coverage of corporate social media programs. This perspective stems from industry research and deeper client engagements, see other ‘breakdown‘ posts.
By definition, social business requires transformation within a company, resulting in leadership, program management, and a team to see this change through. In most cases, we see this team as a centralized resource that’s often cross-functional working closely with a number of corporate functions as well as business units ranging from product teams, geographies, the field, and departments. Without this team, the company will struggle to scale as different business units launch their own programs in a uncoordinated manner resulting in a fragmented customer experience, replication of duties, slow response in a coordinated manner, and a variety of tools, agencies, and vendors intersecting into the company.
Definition: The Corporate Social Media team is business program lead by a corporate social strategist that achieves business goals using social tools by coordinating with multiple business units across the enterprise.
Starting with Strategy
Before rolling out any team or putting job descriptions on the careers page, the leadership team and executive sponsors must ensure the right mindset and systematic rollout are in place. We find that many companies who are successful follow the following traits:
- Align with Corporate Goals –Not Social Media Goals. Don’t start with the aim of fans and followers instead first, have a business purpose that aligns with goals executives have already set, strategists should already know these, and then meld this new medium to these. Next, evaluate current skillset and resources including obtaining resources from existing teams. I typically see companies developing a business case, with a request for resources and executive blessing from a charter.
- Systematically Roll Out Program use Hierarchy of Needs. Companies who run and deploy blogs/communities/FB pages are at risk by not first getting ready. We found that advanced companies have deployed internal readiness such as governance, education, policies, process, and a roll-out program in a pragmatic method –not jumped to implementation. Read the Social Readiness report to learn more.
- To Scale, Let Go; Empower Business Units. Companies who reach a level of maturity often allow trusted and trained business units to implement their own social programs after aligning to the program charter of the social media team. This state allows business units to manage and deploy their program –encouraging scale and customization and speed at local levels.
Detailed Anatomy of Team
Altimeter found in a former survey of 144 global national corporations (read the full report) that the average composition of an enterprise class (over 1000 employees) company’s full time social media team is 11 professionals, often cross-functional. This research includes dozens of interviews and close interaction with Altimeter brand side clients who are leading these programs on a daily basis.
Matrix: Breakdown of the Corporate Social Strategist Team
Note that in smaller teams, individuals may cover multiple roles, and in most cases these are cross-functional teams, as community managers may often come from product marketing, customer support, or corporate communications.
||What No One Tells You
||Leader and program manager,The program leader for social business, the strategist is responsible for overall vision and accountability towards investments. We’ve done a detailed study on the career path of the social strategist including demographics, psychographics, business goals and challenges.
||Don’t hire an evangelist if they don’t have program manager chops. This individual must run a business program, and able to measure against real business results like: leads, sentiment, csat, customer support, and reduced costs.
||Primarily outbound and customer-facing, this role is a trusted member of the community, serving as a liaison between the community and the brand. These are often the most under-appreciated professionals in the team as they deal with customer woes time off hours and some even suffer personally as they deal with customer angst.
||Hire community managers that are balance brand enthusiasm with passion for customers –these are not PR pros that are on party message, but instead are trusted members of the community. Read the four tenants of the community manager to learn more. Celebrate these roles on Community Manager Appreciation Day.
|Business Unit Liason
||These internal facing members have a primary duty of reaching out to business units to get them to collaborate, get on board and often join a center of excellence. They may also represent a particular business unit, department, product line, or region. These are key conduits to maintaining relationships with many business teams, and are key for achieving enterprise coordination in scale.
||As an interface inside of larger corporations, this role serves as an internal conduit to 1.5 coordinate efforts with other business units, in order to provide them with resources, as well as ensure consistency. Yet don’t let them talk to business units unarmed, they should have a checklist of requirements and slot in education manager to obtain consistency.
||This often part-time role is designed to serve multiple business units and rank-and- .5 file employees in planning and organizing social media education, including best Manager! practices, policies, and resources
||Seek an individual that knows both social technologies but is patient to teach executives, business program managers, the team and rank and file. Encourage them to work closely with existing education programs.
|Social Media Manager
||This professional will have several projects with fixed stop dates to manage and ongoing programs. This may include launching programs, managing campaigns, dealing with agencies, and keeping teams on timelines. They may work in corporate or with business units.
||This individual is the engine of the team that keeps time, resources, and expectations aligned. Beyond finding social media expertise, look for project managers that have a background in operations or may be project managed certified.
||Using brand monitoring, social analytics, web analytics, and traditional marketing 1 tools, the social analyst is responsible for measurement and reporting across the entire program and for individual business units
||This individual should be able to see the big picture of the forest and ascertain how social is impacting the customer experience and business beyond minute details.
||The web developer typically already exists at the company, yet provides dedicated assistance to help plan, brand, configure, and integrate social technologies as stand- alone efforts, or into existing systems
||Work with a developer that is capable of connecting disparate social technologies with existing enterprise systems. As social software suites become dominant, the need for data integration will become a strategic asset for corporations.
|Content Strategist (new role)
||This individual will coordinate content strategies across the enterprise, customers, and partners, spanning both advertising, corporate content and social media content.
||Ensure this person is well read on Altimeter colleague Rebecca Lieb’s book on Content Marketing, and research report on same topic.
||This role already existing in many corporations and will closely work with team to integrate social into all digital channels, both online, on TV, in real world and beyond.
||Ensure this role knows that social can be a different medium and may require longer term efforts, dealing with negative content, and a rapid response team.
||Most companies rely on third party experts, both digital agencies and specialized social media agency of records. These teams can provide services for education, strategy, creative, content management, community management, analytics and beyond.
||Over the coming period, expect that the social media agency of record (SMaoR) will start to vaporize as digital agencies offer similar offerings, acquire them, or social agencies offer ads.
Common Team Characteristics by Maturity
Not all teams are equal, and we’ve measured the sophistication of teams by maturation which is dependent upon culture, resources, duration, and team skills to navigate. While it’s difficult to put a team in a direct specific column, the following trends are common across the following maturation phases.
||Evangelism, Education, Catalzying Change
||Program Formation, Coalescing, Coordination as a Central Resource
||Empowerment of business units to succeed within established guidelines
|Primary Focus Areas
||Proving business case, wrangling business units, scrapping for resources
||Managing interest from business units that may be out of control, or getting the entire org coordinate and on board. Still proving business case to executives and business units that are threatended
||Company is on board, consistently, yet primary focus is integrating into existing business systems and optomization
||Often a small scrappy team (3) of just a few folks, this team has a small budget and humble set of resources that likely include brand monitoring, social media management tools and online communities.
||Typically, we see a larger increase of internal team size (8) there are more resources being applied to this program. At this phase, most companies launch centralized resources (often called a Center of Excellence) to serve the corporation.
||Often a larger team size that we’ve seen grow beyond 20 folks in an FTE capacity this dedicated team is cross-functional, yet has consolidated leadership from a core function across the enterprise.
|How to Drive Business Case
||When pitching to executives, focus on three data points: 1) Social is a trend, not a fad 2) Our customers are using it (show data and anecdotes, 3) These are trusted conversations (show Edelman data) and we’re not actively involved.
||Focus on risk of social media proliferation and social crises from risk of lack of coordination. Show cost benefit analysis of not conjoining a single program
||Ensure programs are aligned with business objectives that executives are setting, if it’s market size increase, more leads, or better customer satisfcation, integrate into these existing programs.
Prior Research and Web Strategy Resources
This has been my core research coverage over last few years, here’s some of my prior reports and resources, that span career paths, team orgs, tools, industry hires, and list of team leaders.
Select Industry Resources
I read as much as I could that was already published online, here’s a few select resources for further insights.
- Building a Social Media Team Slideshare (Humana) by Amber Naslund of Radian6
- Building Your Internal Social Media Expert Team by J-P De Clerck
- Who should “own” social media at your company by HubSpot
- Data, published in 2012, from Spredfast report on Social Media team stats, by Spredfast
- Book The Social Media Strategist by Chris Barger (former-GM strategist now Voce)
- Smart Business, Social Business, Michael Brito (former-Intel strategist now Edelman)
- Diagram of Agency and Brand team working together by Vertical Measures
- Mashable on Define the Role of Your Social Media Team (JetBlue) by Erica Swallow
- Social Media Staffing and the Org Chart (put it everywhere) by Council and Support for Education Advancement
- Building your Social Media Team by Guy Clapperton
- Establishing A Centralized Social Media Management Model (with Diagrams) by Patrick Cummings
- David Armano has several diagrams ranging from org models, to center of excellence integration, David Armano
- On a humorous note, see org chart including a VP of Poking, by David Berkowitz of 360i
- Spredfast has a report with team breakdown via Jim Rudden, Spredfast
Future of Social Media Teams
In closing, these teams are dedicated units that are serving the corporation in a cross-functional manner. In time, they will give up much of the deployment in exchange for allowing business units to scale. Expect that these teams evolve or become subsumed into content strategy teams, digital marketing, or customer experience teams that span multiple channels and mediums, as they are already not limited to social channels.
The purpose of this post is to serve as an industry reference for converged media workflows: How companies will coordinate paid, owned and earned as one orchestration. This is continued coverage on Converged Media, read the full report.
Customers already experience advertising, corporate content, editorial, and social media at the same time, often in an integrated manner, although most brands do not approach the experience in one deployment. As Facebook, Twitter deploy social ads that utilize earned and owned content amplified by paid, these worlds are quickly merging. Brands that want to achieve the best experience for their customers in digital channels must approach in an integrated converged method, and understand how to utilize each channel’s strength. Brands that don’t have these workflows are at risk for inefficiency, and give agencies an opportunity to lead. Brands that produce these workflows working with agency and software partners can deliver an orchestrated experience.
Converged Media Workflows Represent Complexity in a Simple Graphic
This is continuing coverage of research I’m conducting with Rebecca Lieb (Bio, Blog, Twitter, Books), my co-author on this report as well as Jessica Groopman (Bio, Twitter), researcher. I recommend you first read the whole report on Converged Media (Paid, Owned, and Earned), in which we didn’t go into depth into the workflow that we found. As the industry starts to combine these often disparate channels, we’ll see new forms of workflows emerge that coordinate all these channels. Don’t be fooled by these simple diagrams, as each step transcends a different channel, intense coordination is required on brand side, agency side, as well as software. A new ecosystem of players will also converge in order to serve this new workflow, and professionals that run to meet this future need now will be ahead in their careers over those that do not.
Definition: A Converged Media Workflow is a simple yet comprehensive diagram that represent complex streams that coordinate paid, owned, and earned channels in a holistic manner across an entire customer experience –beyond a siloed approach. As a result, the entire customer experience has a greater net benefit to customers and brands than individual deployments.
Start with Strategy
Companies should not approach the Converged Media approach without first having a goal in mind, as there are significant changes that happen both internally, with agency partners, and new software requirements. To get the most return in your effort, start by:
- Have a Content Strategy that Works Across Paid, Owned, and Earned. Re-purposing the same content on each channel is not s recipe for success, as each provides a unique opportunity, challenge, and therefore approach. Instead, develop a broader Content Strategy by first understanding that all companies (even those selling widgets) are now media companies. Secondly, develop a strategy by understanding how to rebalance your marketing equation by developing a content strategy. Read Rebecca’s blog with many resources on this topic, or the specific report on Content Marketing to further understand this growing trend. New roles, content coordination, and the ability to track all of these content changes across the enterprise will emerge, as well as new professional opportunities for those that are seeking to grow.
- Expect Savvy Marketers to have Playbooks –Supplemented by Agency Partners. Don’t expect to brands to recreate a new workflow each time from scratch, we’ve started to collect some of the workflows below, and expect that many agencies and brands will develop playbooks and bring them forth in the planning stage. Don’t overly rely on the same play, as competitors may exploit the same play time and time again, so expect flexibility based on what the data tea leaves are reading. When selecting a converged media workflow, ensure that it spans both paid, owned and earned channels, but also looks at media sites, social networks, microsites, brand sites and hosted communities. Ensure these are also representing a global perspective, and consider how it can impact multiple product sets within the brand.
- Be Ready: Significant Industry Changes Ahead in Brand, Agency and Software. While the research report goes into greater depth on the predicted changes coming, we see a few significant changes to the entire ecosystem. Inside of brands, the marketing department will start to restructure outside of silos so that the advertising group, corporate communication, brand marketing, and social media teams start to work together on a more frequent basis. Then, we expect marketing leadership to demand that agency partners come together to look at converged media from one strategic viewpoint –digital agencies that lead this discussion will be in a position of power over those that do not. Lastly, new software solutions are starting manifest including from Adobe Digital Marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing, Bazaarvoice, Lithium, ThisMoment, IBM, ExactTarget, and a host others of suites that I’m tracking. Expect a network of software point players to assemble and connect to each other –in order to counter the suites.
Altimeter’s Research Found a Workflow Pattern
There are many workflows –this is just the most common one, although we know many more will emerge. Altimeter conducted research with 34 ecosystem contributors and continue to take briefings and share this workflow with others. Depending on who you speak with, you’ll find different emphasize on different parts of the workflow.
Above: Altimeter found a workflow pattern based on 34 interviews, while we heard a variation on workflow patterns, this one was common, read the full report to learn more.
Matrix: Breakdown of One Converged Media Workflow
||What You Need
||What No One Tells You
|Real-Time Measurement & Iteration (Center item)
||This is a baseline requirement across all phases. This internal center effort is apart from periodic reporting, as it should be gauging in real time the performance of all paid, owned, and earned channels and allow for rapid iteration. Don’t expect this team to be able to see the forest through the trees as they peer in closely, so ensure the periodic reporting phase is included –you need both.
||Real time measurements require a sane way to communicate these changes to the company, by providing daily wrap ups, trend diagrams, and maybe even real time tickers. Barry Judge, former CMO of Best Buy told me he has a digital ticker in his office with all mentions of his company so he can make iterative changes in real time.
|Periodic Strategic Analysis and Reporting (Top)
||If your effort is kicking off, start by conducting analysis of what’s happened in earned, and owned channels. We often heard from interviews that earned tells you what target market is saying or where they are, which informs owned. However in most cases, launches were built off existing products so analysis on owned was common. This analysis should be conducted looking back several periods (months to years).
||In addition to seeing what your customers say, analyze what’s being said of competitors and what they’ve said. Find out what’s resonated and what has not and why. Follow colleague Susan Etlinger to learn more.
|Content Strategy (Clockwise)
||Often companies jump to decide what they say, without analyzing what people want to hear, and that’s why the prior phase on analysis and reporting was a requirement. Companies can now develop a content strategy, but should understand how it changes and varies depending on the following variables: product type, geography, channel, screen, and source of information. Note that this spans many internal teams from corp comm, brand marketing, media buying, social media team and all related agency partners.
||To try to focus on a consolidated content strategy across all of the permutations (we call this the Dynamic Customer Journey) get focused on the top persona behaviors in each of the three channels and top screens. Get focused.
|Publication Across Channels
||This phase requires both internal governance on message and engagement orchestration that includes communication, internal collaboration, a series of meetings, a clear leader and the tools to support. We’re currently seeing a variety of tools from CMS, media network management, and social media management system (SMMS) technologies span this environment.
||Agency and brand stakeholders are seeking collaboration tools that will span all teams, in particular, watch how PBworks and Adobe Creative Cloud develop to serve these real time needs.
||Real time measurement and iteration (center item) should be occurring as a baseline, as a result, post-publication, teams will identify hot paths and hot conversations where content is resonating. Then, teams should invest in sending in content experts, community managers, product leads, executives, or influencers to trigger further discussion.
||Don’t limit engagement to only when a hot discussion is occurring, but set a baseline in monitoring and engagement. Consider how many brands are already deploying Command Centers (focused on social now, but quickly going broader)
||New media units have been on the rise from Facebook and Twitter in the form of social ads. These units often can be promoted based upon resonating with earned or owned content in social networks. Double and triple down on content that’s resonating to reach a broader audience, or tap into the social graph by allowing those involved to share with their networks.
||Social ads are not limited to social networks alone. Bazaarvoice has already launched social ads “media” product that aggregates ratings and reviews into IAB approved units. Expect new media networks to emerge that support social content.
||Nothing is static in this real time world –even your umbrella messaging and tag lines. Understand that messaging must evolve and change in real time to meet needs the changes of the market. Savvy marketers will know when to bend, by involving customers into these process –and know when to stay on overall message to lead market to a new stance in positioning.
||New tools will emerge that allow customers/end users to help collaborate in creating future messages and integrating across all channels. Watch Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle for tools that can enable this at the enterprise level.
||The workflow is a circle and in this workflow, the cycle should continue repeat, fueling consistent and constant content across coordinated channels.
||What we don’t know is how often this cycle will repeat, as there isn’t industry data on how fast this process can occur.
Notable Industry Converged Workflows
Altimeter has obtained a few of these workflows through online search, slideshare, as well as received content from contributors. I’ll continue to add notable examples as I see them overtime, please leave comments below.
Above: Edelman’s David Armano shows a workflow between Paid Owned Earned
Analyst Note: This early diagram quickly delineates a workflow among channels focusing on strength of each
Social Marketing and Engagement, Slideshare
by David J Carr (twitter, blog), Digital Strategy Director, Chemistry Communications
Analyst Note: The integration of social listening, social engagement, email, website and communities
Social Marketing and Engagement, Slideshare
by David J Carr (twitter, blog), Digital Strategy Director, Chemistry Communications
Analyst Note: The integration between multiple channels both from awareness push to engagement and across screens
Related Resources on Converged Media Workflows
I sifted through many online resources, found a few select pieces here, leave comments below, I’ll add to this over time.
- Slideshare Using Earned, Owned, Paid by Ford’s Scott Monty.
- Interactions, Engagement & Ecosystems by David Armano.
- David Carr Digital Fragments, which I referenced above, by David Carr.
- Workflows around Dove Case Study (cross channel, cross screen), see portfolio by David Carr
- Mr./Ms. CMO — tear down these walls! by Scott Brinker.
- Graphic on Paid Owned Earned by Dr Matt McDougall
- Case study of Huggies in HK (video), using social, FB, physical display by Ogilvy and Mather
- Infographic: Social Media Impact Across Bought, Owned and Earned Media by Spredfast.
- What’s old is new again: Earned Media can be your Hub by Todd Defren, head of Shift.
- Excerpts of Paid Owned Earned Book. This book was foundational to my research as it dissects each channel by Nick Burcher.
- Defining Paid, Owned, Earned, by former colleague Sean Corcoran.
- 10 steps to reinvent media strategy (new post) by Todd Defren
- Hybrid Theory was foundational thinking on how converged needs to occur in marketing, read this three part series by colleague Brian Solis
- Womma has shared this workflow, by Dana Oshiro
- Paid > Earned > Owned > Earned > Paid > Owned > Paid > Earned by colleague Rebecca Lieb.
Today, most workflows are limited to individual channel deployment and lack a holistic view of the entire customer experience. We found few public workflows in our quest, but see more emerging in briefings with software marketing companies and agency leads. Expect that a playbook will emerge from lead agencies and digital marketing suites that outline how all these channels and efforts work in a consolidated way. New opportunities for the emergence of a new market, professionals, strategists, and software and agency partners will emerge, and those that lead will have more opportunity to shape the conversation over those that follow.
I look forward to the dialog as this space evolves, please leave a comment with your point of view, or URLs to related Converged Media workflows.
Left: Altimeter Research found that most companies lack a formalized process –and even out of the advanced, only 76% had a process in place, read the full report on Social Readiness.
The purpose of these breakdown posts is to serve as an industry reference as the space advanced to optimization and performance. The assumption is that a company is forming a Center of Excellence or ruling body, or has recently done so before deploying this key component.
Needs: Companies desire to be efficient –not having a workflow puts company at risk
Like our bodies, cities, and corporations, all complex organisms have a natural process and order that helps to reduce inefficiencies and increases the end goals. So what if you don’t have a workflow? This could put your company at risk from lack of coordination, as multiple individuals could be responding at the same time, your customers may not be properly served in social channels, resulting in lost opportunities and potential customer dis-satisfaction. In the worst case, this poor experience in social could serve to fuel a social media crises, which we’ve documented. Clearly, we want to avoid this scenario, and instead develop a workflow that cascades across the multiple business functions, product groups, and geographies to quickly and effectively serve the market in social channels.
Definition: A Social Media Workflow, Process, or Triage is a sequence of connected steps that enables the entire organization to act efficiently with minimal overlapping tasks and resources in order to serve the market in social channels and beyond.
Business Goals: The 10 Attributes of Successful of Social Media Workflow
First, let’s align the goals of having a successful social media workflow in place, benchmark your goals against the following attributes:
- 1) Alignment with corporate goals and customer goals.
- 2) Buy-in and agreement to the process from all involved business units in the organization.
- 3) Few or no overlapping tasks and resources.
- 4) Clear articulation of who will do what, when, where, and how.
- 5) Organizational alignment through training, testing, and refinement.
- 6) Integration with existing business systems, processes, and software in existing channels.
- 7) A clear, easy-to-reference document with clear labels and requires little explanation.
- 8] Scope includes all possible scenarios are included when to respond –and when not to respond.
- 9) Periodic improvements on the process as the business evolves.
- 10) Measurable business impacts report to all stakeholders on a periodic basis.
Downsides: Identify the Six Roadblocks in Advance
No business initiative goes without risk, and developing a social media workflow could result in the following risks: 1) Scrutiny over the social media program at executive level, 2) Internal territories intensely guarded as a battle over who owns social and the customer experience is fought, 3) Chiefs step in to stop the program until the bigger picture is obtained, 4) A long arduous process is undertaken to get buy in from the entire corporation, which can be saddled if clear executive sponsorship is not setup. 5) Failure to align with existing customer experience channels such as phone, chat, online, and in person. 6) A large risk is the organization not adopting the workflow, falling back into old habits, if a proper rollout is not invested.
Starting with Strategy
Ensure all social media activities (and all else we do) align with the company mission and goals, let’s ensure we’re prepared in having a strategic direction with our peers, executives, and team. Start by:
- Ensure the Goals are Established and Aligned. Obtain agreement from an executive sponsor, ideally one that spans the business groups in which you will engage. Remember, something as pedantic as creating a workflow diagram will excite the organization, resulting in groups to balk, or give their buy-in. Do this by reminding all teams that this is alignment with corporate goals like: customer satisfaction, generating new leads, reducing internal confusion. Clearly label the business goals, and assign interim business KPIs that directly map to these goals.
- Next, Map out Existing Processes and Interview Teams. Expert Jason Falls shared that “Getting the right stakeholders on board from the onset that makes a triage process successful”. Whether you’re in corp comm, customer care, or legal, you’ll need to get buyin from other groups. Start by obtaining existing workflows of how customers are routed, and then interview each team for their needs. Lead with business goals, but instead put on your listening cap to get their important point of view before you assert yours. Then, bring all diagrams back to one document, then ascertain the best process and provide suggested workflows. By allowing business units to vote, modify, and provide input will extend your influence from ‘over-reaching’ to instead getting the ideal ‘buy-in’.
- Avoid the Mine Field by Including Overlooked Stakeholders. Projects can quickly become disparaging if one group inserts and stops the process because their needs were not met. Remember to obtain buy in from corporate functions that are often overlooked including: PR, Corp Comm, Customer Care, IT, Call Center, Regional Field. In particular, loop in Legal, Risk and Compliance in the early days. Jason Falls shared that a leading airline carrier in United States involved legal early on, and had an ongoing role: ”A member of senior management and legal are on-call 24/7 to approve and mitigate messages when needed. That’s pretty strong.”
- Rollout Internally through Education, Testing, and Breaking. Emailing a powerpoint triage to all teams that will be involved in the day to day is not sufficient. Ensure a proper kickoff is initiated by conducting a training session, as well as conducting mock process drills in real time. Start with having teams identify message and which routing path it should go into, then simulate how teams will tag, flag, and pass on messages. Ensure proper followup and recording of incident is inputted to correct systems. Be sure to take the process to the limit by simulating crises (see full post) and taking the organization to the level where the workflow is designed to not engage due to critical crises situation.
- Continual Iterations and Coverage, Periodic Measurements. Don’t expect this workflow to perfect in the future, plan on periodic assessments to improve in real time, or at key scheduled dates. Ensure that fire response (corp comm, legal, execs) teams are actively updated on the impacts of the workflow as they may not be involved in daily affairs. Provide all stakeholders periodic reports based on the business KPIs agreed upon, including potential items such as: reduced time to respond to customers, increased customer satisfaction, number of successful incidents resolved, or leads passed to sales for followup.
Notable Examples of Social Media Workflow, Process, Triage
Community Management Scenario Map from David Armano, Edelman
Key decision is based on sentiment, then several if/then statements enable process.
American Society of Civil Engineers’ Social Media Flowchart, via SocialFish
Notice that breach of policy has special actions, also note SLA is set at 1 hour.
Radian6, owned by Salesforce Provided an Engagement Playbook
Support issues are routed to existing customer support channels, with variation on non-customer use cases.
Air Force Blog Triage, older, but one of the first diagrams we saw emerging in 2008
This is a classic which many others are built on, the armed forces have a deep heritage in threat assessments and clear training for enlisted and officers.
Tactics: Anatomy of an Enterprise Social Media Workflow
||What No One Tells You
||All workflows (even outside of social) help to control where process will flow.
|| Ensure these workflows include how companies will handle overflow during product launches, events, and off hours and holidays.
||Often workflow diagrams in social are for the day-to-day situations, for crises, make sure it’s clear on who should be contacted and how
||Savvy companies will conduct social media crises fire drills in advance, see this post listing more details.
|If then, scenarios (falls)
||Workflows will have multiple decision points which help to guide the teams on who does what. Include “If then” statements that help individuals to self-guide.
|| Jason Falls recommends: ”When you’re building out triage and work flow it’s like building out the workflow for customer service call centers — you have to anticipate every scenario. What do we say for a product recall? What do we say if an executive is arrested?”
||Most workflows have either the following triggers to determine the key decision: Sentiment, situation, or who is asking.
|| Each type of data has an advantage and disadvantage: Sentiment isn’t universally recognized, situations may not take into account tone and nuance, and identities can’t be confirmed.
|Tag and Flag
||To allow for internal coordination, ensure that the process and workflow tools allow content to be tagged, flagged and conjoined to existing customer databases.
||Ensure systems work together by requesting social media management systems (SMMS) have on their roadmap the ability to connect with other contact center software, email marketing, or CRM.
||Companies need to internally state how long service level agreement (SLA) will be for different workflow tracks.
||Be mindful about how you plan to share this externally, and if at all. We’ve found some companies do not promise this, but instead recommend existing support channels.
||Not all customers want their problems resolved, and may just want to vent. Furthermore, some customers may feel the brand is too ‘big brother’ if they were not following or fans of the brand.
||Best practices I learned from Frank Eliason is to first show empathy, then ask if they want help: “I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, is there anything we can do to help?” rather than blurt out a fix that may be unwanted.
|Engage in public or private channel
||Many of the regulated, sensitive account information such as airline and telecommunications will shift ‘off channel’ to other secured channels.
||Be up front in your online policies on how you plan to deal with information: be clear on what will be responded to –and will not be in public channels.
|When not to respond
||Make it clear to all parties internally on what type of content will NOT be responded to –and suggest further activity that needs to happen internally.
||It’s important to balance proactive response, but also setting expectations on how far we will respond to customers and what appropriate channels are.
|Integration with Software Tools
||In some cases, triage may all happen in social media management system tools (read the report for the full breakdown) but in today’s multi-channel world, they will extend.
||Whether it’s contact center software or social media management systems software they must align to the workflows that you build first –don’t allow tools to bend your process, instead focus on your goals first before selecting tools.
||Some brands fail to followup with customers after a break has been resolved, or after a customers has recently purchased a product. Have a clear process to followup.
||It’s ok to ask customers who have had product woes fixed in social channels to update their posts, so others will see this person has had an issue resolved or not. Be savvy by first asking their satisfaction, then request them to followup.
|Recording and Measuring
||Executives will be requesting clear ROI on your process and triage workflow, you’ll have to map frequency, intensity, and other KPIs.
||Map your interactions based on the business goals that were stated up front, whether they are for marketing, support, or coordination, ensure business level KPIs are included.
Key Industry Resources
The Future State of Workflows:
I interivewed two experts to find out their perspective on the future of workflows.
- The Workflows Fade Into Background. As employees adopt the workflow on a frequency basis, the organizational memory will guide the company. Jason Falls indicated that “Hopefully they’ll (workflows) only look like reminders and guidelines. The worst possible use of a triage, workflow or process is one that is followed step-by-step, looking at the chart. These are guidelines that should be learned and baked into a community manager or marketing staff member’s job. After a while, you should just know what to do. Certainly, you can refer to the charts, graphs and references, but the strong triage processes in any businesses are those run by people who don’t read cue cards.” Jason is right, the work process will soon take a life of it’s own, however the initial documentation and discipline to get the entire organizational on board will be key for corporate buy-in.
- Traditional Contact Center Software will Battle/Integrate with SMMS Vendors. Existing contact center software that already has roots with multi-channel experiences like Genesys, Rightnow, and Liveops already have social interactions and features. On the flip side, Social Media Management System (SMMS) vendors are starting to evolve into paid advertising channels and may include automated chat bots beyond social, read the full report on the SMMS vendor landscape. These two vendors types will have friction as they battle, and expect M&A over coming periods to occur as these vendors coalesce over the same customer types. Watch Oracle, Salesforce, who are assembling their Social Software Suites.
- Soon, Software Will Automate Responses. I agree with the perspective of Jay Baer, who states that: ”I see the future of workflow and triage being predictive modeling, with routing based on artificial intelligence and enterprise knowledge mapping. If we know the specific areas of expertise of each employee and can store that in a relational database, and we can also know via presence detection who is online and/or what their historical response times have been, we can use Netbase-style NLP to proactively triage and assign social interactions to the best possible resource in the organization. Automated expertise mining.”. I agree with this direction, and have published my thoughts on the future of social being Performance Social, both on Mashable and Techcrunch.Update, this automation topic triggered a discussion on Branch.
Summary: Don’t Under Estimate the Work Required to Create and Rolllout a Social Workflow.The end result of developing a simple Social Media Workflow doesn’t reflect the herculean effort of organizational navigating, buy-in, and change that may occur in developing the process. Be sure to start with business goals, obtain a clear sponsor, and approach business units by asking –not telling– how they can get involved. Ensure your existing processes, software, and customer experience is augmented, and not replaced by this process. While we’re going to lay the foundation out now in a manual manner, expect that future software systems to correctly anticipate these systems and automate based on data lead programs.
Thanks to time spent with Frank Eliason, David Armano, Jason Falls, and Jay Baer for their expertise, Jessica Groopman for pointing out examples, as well as multiple brand clients who have shared their workflow diagrams with me in client engagements. This breakdown is one small part of how I’m working with companies on their internal social readiness and social programs.