Social Software: Here Come The CMS Vendors

I’m in the unique position that I get to speak to enterprise brands, white label vendors, and now CMS vendors on a regular basis, here’s what I’m seeing:

It’s now quarter 3, and I start research on the big report, the Forrester Wave (learn about the reports) on the Community Platforms (White Label Social Networks) the Vendor Catalog of this space will be published for clients in the coming days. The process, which has been completed for many other markets, is detailed, granular, and will take me over 10 weeks to complete. The results will yield a report that indicate the strength and weaknesses of those vendors for enterprise class interactive marketers.

[Trend watch: Enterprise CMS Vendors to enter the White Label Social Networking Space and offer Community Features and Platforms]

Social Features a Commodity
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, it’s a crowded space in the white label social network space due to low barriers to entry, and commodity features, in fact with 80+ vendors (could be 120+ if I counted insight vendors and collaboration vendors), there’s no shortage of those who will throw their hat into the ring.

Overview: Enterprise Content Management Systems
I’ve started to notice more of the ‘traditional’ CMS and Portal players that already have deep footprints into the corporate web teams that are inching into this space. First, let’s take a historical view, many of these vendors appeared in the late 90s, they offer easy ways to publish online for corporations, often including advanced review workflows, templates, and staging and dev sites. I’ve been on the teams (I’m a former corporate web guy) that have had to implement, manage, or train stakeholders to use these. Next, in the early 2000-2002 we started to see acquisitions into this space by large ERP players: Microsoft acquired CMS which eventually evolved into Sharepoint, EMC acquired Documentum, and other ERP players such as Interwoven, Vignette, Stellent, IBM’s Filenet and LotusNotes, edDot CMS, Xerox’s Docushare, and Saperion started to extend their KM products for public websites. There’s a great list of these vendors from CMS watch.

CMS Vendors sniffing the social space
Fast forward to 2008. With the demand and buzz for social network features, or community offerings, these established CMS/Portal vendors recognize the demand, and see opportunity dollars falling through the cracks. I’ve started conversations with several of the big players to gauge where they are headed. Of course, the conversations don’t end up on this blog (unless they give me permission, or publish first) but it’s quite obvious where things are headed. In fact, see my predictions referenced in a recent Techcrunch article. They won’t be the only ones, we’re starting to get glimmers of social platforms tying to CRM systems too –integration afoot.

Three Options for CMS Vendors
There are at least three ways these large CMS vendors can head:

1) Develop the features and roll out community suites. Acquire new staff to understand this new world (it’s a different skill set than CMS rollout and management). This will involve client side training, consulting, development/design, new metrics packages, and series of recurring support revenue streams.

2) Acquire the successful white social networking vendors that complement their existing offerings. Find a player that digs deep within Fortune 5000 that offers 100k revenues on first year from a solution sell, and 50k for ongoing support and services. Or either find and easy to use vendor that offers few but broad features, and attached advertising streams and develop a media network.

3) Do nothing. Some CMS vendors may be content with their current product offerings to client, and don’t want to jump into a crowded pool and may choose to avoid offering social features to clients. With third party developers offering widgets and embeddable applications, they actually may not have to.

Four Options for White Label Social Networks
Some of these enterprise class vendors (I’ll know more when wave report comes out), it’s likely they will do a few of these, it’s not exclusive, and will have a strong stance to do the following:

1) Stay independent. I could call this ‘do nothing’ but it’s not the case. Like the CMS/Portal space in late 90s, some of these vendors will continue to grow and be stand alone companies, who knows, some may actually become publicly traded companies.

2) Start partnerships. We’re already seeing some of these companies band together such as Mzinga/Prospero, and now Awareness ties data to Sharepoint, this nods to a direction of working with others, or at least having interoperability.

3) Design for acquisition. Some white label vendors have thought this through, and are building their software in the platform or language of another traditional CMS company and are making themselves ripe fruits for acquisitions.

4) Develop flexible architectures. The future of the web is amorphous, therefore some white label vendors will heavily depend on open APIs, Data, and develop or work with widget vendors to let social content be shared and ‘fly’ around the web. Eventually, some of these widget features could easily be embedded into CMS systems, even if they don’t offer these features.

Four Options for Brands
In our recent forecast report, we predicted that the largest growth spend at the enterprise level for social services and products will be social networks. Brands have a few options:

1) Develop their own social software features. I know a few brands (despite me suggesting they buy) are extending their home grown CMS systems to add on social features. For those with large web development teams it makes sense. For others wanting to be fast and flexible, it’s often not an efficient path.

2) Work with a White Label Vendor. Many are choosing to rope in these vendors to develop, train, design, and manage these communities, in most cases they sit ‘off to the side’ of the corporate website and are not integrated with product pages. Of course, this whole discussion excludes marketing efforts on organic social sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc.

3) Wait for CMS vendors. Many brands are just toe-dippin’ into the social space, they are not offering community features, don’t see the point, or have other objectives to fulfill. As a result, they may just wait a few quarters till CMS vendors offer this ability within their existing platforms. Of course, this comes with risk from deploying too late, or not offering features that meet the needs of community members

4) Do nothing. In the end, some brands will choose not to engage customers in community sites, for a variety of reasons such as products or services that are sold to resellers and rebranded, deep technology components that are mainly a b2b sell, or lack of vision to embrace customers.

Watch this emerging trend
Where are we now? We’re at the very beginnings of this journey, with most white labels being around for just a few years, and the established CMS vendors starting to sniff this sector and gather requirements (many are coming to me) we’re clearly at the R&D stage, with some banding development teams to enter this space.

Questions that will be need to be answered by this space:

  • Will CMS vendors be able to adapt to social features into their legacy systems?
  • Is the demand from client side strong enough for CMS vendors assert flexibility?
  • How will these commodity social features be monetized, with everyone having them, how will you differentiate?
  • Will CMS vendors build, buy, or ignore social features?
  • When will we see existing internal knowledge management systems integrate these features?
  • Will the small white label vendors start to get friendly with the CMS space and start to develop an exit strategy?
  • Are white label vendors building their products for easy integration into CMS vendors?
  • I’ve been thinking about developing a ‘show and tell’ event where both of these vendors can come together for a meet and greet, if I did, would you attend?

    Chime in, love to hear you answer these questions I posed above.

    Update: Larry Dignan from Zdnet throws in his hat and predicts, in his opinion, the most logical options.

    41 Replies to “Social Software: Here Come The CMS Vendors”

    1. Jeremiah, another good post. I think we’ll see more integration in the first place (see Awareness Network’s integration with Sharepoint, Telligent’s Community Server with Sharepoint and Convio’s integration with, though consolidation is inevitable.

      I’m definitely a ‘best of breed’ proponent, so would be happiest to see more open integration.

    2. Great post Jeremiah. You bring together two key features of the online environment, social networking and CMS. As I see it, given the diversity of CMS vendors, it is inevitable that some of them will start to move into developing social features. It seems to me a no-brainer to build into legacy systems; since social features are basically CMS-driven with additional bells and whistles. That said, it may be more cost-effective to buy social features and shoe-horn them in rather than develop them in-house. That will be a challenge for the managers. White label vendors will have to build for easy integration. A vendor will opt for those solutions that integrate easiest with their legacy systems. Competition dictates that those white labels offering the simplest route will win.

    3. Interesting post Jeremiah. You asked if any of the white-label vendors would be up for a meet-and-greet, I know we would. We are starting to get pull from our customers for more CMS connections and have developed a set of API’s to meet those needs. As you know, we have focused our efforts on perfecting our visual matching technology, which provides both opportunities and challenges for clients that want to visualize matches of users to content, in addition of matches of users to users. I would be curious to understand more about CMS integration as introNetworks is a pure Flex application and I wonder what the appetite for integration a Flex app is for these companies. (The data integration is a snap, but the GUI is a challenge).

    4. Totally agree. While conducting our vendor review, I broke the social networking vendors into three categories:

      A.) The CMS vendor who is trying to acquire new business by bolting on social tools.
      B.) The social networking vendor who happens to be back-ended by a half-way decent propriety CMS.
      C.) The portal vendors who are trying to extend social tools to their existing customers but will never be able to compete with mainstream tools.

      I was trying to find the social networking vendor who realized that there was a 4th option. Option D.) the social networking vendor who realizes their clients would want to push the boundaries of their white label platform to be able to handle more traditional web content — forcing them to build out the functionality of their platform CMS.

      I see today, that the social networking companies are more fluid and able to adjust to product demands, than the traditional CMS vendors. They could help a lot of us by solving two needs.

    5. The biggest stumbling block I see is if traditional CMS vendors focus too much on features and technology and not enough on the relationship building that communities require. The key question is: do CMS companies have the expertise to help their customers cultivate those community member relationships to help them meet business objectives?

      I think the first results will be more like what Naomi notes above, with CMS vendors starting by “bolting on social tools.” These first attempts will fail in most cases and the vendors and their customers will write “social networking” off as just another fad. I think Larry Dignan’s reference to failed knowledge management systems is especially apt.

    6. I’m smiling because we’ve already consolidated CMS (DM/RM/WCM) and Social Computing and a bunch of other capabilities into a *single* technology platform that is SharePoint. We™ve literally created the *combined* software category described in your post that other vendors will be trambling over each other in the next 1-3 years to get into! And our recently announced partnerships with best-of-breed vendors like Awareness Networks and Telligent (and more to come!) fill out our “Platform + Partners = Best Strategic Option” story. 🙂

      Lawrence Liu
      Worldwide Community Lead and Senior Technical Product Manager for Social Computing
      Microsoft SharePoint

    7. Damn, everytime we do something at KickApps it looks like you’re right on it!!! ;-). Couldn’t agree with you more. We started on this path with Single Sign on modules for WordPress, Drupal & Joomla. In fact, I literally just came out of a meeting with one of Joomla’s original/core developers. The next big thing we did was to partner with Clickability to prove out this very idea.

      What you’re really talking about here is a web publishing platform of TODAY. It’s a necessity not an option. From a web publisher’s point of view, you’re going to start seeing demand for an engine for their website’s social graph. They’re going to want deeper integration between ‘editorial’–managed from their CMS, with the social graph–they’ll need an operating system for these social applications.

      Sorry if I’m overstepping bounds on your blog here Jeremiah…for you CMS guys out there, hit us up if you want to partner info(at)

    8. Michael

      Thanks. You’re not overstepping at all. Did you see my question above? Should I setup a meet and greet for CMS and White Label vendors?

      You said:

      “Damn, everytime we do something at KickApps it looks like you™re right on it!!! ;-). ”

      Glad to know I’m doing my job right. 😉

    9. Count us in at Lithium for a meet-and-greet.

      In these conversations, I’m struck by how often we talk about four different things as if they were the same thing:

      -small-group networking
      -large-group networking
      -internal networking
      -external networking

      These are the kinds of distinctions that get way clearer after you spend money underestimating them. 🙂

    10. Also count Awareness in for any “show and tell” event.

      We’ve actually been spending a fair bit of time with cms vendors over the past several weeks as they try and wade into the social networking waters.

      Content management is part of our dna here – we morphed from a content management vendor to a white label social media platform in 04 – so it’s been very interesting to now be in integration discussions with cms vendors.

    11. So far Michael from KickApps is in, Joe from Lithium, Robin from Awareness, and I know Interwoven folks are good.

      Let me put more thoughts to how this could happen.

    12. Nice post Jeremiah.
      One of the differences between Content Management and social software is the fact that Social applications have been more popular on the consumer internet whereas CMSs have had their focus on the other side of the firewall. This distinction means that it’s not just the technology that needs to come together. There are cultural and organizational issues as well. The public Internet has fewer controls and is inherently more open. On the other hand, Content Management Systems have focused on processes and controls.
      But i agree that CMS vendors are indeed sniffing this space. Drupal (Acquia) calls itself a social publishing platform. Alfresco has also been touting its social features. Among commercial vendors, Fatwire has done quite a bit in terms of blogs and wikis and tagging. Among the bigger vendors, IBM has quickr and Connections.

      I look forward to read your detailed report on community platforms.

    13. Interesting post Jeremiah. I believe CMS suites are a legacy of the 1990’s and we are moving towards “content-as-a-service” being served into social applications and frameworks transparently, as and when necessary . A new “Social Suite” forcing users to access content from that vendors proprietary repository is not the solution. There are defacto social software applications and tools. When a user is in Facebook they don’t think “oh I must store my post in CMS A because I need versioning” and “oh I must post my video in CMS B because it streams content”. That is why we are moving to “content-as-a-service” where the social application is a platform that can be extended with mini-content applications or gadgets when content services are required. The underpinning of this is supporting a REST architecture and integrating the defacto social applications and frameworks of today. Most users would rather use WordPress, MediaWiki, Facebook … not a proprietary Blog, Wiki … from a proprietary vendor. This is the approach Alfresco has taken and we’d be interested in participating in the “Show and Tell” event.

    14. […] Earlier this week, Jeremiah posted an interesting blog around CMS vendors and the opportunities afforded through social software. Thanks for starting this timely and relevant conversation, JO. […]

    15. Count in Ripple6 for the meet/greet.
      Our social media platfrom integrates a social CMS with SM tools, social marketing and analytics. We’re working with Gannett and Meredith who are using it in complement with other CMS tools.

    16. Insightful comments, Jeremiah, and we at EMC also see the growing convergence between social software and Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Web 2.0 at large presents both a fabulous opportunity for companies to leverage new, exciting and appealing ways for people to work, but there are two things that make this daunting for companies “ 1) Web 2.0 tools open a wide door for a huge array of content and interchange to cross the walls of the enterprise which poses potential security risks, and 2) the sheer volume of online interaction, transactions and information puts new strains on IT infrastructure to keep performance high. So how do companies turn potentially risky ventures into real business opportunity? We think that it™s the responsibility of forward-thinking vendors like EMC to help customers turn this mega-trend into an advantage. To your point, however, most products don™t even come close today “ they™re either niched in social networking or too steeped in ECM to see how Web 2.0 plays a role in content management¦content management products edging into the space typically address only a fraction of what social software can provide and call it done. EMC has been steadily increasing the amount of Web 2.0 integration and influence in our Documentum ECM family of products, and are on the verge of major innovation in this space. In fact, we have a high number of customers actively engaged with us in this venture. We would be delighted to engage in a more open dialog about where these trends, opportunities and risks are taking the market from all sides: customers, ECM vendors, brands and social networking providers. Bring it on!

      Whitney Tidmarsh
      VP, Worldwide Marketing
      Content Management & Archiving Division

    17. I’ll confirm that Interwoven would love to participate.

      Ian, the reason WordPress, MediaWiki, and Facebook excel is because they provide best in class usability. Users aren’t loyal to a particular product (proprietary or not), they are loyal to a the usability paradigm itself. I’ve personally used all of the CMS products mentioned here (Sharepoint, Alfresco, Fatwire, Documentum, and yes- Interwoven) and we all have a long way to go before we’re ready to really take our existing CMS tools outside of the firewall and into the community.


    18. great post Jeremiah. Leverage Software is in for the meet and greet. We have already partnered with one CMS provider and have been talking with others for more than two years. Over the last 12 months we have seen the addition of CMS or tight APIs for partnership as a requirement for many of our clients, as compared with a nice to have. Your post and the Meet and Greet is very timely. We have found it to be quite easy to integrate to CMS vendors, particularly those with a SaaS model. I’m looking forward to the event. I also see CMS vendors, suck as Clickability, offering light social networking features within their product set.


    19. Too bad there’s not room at the table for those focused on the SME market. My company, Bizzuka, is beginning to dip its toe in the social space. We’ve developed a light-weight blog component as part of our CMS and plan on expanding into some other social tools.

      Another company with which I’m familiar,, offers both a CMS and social networking platform designed for use by SMEs and corporate as well.

      I agree with Michael Chin, an integrated CMS/social apps solutions is the “web publishing platform of TODAY.”

      Thanks for monitoring this space Jeremiah, and for doing it so well.

    20. What a timely post. Our company has just gone through an extensive CMS evaluation in the enterprise space and I was amazed how wide open this space is for one solution that can handle content management and social media.

    21. This is a great post. Yeah, I think all companies need CMS for their websites. CMS vendors would be “big Time”. 🙂

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