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, Data.com, 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