The news started trickling out late last week that Google is freezing support for social media management solution Wildfire in order to integrate more closely with DoubleClick. The company's official statement says that they "won’t be building new features or signing up new customers" and current customers and competitors know what this means -- there are suddenly dozens of brands and agencies looking for alternative solutions.
As an analyst at Constellation Research, I'm ramping up my marketing technology coverage and see a familiar pattern emerging as the social business software market matures. We've evolved well beyond the early days of the The Stack first identified by Jeremiah Owyang and now point solutions -- which received all the early attention -- are yielding to platforms.
My early take is that a "big three" have a headstart as the leading social business platforms:
- Adobe (Marketing Cloud),
- Oracle (Social Cloud), and
- Salesforce (Marketing Cloud).
Each of the "big three" platforms acquired a standalone Social Media Management System (SMMS): Context Optional (now Adobe), Vitrue (now Oracle), and Buddy Media (now Salesforce), and Google + Wildfire, integrating with other social technologies to offer a multi-faceted value proposition. But buyer beware: websites and logos are easy to create; integrating multiple solutions to deliver a fully functioning unified platform takes a lot of time and effort.
Remaining standalone SMMS players have rebranded the space as Social Relationship Platforms (SRP) and include Spredfast, Hootsuite, Expion, and Sprinklr. Some have started to expand capabilities (e.g. Sprinklr has added listening and Expion has added advocacy) and some clients still want point solutions, but it's clear that these players need to get big fast or find their way to an exit before they end up like Syncapse. It appears that they may be heading in that direction: as Forrester's Nate Elliott recently found out, most SRP clients aren't willing to recommend their vendor to a colleague.
In fact, I see SRPs on a path similar to brand monitoring providers. Their solutions gained a lot of attention in 2006 and I wrote the first Forrester Wave on these vendors. Here's the current status of those original leaders:
- Nielsen Buzzmetrics: went private, JV with McKinsey, shut down.
- TNS Cymfony: acquired by Visible Technologies
- Umbria: acquired by J.D. Power
- Biz360: acquired by Attensity
- Factiva: integrated into Dow Jones
- Brandimensions: pivoted into anti-fraud
- MotiveQuest: still standalone (!)
Even after rebranding as "listening platforms," the market made clear that listening is a feature, not a product. Increasingly, publishing / social media management / social relationship management is turning out to also be a feature, not a product.
My take: the big three have the early lead in the competition to own the social business platform market, but we are in the early innings of the game. Standalone vendors will add features as rapidly as possible in order to stay competitive, and some categories originally thought to be independently viable -- like enterprise social networks -- will turn out to be nothing more than bundled feature sets as well.
I'll write more to define social business platforms in upcoming weeks, including user case studies, vendor profiles, and technology evaluations. Stay tuned.