Archive for May, 2012

A New Epoch: The State of the Social Software Suites


Left: The Sacramento delta forms after many tributaries feed into one single water body in Silicon Valley. Similarly, social startups are combining with incumbent software into one suite (Wikipedia)

As an industry analyst, I’ve been waiting to write this post for a few years, it’s fascinating to see the Cambrian Explosion (a prehistoric era where millions of species rapidly emerged on the earth) now turn into consolidated suites, as the ever fragmented Social Business Stack (we found 18 classes of software and service) unmanageable for brands who seek less complexity.  Finally, we’re starting to see the combination via partnership, as well as consolidation of platforms emerge.

[A Social Software Suite (SSS) is a consolidated set of social web applications across multiple use cases that share a common user interface and data interchange. The suite enables corporations to manage online relationships and activities with their internal and external customers]

In summary, the state of Social Software Suite (SSS) is immature. The the M&A is just happening across the industry and the integration stories have few proof points or customer case examples, we’re in a stage of infancy for social suites.  While we’ve seen many social media proof points, hearing how social integrates into email, advertising, crm, support software, BI, CMS, and beyond is in it’s early stages.  Without a doubt, we’re entering another era of the social space.

Consolidation a Natural Evolution, Sign of Maturity

  • Integration occurs after a Cambrian Explosion.  When I show brands the social business stack of vendors, they often sigh, get frustrated, as they know they’re the ones that must integrate all the pieces together.  They seek a common set of vendors to emerge that they don’t have to constantly coach on R&D and integration partners, and are waiting for maturity in products and consolidation so they have to analyze less vendors.   Secondly, as social integrates with all other incumbent software, the need for suites to emerge are only underscored.
  • High Valuations Forces Biz Dev and M&A.  The industry is feeling a domino effect.  As a few acquisitions start happening, large software enterprise players know they need to make their bet on the table to get into this game, after initial innovation was done by startup vendors.  With IBM, Adobe, Lithium, Salesforce making some of the early plays this has set off an arms race for other vendors to develop their integrated suite.
  • Facebooks IPO “Debacle” makes M&A more attractive.  With Facebook’s IPO not going as well as financial analysts had hoped with initial valuations, the hopes of these startups to go IPO and succeed like 10 years ago have now shifted to M&A deals, where the exit is combining with a large player.   The domino effect causes all investors, boards and executive teams to make their deals and moves before potential windows from suitors dries up.  It’s dating season, and everyone wants to mate.

Brands Must Prepare Company, Yet Complexities Not Undone

  • Suites are Good for Brands Who Tire of Complexity:  Brands are tired of dealing with hundreds of vendors, and having data and logins and systems spread across the space.  They seek consolidation from their providers, as doing it themselves in a rapidly changing environment is complex, expensive, and frustrating.  Expect brands to line up at the C level to embrace vendors that provide high level dashboards that provide real time reporting on these tools, and enable multiple business units to manage social use cases across the company.
  • Suites may Frustrate Brands Who Seek Best In Class: Don’t expect these suites to be a silver bullet to solve the needs of corporations.  Point providers can innovate faster, work with an ecosystem of agencies and system integrators and maintain platform agility.  M&A doesn’t promise integration will occur smoothly, esp as cultures and platforms are forced to marry in a rapid manner.  Expect many pure play vendors to maintain their lead and stand the test of time –without being acquired
  • The Future is Integration of Paid, Owned, and Earned:  Altimeter’s current research on the integration of Paid, Owned, and Earned (POE) has already found early indicators that brands, and their agency partners are seeking tools that interwork together, and as a result a new team within a corporation will emerge to lead this charge, agency partners will restructure and new software will emerge to make this come to life.

Ongoing List of Enterprise Class Social Software Suite (SSS) Vendors
If you’re like me (who’s full time job is to track this) this is a confusing space to track, as a result, I’ll keep this list updated for a few quarters, till it doesn’t make sense to manage this or it’s time for me to do a formal vendor rating and ranking.   Disclosure: Your trust is important to us, as a result, we want to disclose many of these vendors are clients of Altimeter Group.  Vendors are listed in alpha order.

 Provider Integration Points Research Notes
Adobe  Ads, Targeting, Analytics, Social Media Management System, Social CMS  Adobe was the first to launch a nearly complete suite that spans the entire digital marketing push at their Summit conference.  Although mainly marketing, they must bolster into customer support positioning beyond CQ5 this is a strong contender that already has an enterprise marketing footprint via creatives and now with Omniture.
Bazaarvoice  Ads (Media), Social integration in .com, analytics Bazaarvoice recently acquired top competitor PowerReviews giving them a lock hold over ratings and reviews across the industry. Recently, the announced a media product that extends social ads beyond .com and even beyond FB and Twitter ads.  They must expand to engagement software to cover the full span.
Google Search marketing suite, social network, applications, social media management system (Wildfire) and analytics Google’s strengths in search marketing has started to extend to Google+, although adoption numbers are a fraction of other social networks. Expect that Google Analytics combined with collecting of data from Google+ will impact search results in search engine results pages. Now with Wildfire, they can extend into the Facebook platform, as well as deploy Google ads in multiple locations, as well as tie to Google Analytics.
IBM  Analytics, Brand Monitoring, Targeting, CRM  A strong existing player that acquired Coremetrics, they have a strong background in analytics and intelligence, but need to develop an engagement solution that allows brands to engage in social while aggregating data back to their systems.
Lithium  Communities, Engagement software, brand monitoring  Traditionally a community vendor on support use case, they’ve acquired Scout Labs for brand listening and recently announced a white label engagement tool.  They must quickly move into the marketing aspect beyond support and launch an advertising platform that converts earned content to paid.
Oracle  Social Media Management System (Vitrue), Social Analytics (Collective Intellect) CRM and now Involver  New entrant, they acquired Vitrue for an assumed $300m showing the promise of social data into existing CRM systems a reality.  The roll-out isn’t quite clear for roadmap, I look forward to hearing more. (edit: now that they’ve acquired Collective Intellect, the pieces fit together: listening, engagement, analytics.
Salesforce  Brand Monitoring, CRM,, lightweight community products  Traditionally strong in sales and support use cases, Salesforce (edit: has purchased) BuddyMedia (who purchased ad platform Brighter Option) that would quickly extend them into a new arena, this fast mover is disruptive and is to watch.
 Whoever Comes Next  TBD:  TBD: I’ll update this as vendors emerge.

Related Resources

People on the Move in the Social Business Industry, May 24, 2012


Both the submissions on this job announcement board, as well as available social media positions at corporations continue to pour in. In this continued digest of job changes, I like to salute those that continue to join the industry in roles focused on social media, see the archives, which I’ve been tracking since Q4, 2007.


People on the Move in the Social Business Industry:

  • Keith Trivitt joins MediaWhiz as Director, Marketing and Communications Keith will direct MediaWhiz’s corporate social media, communications and marketing strategy, helping to build and promote the digital media agency’s various business units across a variety of social media and digital marketing channels.
  • Ryan Ruud joins Four51, Inc. as Director of Marketing & Communications and will lead online marketing & communications for company’s line of e-commerce and marketing apps including social media planning, marketing and automation app FanTools. Ryan focuses on paid, owned and earned media including thought leadership, social media and blogger outreach.
  • Albert Qian joins Cisco Systems as Program Manager, Cisco Communities Assisting the Global Social Media team with metrics, community governance and social media strategy.
  • Trevor Jonas is promoted at Access Communications as Vice President, Digital Strategy Trevor is responsible for building and enhancing the agency’s digital offering and serves in an advisory role across the agency’s client portfolio.
  • Jay Matusin joins 7Summits as Project Manager where he will manage teams to deliver digital marketing and social enterprise solutions
  • Scott Drenner also joins 7Summits as Project Manager where he will manage teams to deliver digital marketing and social enterprise solutions
  • Garret Starke also joins 7Summits as Senior Lead Developer where he will design and develop software applications for online marketing and social enterprise solutions
  • Gail Dunlap joins 7Summits as Office Manager Organize and coordinate office operations and procedures
  • Debbie Sacks is promoted at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care as Enterprise Community Manager Responsible for launching, managing and evolving Harvard Pilgrim’s employee community to increase productivity and efficiency and deepen employee engagement.
  • Delfin Vassallo joins Nokia as Social Media Operations Manager, Europe Implementing Social Media Customer Care for all European markets
  • Mark Abramson is promoted at thismoment as VP of Operations Streamline operations process and lead the QA, training and support teams.
  • Noel Morrison joins thismoment as Vice President, Platform Noel has a shared oversight position on thismoment DEC platform release launches, owning the features contained therein, and works in lockstep with opersations to successfully deploy.


Submit a new hire:

Seeking a job?

  1. See the Web Strategy Job Board, which includes paid submissions from the top brands in the world.
  2. Social Media Jobs Facebook Group
  3. Social Media Jobs by Chris Heuer
  4. Social Media jobs, filtered by SimplyHired
  5. Social Media Job Network by James Durbin
  6. 25 places to find social media jobs by Deb Ng

Additional Resources:

Please congratulate the new hires by leaving a comment below.

Altimeter Research Theme: The Dynamic Customer Journey


Connecting to customers is going to get more complicated, and brands (and their partners) must pay attention to the Dynamic Customer Journey.

We want to hear your point of view on the Dynamic Customer Journey (either in the comments below, or from your own blog) and we’ll cross-link to thoughtful discussions.

Introducing The Dynamic Customer Journey
We see this disruptive theme as consumers being able to use many sources, devices, and mediums at any given time, giving them more options and choices. The result? Consumers are enabled to have a unique path each time, making it harder to predict. This means the experience becomes increasingly fragmented for the brand, as they struggle to reach consumers across all these choices of sources, mediums, and channels.

What’s the opposite of a Dynamic Customer Journey? Back in the early mid-century, consumers had only a few TV channels and a few newspaper outlets to choose from. As a result, the experience was predictable, easy to target, and one-size-fitted-all. Today, this has drastically fragmented and is ever changing.

The metaphor I use, is when I’m in Times Square NY, and I’ve so many choices to look at logos, ads, and content across many screens, the real world, and people to talk to. We see a similar experience being present in front of consumers wherever they go, even in their living room with so many choices between TVs, laptops, tablets, mobile devices and soon-to-be Google Glass augmented reality.

The Factors that Impact the Dynamic Customer Journey Multiply Complexity
A corporation that’s seeking to connect to their customers must understand all of these forces that impact the journey. They must be able to quantify the following for every persona:

  • New sources of information: Aside from press, media, analysts they are also relying on the crowd, and their friends. Soon augmented reality will allow for new data forms we’ve not yet seen. (that’s about 5 factors)
  • New forms of media: The channels as we know them Paid Owned and Earned are starting to intermix, as a result a new form of media is impacting them. Social websites have social ads, making content and advertising a new form. (that’s about 3 factors)
  • New screens: Traditionally we’ve thought of TV, Laptop, and Mobile, but now we must factor in a tablet experience (which is different than the aforementioned) and with Google Glass augmented reality coming, that will be a fifth screen to build a strategy for. (that’s 5 factors)

To understand the complexity, this model suggests 5 X 3 X 5 which is 75 different permutations. Next, the brand must understand this for every single phase: awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, support, loyalty, advocacy, (that’s 7 steps, resulting in 525 permutations per persona) then multiple times every product group and then geography, the math is staggering on the complexity.

Call to Action: Share your Point of View
This theme is complicated, so in our Open Research model, we’re calling for the community to source and share ideas, so we can collectively learn together. Want to get involved? We’ve published more on our POV on the official Altimeter Blog, and if you wanted to share your perspective, we want to hear, and will link to the community discussion.

  • Technology innovators: What new devices, software, data do you see emerging that’s resulting in customers having more choices in their journey?
  • Agencies and Service providers: How will brands need to catch up in their go to market strategy? How should brands restructure their internal organization to accommodate this change?
  • Brands and Companies: What are you seeking from your solution partners to help bridge this gap? What do you need from technology and service providers to move forward?

Related Discussions
I’ll cross link to all thoughtful discussions

Facebook: A Brilliant Business Model


In business school, case studies of successful companies often involve a story of an innovator who created physical products and services, mass media, or services at scale for global consumers.  Yet I’d assert that web-based Facebook is one of the most brilliant business models we’ve ever seen.  If you use the service, Facebook has you to thank for all your hard work.

Despite yesterday’s IPO closed at nearly opening price, it’s important to pause and think about how this company’s market cap reached $100 billion (for context, Pepsi is at par at $106b).  We’re already seeing many become wealthy, from newly minted millionaires in brand new M3s at the local car wash in silicon valley, to the investors, VC, and ecosystem that will benefit from the revenues, we need to pause and think why.

So what is so important to pause and think about? Why do I say the Business Model is “Brilliant”?  Facebook’s business model smashed the traditional manufacturing style we see with consumer products, and instead built a  ‘consumer platform’ that enabled many around them. In fact, the Facebook business model is brilliant for the following reasons:

  1. Brilliant because the users do the work.   In many companies, hiring paid or unpaid interns is a source of scale, or even off shoring work to developing regions.  In the case of Facebook, there are 900,000,000+ unpaid members that are generating meaningful content and value to each other.   In fact, official Facebook stats indicate that 526million of them are active each day, many of which are using mobile devices and applications to connect to Facebook as they traverse the world.  While Facebook continues to grow, third parties are observing that the rate of growth may retarding, what’s important to remember  is that most of the commercial base that brands want to seek are likely within Facebook.
  2. Brilliant because the brands send the traffic and inject the revenue.   That’s right, this couldn’t have been done without brands.  In fact, as one of the largest monetary streams for Facebook, they are spending dollars to reach the commercial base inside of the Facebook experience (despite GM pulling ads).  In fact, Altimeter research indicates 90% of corporate websites link to their social media accounts, showing how 10+ years of hard earned traffic spent on SEO and SEM with Google has now been shifted to send that traffic right to   It goes without saying the partner ecosystem of Social Media Management System has also contributed –and generated associated revenues.
  3. Brilliant because a small company stayed agile.   Despite revenues being $3.7b, their cost of goods is only $860m. Facebook has published their employee base is a mere  3500+ employees at their Silicon Valley HQ and beyond, a small cadre compared to headcount of Google (33k employees), Apple (60k), and Microsoft (90k).  This lean and mean team was able to stay hungry, focused, and innovative to constantly roll out new features and products (both loved and hated) that captured the attention of the world.  Even large software enterprise companies like Salesforce have modeled their software to emulate the features inside of company.   Despite that there is no shortage of investors, the leadership team was able to maintain control and act against Mark’s clear vision, hopefully evading some corporate bureaucracy.

Facebook Success is Here Because of Your Contribution
This business model is notable as it involved millions in creating a consumer company at tremendous scale (without traditional, manufacturing, distribution or a person-to-person sale), in fact, anyone who’s used Facebook as a consumer, or as a brand marketer should also be to thank.  Now that the IPO has happened, those who have purchased the stock may feel even more connected as they have some financial ownership to the company.

The Facebook business model is brilliant, as everyone around them helped to do the work.

Keynote: Three Future Trends of Social Business (Slides)


I’m presenting here at Webcom in Montreal, sharing the State and Future of Social Business.

In fact, I think the Cluetrain as we know it, while right for many years, needs modification to represent how the social web is changing. I took the first three theses of the mainfesto and translated it to represent how I see advertising integrating with social as well as optimization and Social Performance software.

The three trends that I see impacting the social business space include (but are not limited to):

  • Trend 1: Corporate Websites Reborn. I assert that corporate websites as we know them will be defunct, instead they will dynamically assemble content on the fly, making every page dynamic based on social data.
  • Trend 2: Social Becomes Automated: Bots among us? Sort of. We’re already seeing the rise of Social Performance Software emerge, and this will enable brands to quickly respond (yet there are risks)
  • Trend 3: To be Heard, You Will Pay: With every brand using social networks promoting their latest product, the space is getting saturated, as a result, social networks will monetize by making content visible, via ads.

I recently completed a research report covering Trend 2: Learn about the Social Media Management System space, and my upcoming report on the integration of Paid, Owned, and Earned, will publish in June.   A lot of this focus is on the customer interactions, but for a complete view, also see Charlene Li’s report on internal enterprise social networks and my research on how companies are organizing internally, to understand how companies are trying to ‘catch up’ internally.

The slides are embedded below

Video: Scaling your Social Business


A few days before the hectic 2012 SXSW storm (my analysis here), The Dachis Group hosted the Social Business Summit (catch one in your city) with some of the world’s top brands to discuss social business.   Kicking off the day, I shared Altimeter’s research on how advanced companies are scaling their programs –and avoiding programs that will slow them down.  A few key points we iterated:

  • Being prepared in advanced with: the proper policies, teams, roles, and education programs. These are the foundation needed to build a Center of Excellence.
  • Advanced corporations have enabled their business units to deploy social –once they’ve provided the right training, process, then technology (in that order)
  • Savvy companies are developing a social support triage process, rather than arbitrarily responding to customers, as it can teach the crowd bad behaviors

Enjoy the embedded video below, as well as access the full research report on the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs.

Also, if you’ve not heard about the Dachis Group, they’re a management consultant, software, listening, and digital design quasi-hybrid solution provider that’s rolling out interesting programs for large brands. Ping Jeff Dachis to find out more, or interact with him here in the comments, as he’s a reader and commenter.