Ill be up front, writing research is one of the hardest parts of the job for me, it’s an area I end up putting extra time in.
Despite the extra effort I have to put in, looking back I’m very proud of my body of work. You’ll notice that there’s a strong body of work on community and social networks, all designed to help a brand with their community strategy from soup-to-nuts. Here’s some highlights of what I’ve been working on in the last 16 months:
Body of Work: Community and Social Network Research
Strategy: Online Communities: Build Or Join? (Hint: the answer is ‘when’)
Resources: How to Staff for Social Computing (Like any business program, key people are needed, and here’s there two roles you’ll need to succeed)
Best Practices: Online Community Best Practices (I interviewed 19 brands that have done it right, and to find out how, remember: only 20% is technology)
Best Practices: Best And Worst Of Social Network Marketing, 2008 (we scored 16 brands who conducted marketing efforts on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo)
Best Practices: What works in Online Company Forums (lead by Cynthia Pflaum, we published this report to help brands understand what works)
Vendor Selection: Forrester Wave on Community Platforms (This recently launched report scrutinizes 9 of the 100 vendors in this crowded space)
Technology: I’ve done a piece on Facebook’s engagement ads and Google’s Opensocial, while I tend not to like to focus on technology as a driver, these were both innovative ways for marketers to reach communities.
Soon to be published: My upcoming publications include the social technographics of baby boomers, and our predictions for social computing for 2009, you can setup a ‘research alert’ on the right nav of my profile page to be alerted to upcoming reports.
I’m very proud of the hard work we’ve put in, and I’m thankful for my very tough editors, researchers, research associates, editing team, web team and management for supporting this process. Although the research is never done, the current body of work is designed to answer the most critical questions during key milestones for brands who want to understand community. In most cases, while these reports help brands get their strategy in order, I’m often asked to present the reports to their staff, conduct custom research, or make specific strategy and vendor suggestions, I’ve noticed an increase in demand and it’s keeping me very busy.
I’ve two reports that I’m working on, both I hope you’ll find interest in. The first, which is focused on how brands are changing their spending and behavior towards social media during a recession. We conducted a survey, and I found it interesting that most marketers certainly leaned one direction when we asked them “are you going to increase or decrease social media spend”. I am also seeking case examples of brands that have conducted social media efforts since sept 08 and have seen success during times of resource scrutiny. Secondly, I’m working on a report to outline the future of social networks, you may know about the roundtable I hosted in Oct, which is just the precursor to this vision piece. I’m seeking to speak with thought leaders that can see how technologies like, social networks, mobile, ecommerce and corporate websites will evolve to impact the marketing and purchasing process.
If you have research examples you want to submit, you can contact me at jowyang at forrester.com, lead in the subject line “Research Report Submittal: X”
Social + Research
In my opinion only, I’m well aware of the impacts of social technologies on research and analyst firms. Although it hasn’t been done correctly yet, the market could self-organize and provide community based research to each other, bypassing firms. We’ve not seen this happen yet, as then quality of community based research is still low and lacks a directional strategy it certainly is possible. Like I tell my marketing clients, the power is in the hands of the participants –so participate!
My employer has taken note of how I’ve used social technologies to improve research, increase thought leadership, and to share the findings with the market, I’ll be working with fellow analysts to help them understand what works and what doesn’t. Blazing trails is always risky and sometimes fun, but what really matters when it helps a company become more efficient.
If you had your say in my 2009 research agenda, I’d love to hear what you think is missing. We’ve a pretty solid plan based on what we think the market is asking, but I’d love to hear your opinion as well.
Research is always challenging, I’m required to stay objective, follow a consistent methodology, and inform the market who is strong and who’s not. Believe me, I’ve gotten my share of angry calls, emails, blogposts, comments, and conversations with brands and vendors as a result of my reports. I’ve found that one thing that really helps everyone to understand is to be open and transparent about the process.
In every Wave, like the Community Platform Wave I recently published, there are vendors that are elated and those that are disappointed, this is a normal outcome of reports that make the tough decisions to help brands make decisions. I’m empathetic to some of the vendors who were not in the Wave and want to make some clear explinations as they have to answer their colleagues, customers, and investors.
To start with, in a market of now 100 vendors, it’s very important that vendors take the onus to respond to the call for submission to the Vendor Product Catalog (free after registration). We used this information to filter out which vendors would be appropriate for the Wave report. I made a few public calls on my blog, twitter, indicating my intent as a result over 50 vendors submitted. We generally do not follow up unless we’ve heard client demand from inquiry calls, and I turned to 3 analyst peers for their inclusion of any additional vendors.
You can understand the challenges in filtering a large market to just a few vendors, given the amount of hours required to spend on each vendor, Forrester limits the number of candidates involved in the Wave, for this one, nine was a manageable size and we capped it at that number.
Next, we filtered vendors to meet the needs of external communities used for customers (I serve the Interactive Marketer) as well as vendors were primarily serving enterprise class companies.
Some vendors chose not to participate as being involved in a research report takes time of the vendors and perhaps precious time away from clients. Vendors have to participate in meetings, plan travel to meet me in lab, and be involved in several communications throughout the process. In fact, a multi billion dollar company who owns a community platform chose not to participate despite my offer.
I’m required to be objective, without this, I lose credibility and then everything else will fall apart. Several vendors who are in the community space who are Forrester clients were not included in the Wave, in fact, some were livid and gave me an loud earful and I actually suspect they may leave us as a client. Despite this, I’m supported by my management, and our CEO to stay objective.
Now for the good news, while there is no immediate plans, Forrester is known for updating Wave’s in the space after a few years. Secondly, if you’re in this space, you know I publish a weekly digest giving updates to buyers about what’s happening in the market. I know for a fact the digest is read by senior decision makers at large corporations. If you are a vendor in this space, you can schedule a briefing with me and we can discuss your situation, I speak to clients, press, and media frequently and will always match market needs with vendors as deemed appropriate.
I believe in the open conversation, and will support the right for every vendor and customer to voice an opinion. I hope this helps provide insight to why some vendors did –and did not make the Wave, we tried every effort to be fair in our first report in a very large market.
Clients can access the full report The Forrester Wave™: Community Platforms, Q1 2009 on the Forrester site, however the high level findings are available below, as with all of our reports, we stand by our products.
Communities are a powerful way for businesses to grow
Used correctly, communities can impact the top and bottom line of company’s financials: from brands encouraging customers to self-support each other (reducing costs), to spreading word of mouth to each other (efficient marketing and increased sales) to crowd sourcing innovation (streamlining R&D) communities matter more than ever –especially during a recession.
What you must do before you select a vendor
Many of our clients follow the POST methdology, which is a framework for them to first understand the People they’re trying to reach, and how they use social technologies. Then to pick an Objective that aligns with their business, next, they will spend most of their time scoping out the Strategy, which includes internal processes, stakeholders, roles, budgets, empowerment, policy, and change management. Once you’ve done that, only then you’re ready to choose a vendor, which is the Technology. As a rule of thumb, successful brands focus about 80% of their efforts on the People, Objectives, and Strategy, and about 20% effort on Technologies –don’t get it backwards.
Over 100 vendors in this commodity market
Many an entrepreneur has realized this community opportunity, when I started to cover this market there were 8 vendors on my list, today the space now boasts 100 vendors and it continues to grow. Fortunately, the Forrester Wave reports are designed to segment crowded industries. It’s important that your realize this report is for interactive marketers at enterprise-class companies that are seeking to deploy customer communities –not for the internal intranet, collaboration, or insight community vendors.
Therefore brands seek solution partners–not technologists
Having spent my time as a community manager at Hitachi and coupled with research we know that successful community deployments are far more than forums, blogs, rss or other technologies. As a result, we applied over 60% of our weighted criteria based on what our clients tell us they want, a solutions partner that delivers strategy, education, services, community management, analytics and support. During a recession, brands want to be sure that vendors are around for the long term, so we also factored in leadership, executive team, client base, and of course, financial viability.
Key findings of the 9 vendors
What did we find? First of all, this is still a very young market, with the average tenure of a company being just a few years in community. Despite the immaturity, we evaluated nine and were impressed with Jive Software and Telligent Systems who lead the pack because of their strong administrative and platform features and solution offerings.
Next, a group of vendors ranked as strong performers: KickApps and Pluck enable large Web sites to quickly scale with social features. Also in the strong performer category, Awareness, Lithium Technologies, and Mzinga enable brands to build branded communities while LiveWorld offers brands agency-like services. While Leverage Software is not on par with the others in the category, they are ideal for medium-sized businesses and due to their cost-effective platform could have a strong position during this economic downturn.
Above Graphic: Forrester Wave™: Community Platforms, Q1 ’09
Customize the Wave report to your business needs
We don’t live in a world of absolutes, and we understand that the needs of one brand will differ from another, so clients that can access the report can also download the excel sheet. This detailed excel sheet for clients (which has scores, explanations, criteria, scoring criteria) has ‘sliders’ and ‘toggles’ that make it easy for brands to dial up or down specific criteria –creating a custom Wave report for their needs. Different business needs require different vendor offerings, so the Wave is flexible, you can make it your own.
A summary of the rigorous methodology:
I encourage our clients to be open and transparent about their products and services, in order to build trust with their market, so I’m holding myself to the same rigors, here’s a high level summary of the process:
First, we vetted the 100 vendors to submit to a vendor product catalog, over 50 submitted which we used the data to pair down who were appropriate for the Wave report.
Hands-on lab evaluations: I spent up to 6 hours with each vendor in a windowless room to evaluate their product live using common customer scenarios. I grilled the executive team, and discussed their strengths and weaknesses.
Product demos. We asked vendors to conduct demonstrations of their products’ functionality. We used findings from these product demos to validate details of each vendor’s product capabilities.
Customer reference calls. To validate product and vendor qualifications, Forrester also conducted reference calls with up to three of each vendor’s current customers for a total of up to 27 customer calls.
We collected hundreds of screenshots, presentations, samples, reports and all of this information was entered in a multi-tab spreadsheet that accounts for thousands of cells, scoring, and detailed explanations which clients can use to toggle up and down specific needs as in some cases, specific feature needs may need to be highlighted over others.
In the bottom links, I’ve made my research process very transparent, and have indicate the other three other blog posts documenting this laborious research effort.
The conversation is just starting
Although this report is a snapshot in time, and some vendors have expressed they’ve made some improvements to date, to keep this long process from going further, we have to put a cap on the updates. Therefore, I will continue to keep the market updated with the the social networking weekly digest just as I have for the past years. In the spirit of the community conversation, if you’re a vendor in this wave in this space, I encourage you to voice your opinion online, I’ll make sure the market sees it, I strive to be fair.
A very sincere public thanks to the team
This was the most difficult project I’ve had to do in a long time, and I’d like to thank Shar VanBoskirk (editor), Christine Spivey Overby (editor and my manager), Angie Polanco (Research Associate), Oliver Young (subject matter expert), Sarah Glass (who went beyond the call of duty as a Senior Research Associate), Zach Reiss-Davis (Research Associate), Megan Chromik (editing), and Josh Bernoff (moral support), I couldn’t have done it without you guys, I assure you, it was painful for them as well as me.
Helping decision makers to be successful
Yet the pain will pay off for our clients as brands can easily find vendors that will meet their specific needs. I’ve been passionate about the community market far before I became an industry analyst covering this space, and am glad to serve the industry. We went to great lengths to be objective, accurate, consistent, detailed, and fair and hope this accelerates your business. Thanks for your patience, and enjoy the Wave!
I’ll be updating this section as I see interesting voices from media, vendors, brands and customers.
Jive and Telligent have made the report available
Read Write Web: Report: Community Platforms Market Led by Jive Software and Telligent
Leverage Software CEO Mike Walsh (and other vendors) have responded in the comments
Josh Bernoff: Picking a community vendor? We’ve evaluated a bunch
Tom Humbarger: Questions if these vendors are eating their own dog food read Walking the “Social Media Walk”
Telligent’s corporate blog chimes in and makes the report available for you.
Connie Benson: Wave report showcases community platforms
Neighborhood America CEO, Kim Patrick Kobza: Forrester Wave Report Part 1
Forrester’s Interactive Marketing Blog: I’ve cross posted this same content on our blog for interactive marketers.
My follow up post: How we filtered 9 vendors out of 100 for the Community Platform Wave
Webinar: I’ll be conducting a teleconference on Feb 3rd, hope you can attend
Max Kalehoff discusses the wave and talks why he choose Telligent –and how they can improve.
Destination CRM: Forrester Waves to the Top Providers of Community Platforms
Barry Hurd: Corporate Social Media Platforms – great info to check out.
Mediapost: Ultimate Guide To Community Platform Technologies
Read more about this Wave Research project:
Part 1: Starting the Wave
Part 2: Data Collection Process
Part 3: The Analysis Process
Part 4: Announcing the Wave, the final report
By Jeremiah Owyang and Josh Bernoff and cross posted on Forrester’s Interactive Marketing Blog
At Forrester we tend to look forward, not back. In fact, right now we are preparing our predictions for what 2009 will bring in the social application space. But the end of the year is also a time to reflect. So we looked back at our 2008 predictions to see how we did. Overall, we had one big mistake (vendor relationship management went nowhere) and we were too optimistic on several other predictions. Optimism, it seems, comes along with this space. But we were pleased that the entrance of corporations into the social world seems to be coming along fine, despite the recent Motrin kerfuffle, to cite one example.
Hindsight is 20-20; it’s harder to remember what life felt like in December of 2007, before the recession loomed large, Barack Obama used social technologies to win the election, and social technology became mainstream. But cast mind back 12 months, and then see if you would have agreed with our predictions . . . and what can be learned from the mistakes we made. Here they are, along with the grades we give ourselves 12 months later. (Note: these predictions were in a Forrester document available to our clients (Update: Which included the help of Charlene Li and Peter Kim, who have since moved on to become alumni). We’ve reproduced the predictions, with some edits for length that don’t affect the content.
Our 2008 Prediction: Corporate participation will bring social applications to the mainstream. . . .Emboldened by the success of pioneering efforts like Victoria’s Secret’s Facebook page and extensive private communities like Procter & Gamble’s beinggirl.com, companies will move beyond one-off experiments in social media to establish full-fledged initiatives. Sponsored communities, YouTube videos, social networking groups, and widgets will become a standard part of online marketing campaigns, further pushing adoption by mainstream consumers. . . . By the end of 2008, marketers will be searching for concrete ways to measure return . . .
Result: Give us a B on this one. There were indeed many more social applications, as evidenced by the 150 excellent entrants to the Forrester Groundswell awards. And, there is definitely a renewed focus on metrics. But social is far from universal, and the state of measurement sadly lags social deployments.
Our 2008 Prediction: Community manager roles will gain prominence in companies. As companies realize how important social applications are to their marketing and business strategies, formal budgets and roles will become more standard at large marketers. The staff in charge of those applications might not all have the same title, but they will share similar duties and responsibilities, namely, to develop a social technology strategy and start to deploy social tools and programs.
Result: A-. Community managers aren’t universal. But there are an awful lot of them, and the ones we know have definitely risen in prominence within their companies, see this list compiled of community managers at enterprise class corporations.
Our 2008 Prediction: Corporate social responsibility will take on a new meaning. Corporate participation in Social Computing hasn’t had the greatest run, between fake blogs and flat marketer profiles on social networks that shout at, rather than talk with, site members. Moreover, consumers have become more vocal about preserving control over their information and experiences. . . .Just as Sarbanes-Oxley provides guidelines for internal controls, companies will find themselves answering as well to a growing community of external auditors.
Result: B-. Recent events like the Motrin fiasco show the groundswell is keeping people honest. But we still hear the occasional corporate executive asking us if they can fake it. (We always tell them that would be a very bad idea.) We still think this will come true, but may take another year or more.
Our 2008 Prediction: Customer needs will gain a voice and launch demand-platform prototypes. . . . Customers will state their intention to buy products or services via a Web-based marketplace. eBay’s “Want It Now” program will get a turbo boost when the company turns the existing bulletin board/announcement service into a bidding-based marketplace. College students on Facebook will organize buying clubs centered on an entire dormitory, allowing marketers to move bulk merchandise with a single purchase order. Meanwhile, search engines like Google will create prototype vendor relationship management (VRM) tools that will enable both customers and marketers to find, aggregate, and match user requests to providers.
Result: F. Proved to be far too optimistic; never happened.
Our 2008 Prediction: Micromedia adoption will increase, and marketers will learn to join in. Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Utterz, and other micro-blogging and micro-media tools will give users the opportunity to share short sentences or audio clips with trusted friends. Better search and aggregation tools as well as the ability to have differentiated, group-based distribution will make these “micromedia” conversations more useful and relevant, extending their use beyond the early adopters. Marketers will learn how to use the new tools to monitor and target these ephemeral conversations and participate in relevant interactions on the fly.
Result: A-. Twitter dominated the micromedia market. Companies from Comcast to H&R Block to Zappos have learned to accomplish real business goals with it. We expect a whole lot of further growth in marketer use of Twitter in 2009.
Our 2008 Prediction: The social graph will open up. In 2008, we will see social network members clamoring for greater control over their social networking site profiles, specifically, the ability to express their personal social graphs across multiple sites, for example, on both Facebook and LinkedIn. What will break down the walls in these walled gardens? Perhaps a disrupter like Microsoft or Yahoo! will open up their respective relationship maps from Web-based address books and instant messenger buddy lists and allow outside developers to build apps on that truly open the social graph. This will set the standard, and every other social networking service will need to follow suit shortly thereafter, or risk the wrath of members unable to control their profiles.
Result: C. This trend is powerful, and will develop, perhaps even the way we predicted. But standards move slowly and we see fragments of technologies from Facebook’s Connect, Google’s Friend Connect, and OpenID. Look for this opening up to gather momentum in 2009 where a standardized protocol between all of these technologies to merge.
Our 2008 Prediction: Social search will make its debut. Social search will finally inch its way into the mainstream by re-ranking search results based on inputs from your personalized search history as well as the searching patterns of your social graph. For example, people with similar searching patterns and people like you within your social networks might have favored a particular site over other results in a search for “china.” If so, that link will move up higher in the results. Leading the path to social search will be small vendors like Collarity, Eurekster, Mahalo.com, Wink Technologies, and Wikia, which will begin with site-based social search results. But also look for Google and Yahoo! to start testing and inserting limited social and personalized search results, and eventually ads, as an optional advanced search at the top of search results pages.
Result: D. Social search didn’t catch on very well. But Google did add the ability to promote or demote search results to its mainstream searches –but it lacked a true social element. We did start to see tools that help people quickly share information like ex-Googlers at Friendfeed but the tool doesn’t highlight search as a primary effort. Now that large web platforms like Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL are expanding their social features we should expect search to be impacted in the next year. Social search will get here, one way or another.
That covers all our predictions from last yea, it’s important that we review who made a prediction and to own up to how accurate it was, and more importantly; what changed and why? We’ll be publishing our predictions for 2009 in a report for clients, keep an eye out for that.
What are your best ideas for what’s going to happen in 2009? And what predictions already out there do you think are right – or wrong?
Nothing like ringing in the new year with a look at where the industry is headed. My job as an industry analyst is to assess where the industry is going, and how vendors and brands should respond to changes. My upcoming research on the topic of the future of the social web will do just that, and perhaps the most effective way for me to learn from the best and brightest in the industry is to bring them all to one room.
A few months ago, I held an event to bring the industry top leaders together to discuss the future of social networks for my upcoming research report on the topic. I brought forth community platforms, widget companies, social networks, brand monitoring, web analytics, CRM, CMS search companies, and of course, brands that will implement these technologies. Thanks to SAP who hosted this event (thanks Giovanni for the intro) we had a day long working session to uncover what we see are the predictions of the social web, the challenges to overcome, and how they will be beat. Thanks to Kenny Lauer and the GPJ team for assisting me through the event. Special thanks to SAP for hosting this community event.
Folks flew in from around the country to attend this no-cost event, and we brainstormed and collaborated during the day to come up with the three things (and more) that will matter. Most would agree, none of the findings were earth shattering, but were confirmation for the different parties to attend. I’ll be hosting similar events throughout 2009 to bring the industry together, so we can learn from each other, and I can improve my research.
Update: For some reason the pictures aren’t showing in the embedded slideshare, although they are viewable in this version.
The embedded slideshare has more details about the event, if you’ve questions, leave a comment, I’ll answer the best to my ability.
Group findings at the very high level revealed the following, to see the specific three predictions, check out the slideshare. Note, these were not my predictions, but what I gleaned from the attendees.
The social web industry was able to collaborate towards a single goal.
Predictions generated weren’t “earth-shattering” yet group consensus confirmed industry direction.
Most challenges indicated culture and change management processes within corporations –not a technology issue.
The social web is still in early stages –standards have not been fully been developed nor adopted.
Measurement continues to be a key issue to determine progress and value –as well as a lack of standards.
Key relationships were developed pan-industry.
Here’s the roster of attendees
I invited others, but some were not able to attend, I tried to avoid pundits, and focus on those that really do the work not just talk about it. In some cases, I sent an invite to the company, and they selected who would attend, some of these folks were hand selected by me.
Scott Lawley, SAP
Len Devanna, EMC
Brian Ellefritz, Cisco
Faith Legendre, Webex
Bob Duffy, Intel
Joel Nathanson, Wells Fargo
Joshua-Michéle Ross, O’Reilly
Karl Long, Nokia
Paul Gilliham, Juniper Networks
Tom Diederich, Cadence
Justin Kestelyn, Oracle
Brand Monitoring, Analytics
Brad Brodigan, Biz 360
Aaron Gray, Web Trends
CRM, Enterprise Applications
Sandy Carter, IBM
Param Kahlon, SAP
Eugene Lee, SocialText
Rooly Eliezerov, Gigya
Will Price, Widgetbox
Jeff Nolan, Newsgator
Chris Schalk, Google
David Recordon, Six Apart, OpenID
Surya Yalamanchili, LinkedIn
Community Platforms, CMS
John McCormick, Documentum EMC
Adam Weinroth, Pluck
Bryan House, Acquia
Cameron Deatsch , Jive
David Carter, Awareness
Lyle Fong, Lithium
Michael Chin, Kickapps
Mike Walsh, Leverage Software
Rob Howard, Telligent
Rusty Williams, Mzinga
Peter Friedman, LiveWorld
Expect more on this topic as I dive into this research for 2009, I plan to host this roundtable each year, will try to circulate different attendees as possible.
This has been the busiest year of my career by far, I’ve traveled (and held blogger dinners) in great cities like Tampa, NY, Virginia, Hawaii, Colorado, Austin, Dallas, So Cal, Barcelona, and Tokyo; I’ve accrued many-a-frequent flyer mile. I published several research reports, (won an award), did more public speaking than ever before, delivered above my average of client engagements, was quoted a few times in the press, and grew this blog and twitter account, even though I’ll still get paid if I stop blogging.
Of course, not everything went well. There’s always room for improvement, I need to be better prepared for client engagements (I didn’t do hot on at least two client engagements), I was criticized a few time by bloggers, got duped by Janet and need to check my ego before I get trapped. Outside of work I need to stay on top of my health, and I need to do better at balancing personal and work life.
Perhaps one change is that I’ve now been given the stigma of ‘guru’ which I really dislike. Why? I want to be known for what I can do, not just thought leadership. I produce research reports (products) and help my clients make decisions and give them recommendations (services).
As a result, you’re going to see some changes in my behavior this year, I’m going to do less ‘talking’ and focus more on ‘listening’ and ‘energizing’ (what we call ‘word of mouth’), that’s why I’m taking a Twitter hiatus. Perhaps most importantly, I plan to continue to ‘support’ my community, many people are going to be hurting as they wont be working, keep an eye on this blog in the coming weeks.
Update: To cap the year off the Top Chocolate Blogger brought me some treats, thanks Brian