New Altimeter Group report challenges social software vendors to grow up

January 5th, 2012     by ddeal    
 

If you’ve ever felt that your company’s social media platforms have spiraled out of control, you are not alone. According to a new Altimeter Group report, brands manage an average of 178 discrete social media accounts such as YouTube channels and Facebook pages. The report, A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation, evaluates the equally complex web of software vendors designed to help brands manage their social spaces. The bottom line: the landscape for social media management systems is immature. Make sure you first have a well-defined social media strategy mapped to your business objectives before you attempt to hire a vendor.

“We see rapid growth in the market, yet no single solution stands out as able to satisfy all needs of mature buyers,” writes the report’s primary author, Jeremiah Owyang, after evaluating 27 social media management systems vendors such as Buddy Media and Engage121. In fact, the report classifies the marketplace as full of “immature vendors.”

Altimeter Group identifies several signs of marketplace immaturity such as a saturation of undifferentiated vendors and a lack of key capabilities in areas like monitoring and analytics. Altimeter Group analyzed the positioning statements of many of the vendors evaluated and determined that most lack any definition beyond social media management systems or marketing campaign platforms — resulting in confusion among buyers. (The market for software is probably about as immature as the Internet services market was in 1999 before the Nasdaq crash of 2000 triggered a painful shake-out.)

Altimeter Group maps social media management system vendors against essential business needs such as social broadcasting. The five essential needs, which Altimeter Group calls “use cases,” are listed here:

Against those five categories, Altimeter Group assigns 27 vendors scores ranking from “strong capability” (the highest possible ranking) to “weak capability” (the lowest) None of the 27 vendors evaluated earns a strong score across all five categories, as seen here:

However, some vendors fare better than others, and the report might open your eyes to some companies that had been off your radar screen.

For instance, Syncapse earns strong rankings in four of the five categories and an “above average” score (the second-best possible score) in the fifth category. Engage121 earns three “strong capability” scores and two “above average capability” scores. According to the report, Syncapse focuses on clients that need a distributed brand presence through social and has landed some of the largest deals Altimeter Group has seen.

Meantime, one of the better known vendors in the space, Buddy Media, is categorized as being “the preferred Facebook developer” (as is widely known) — but Buddy Media runs the risk of “smaller, more nimble players outmaneuvering it in different use cases and markets. In response, the company has been developing on other platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus, while pushing integration of features right onto the corporate website.”

That’s the kind of critical insight you’ll uncover as you read the report.

So how should you use this report?

  • If you’re working with one of the vendors evaluated, use the report to do a gut check in order to ensure your partner is meeting your needs.
  • If you have not selected a social software management system and are thinking of doing so, don’t make the mistake of skimming the assessment of the tools. Instead, skip ahead to the section that discusses how you can increase your success rate with social media by first getting your company ready. That section establishes a very clear process for social media readiness, such as establishing business goals and developing a content strategy. As you prepare your brand, you might end up doing some serious house cleaning, which is exactly what Cisco Systems did. According to this report, Cisco shut down nearly 200 rogue social media pages as a result of a social media audit.
  • Then thoroughly review the sections on selecting a tool and rolling out your strategy across the enterprise.

It’s not too difficult to see why social media readiness is so essential to selecting the right tool: if you’re managing several accounts that are off brand and worthless, a social media management system could actually reinforce your ineffectiveness. And naturally you’ll want to understand the entire process for selecting a vendor. Especially if you are a large enterprise, you don’t want to undertake a vendor selection lightly.

Other helpful tips:

  • Prepare to customize. “Some vendors will tell you that their tool does it all, yet we heard that customization is required in early every deployment,” according to the report.
  • Don’t confuse selecting a software vendor with creation a content strategy.
  • Put the software to the test. Jay Baer tells Altimeter Group that you should even set up a dummy social media account to test a vendor (which should give you a sense of how much effort you’re going to need to set aside in order to evaluate a vendor).

But, above all, make sure you understand your strategy for social media success before you start looking for outside help.

For more insight, check out Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post on the report.


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