Social Media Management Systems Positioning Shows Slight Market Differentiation

Market Positioning Signals Company Capability and Market Maturity
Messaging is often the first thing prospects, investors and analysts see, so it’s important to focus on it as much as core capabilities as we’ve done in our research report which has been viewed 164k times on the vendor landscape.   Over a year ago, I conducted the same exercise to compare the positioning of this same space, and wanted to compare the changes in the space based on data and then draw insights.

Method: Visiting Each Vendor’s Website, Like a Buyer
This exercise was conducted in the mindset of the buyer (heuristic review as a social marketer and executive) using the following method: First, I built a list of vendor names, working with Altimeter’s Andrew Jones, then, I put myself in the place of the buyer and imagined their task of sorting through this new space and short listing it. Then, a researcher  and I went to each website homepage to glean the keyword set, graph on worksheets and conduct data analysis.  We looked at tag lines, slogans, keywords, browser title tags.

After some data modeling, here’s the positioning each of the 27 vendors, including: Actiance, Argyle, Awareness Networks, Buddy Media (Salesforce), Context Optional (Adobe Social), ConverSocial, CoTweet (Exact Target), Engage Sciences, Expion, FALCON Social, Friend2Friend, HearSay Social, Hootsuite, HYFN8, Liveworld, Shoutlet, SocialVolt, Spredfast, Sprinklr, SproutSocial, Syncapse, Targeted Group, TigerLily, Tracx, UberVU, Vitrue (Oracle) and WildFire (Google).

Here’s a list of all the positioning statements. Two of the positioning statements had vendor names included in them, which I changed below to “vendor”.

  • One Platform to Manage All Your Communications & Collaboration
  • Professional Social Media Management
  • Acquire customers, socially
  • The world’s only unified social marketing suite
  • It’s time to take the guesswork out of social media.
  • Powering Social Customer Service
  • Create Exceptional Social Media Marketing Programs
  • Empower, Centralize, and Localize Your Social Presence
  • Complete Social Media Management for Teams and Enterprises
  • Vendor Powers Social Engagement
  • Succeed with the leading enterprise social sales, marketing, and compliance software
  • Social Media Management
  • Do Social. Better.
  • Vendor is a user content management company providing technology and services to help brands scale social media.
  • The only do-it-yourself, all-in-one social marketing platform
  • Manage Social Media Across Networks, Accounts, Staff and Brands
  • Social Media Management
  • Social@Scale
  • Social media management for exceptional companies.
  • Enterprise social media marketing, management, measurement and platform solutions
  • Social Media Marketing Agency
  • Stand out on the social web
  • Social intelligence
  • Solutions for social media marketing
  • Build brands on social with Vendor
  • Complete enterprise social media marketing software
  • NA: There was one vendor where the market positioning was not clear


The SMMS Market has Slightly Differentiated in Brand Positioning
Above: Even after over a year, the market still focuses on keyword terms like Social Marketing, SMMS there was increased deviation in market. Last time 40% used SMMS (10/25) or Social Marketing (10/25 or 40%) as the highest frequency. This year, 8/27 used Social Marketing in taglines, which is just about 30%.  What was interesting is that we’re seeing some unique identifiers used by just a few vendors, showing that they’re slight differentiation from player to player.

SMMS Vendors Lack Social Integration on Homepages
Above: Ironically, most of these SMMS vendors were not integrating social onto their own corporate websites. While 25 of the 27 would link away and promote their social media accounts, only 7 were aggregating discussions from their own market place and a few were explicitly encouraging sharing of content. None had Social Sign On (SSO) which I consider is a sign of social maturity.

SMMS Brand Colors Skew White  and Blue
Above While not an indicator of much, there was a strong preference for white and blue brand colors. Those that didn’t take to this could potentially stand out if all logos were listed on one page. In my experience, blue tends to be a dominant color in tech field, so there isn’t that much of a surprise.

Market Findings
There’s a number of smaller, interesting findings that I wanted to include from the study.

  • There were multiple acquisitions resulting in the influx of the parent brand (Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, ExactTarget)
  • We found that 21 of the 27 vendors had business value messaging (offers to improve customer value, business value) and 8 of the 27 had feature and function capability offerings.  Tracx and Falcon were able to pull off both at same time.
  • In the last study, SMB was marketed as a keyword set, but was not in this current finding set.
  • Since being acquired by Salesforce, Buddy didn’t use campy tagline “everyone needs a buddy”
  • We found that Syncapse and Hearsay had a much larger keyword set indicating that they have wider capabilities. Our research in previous reports correlated with this as Syncapse scored strong in multiple categories and Hearsay has a strong foothold in Legal, Risk, Compliance, and Financial Services, a unique market to manage.
  • The research team was confused by CoTweet’s lack of positioning on the page, and would expect that prospects would be left scratching their head and either look for additional information, or leave.
  • Sprinklr had a unique message “Social@Scale” which is both plays to their identifiable capabilities, unique, and marketable beyond a campy slogan.
  • Awareness provided a verb based tag, “Acquire customers, socially”, but didn’t say what would happen afterwards (management, growth, support, etc)
  • For kicks, there are fewer than expected animal logos, with Hootsuite owl, Tracx primate, Tigerlily grinning feline, and a wing from Falcon. Had Seesmic been around, we would have added a crook eyed Raccoon.
  • Spelling-wise, this market is still plagued with oddly spelled vendors names. I find myself frequently have to tell clients how to correctly spell it out, slowing down inquiry calls. This includes vendors like HYFN8, Sprinklr, Spredfast, Tracx, UberVU and Vitrue (Oracle).

Research Summary
Overall the market is still pinning on social marketing and SMMS as a category.  There was slight market differentiation matching the deviation as the market continues to mature.   Some vendors are finding some unique categories to market their offerings, while some are still going broad to appeal to a larger set.   Expect to see more M&A this coming spring as incumbent software vendors need to quickly get in the game, I’ll post more on this in future.

Credits to third party researcher Julie George for the data collection via TaskRabbit.

31 Replies to “Social Media Management Systems Positioning Shows Slight Market Differentiation”

  1. Great post, Jeremiah. It’s always interesting to see how B2B Marketers differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. Analysis like these are very helpful in refining positioning strategies.

  2. Interesting read, Jeremiah. You point out a challenge all of us vendors in the social software tools space are faced with: differentiating ourselves in a very crowded and fragmented market. You’ll see the positioning for tracx evolve early this year beyond SMMS to “social intelligence”, as we intend to be *the* social data platform for the social enterprise –mining social data to provide value not just marketing/PR or customer service, but sales, customer insights, product management, etc.

  3. Interesting read, Jeremiah. You point out a challenge all of us vendors in the social software tools space are faced with: differentiating ourselves in a very crowded and fragmented market. You’ll see the positioning for tracx evolve early this year beyond SMMS to “social intelligence”, as we intend to be *the* social data platform for the social enterprise –mining social data to provide value not just for marketing/PR or customer service, but also to sales, customer insights, product management, etc.

  4. (Disclosure: I’m VP/Mktg @Sprinklr)

    Jeremiah–You continue to help all the buyers in the market achieve the clarity they need. Thank you for that.

    Obviously, we appreciate the call-out re: Social@Scale because we firmly believe that
    1. social is bigger than just marketing
    2. “being” social is different than doing/managing social
    3. when a large enterprises seeks to “be” social at scale, it necessitates a different set of priorities and features than what worked previously.

    That being said, in the spirit of authenticity, we are guilty of not having SSO yet (in the pipeline) and not being as social as we could/should be on our homepage/website. You are right to expect that of a company such as ours.

    Keep up the great work and glad to see you starting 2013 off with a bang.

  5. That’s interesting Erin, as long as intelligence denotes actionable activity that improves business results it can work. Many of the brand monitoring vendors are losing the patience of buyers as their tool set is not as actionable as the SMMS players. Susan Etlinger and I have both discussed a winning combination will yield growth in a new set of vendors.

  6. Fascinating research. Possibly most fascinating for those IN the industry vs. clients. What would be fascinating is to map this positioning and keyword usage against how corporate clients are describing their problems, processes and use cases.

    I believe there is actually more differentiation in capability and approaches to these vendors (or technology partners) than their marketing (thus, this data) shows. And certainly more differentiation than prospects appreciate.

    Social software companies are pulled in multiple directions to build capabilities in a very dynamic environment. Roadmaps are constantly shifting based on social network policy changes, progressive clients shifting processes and policies, and movements of budgets and buyers. Visions have to fluid and product updates are frequent.

    Then, marketing output is often blunt to comb over this product volatility into concepts that can appeal to a broad market. The distinct approaches and capabilities invented by these fast-moving technology partners are missed by research and (more so) clients by fault of their own.

    In my experience product marketing lacks focus (and thus budget or talent) in an engineering-focused company. However, in such a noisy market, product marketing needs to be just as dynamic and keep up to show what the company has played out to match what the market really needs (in THEIR language).

  7. I completely agree with your assessment Sam. What is pointed out here are the marketing differentiators amongst the various companies. It is certainly no easy task to stay on pace with not only the ever changing industry but the shifting of development roadmaps. Marketing teams often get way ahead of development and tend to share messaging that is more visionary of where things “could” go just to tell a compelling marketing story.

    The actual product differentiators will be reflected in a platform that is not just engineering and marketing driven but instead being driven by sales, marketing and engineering.

    Having the right balance of input from sales teams can help show product development teams not only how the current platform is being used by its customers but also what they would like to be able to accomplish with further iterations of the platform.

  8. It’s interesting to see this category mature. Since I started covering this space in 2009, we have seen the robustness of the solutions increase alongside the sophistication of organizations to truly integrate social into new business practices.

    That said, social login is low-hanging fruit for any B2B marketer; it gives users an easier way to connect into SaaS products, it provides a faster, more accurate way to allow access to content; and it brings back rich information about users from social networks, to personalize the customer journey.

    In this area, customers sometimes even lead social media management systems, by pushing to integrate social profile data more deeply into core product functionality – to the earlier point about social login being a sign of social maturity, it is concerning when the customer is leading the vendor.

    At Janrain, we work alongside many of these tools in the customer environment, and when social profiles are fully integrated into the toolset, the difference is striking – more and better customer profiles, higher and more frequent sales, and improved customer satisfaction.

  9. Sam, great perspective (and you’ve the background as former head of marketing at Bazaarvoice, and current head of Mass Relevance, also software). Sometimes, marketing gets ahead of the product to tell future/intended prospect what’s coming, in anticipation of an multi quarter sales cycle.

  10. Thank you Adam. Some product marketing shifts to ‘business value’ and avoids listing features. In fact, our findings showed 21/27 vendors were focused on business messaging, and only 8 had feature function capability messaging. This supports your points.

  11. Matt. We’ve already seen several large software companies move in: Oracle, Salesforce, IBM, Adobe, and are seeing that snap up happen in the last 12 months. Expect to see more consolidation this spring, as well as funding from VCs (I’ve a post on that soon)

  12. Thanks for the comment, Jeremiah. Yes, the new addition has enabled us to put a solid solution – Lithium Social Web – out in the market along with a great team in Austin. Already seeing how valuable the combination of community, knowledge, and analytics are to the SMMS marketplace.

  13. Great thought-starter article. As the business of social matures I hope to see more analysis of the market players, offerings and positions.

    Speaking from the client-side perspective, (as someone who has used, demoed or reviewed many of the vendors) I believe the biggest opportunity lies in SMMS tools moving away from the “black box” approach and towards a more transparent lead gen strategy. That means easier access to actual screenshots, video demos, core capabilities, richer client reviews and more robust case studies that demonstrate material impact. The simpler it is to understand and assess the tool, the easier it is to accelerate a positive buying decision.

  14. It denotes just that, Jeremiah. We’re helping enterprises move beyond monitoring mentions to actually mining social data and layering on predictive analytics to enable enterprises to make better business decisions, improve their products & customer interactions – and even find sales opportunities and grow revenues –all by intelligently analyzing the ultimate *big data* set, social conversations.

    We’re hearing the same frustrations from the enterprises we’re engaging with about the limitations of the first generation tools they’ve been using which is exactly why we really know we’re on to something with tracx. 🙂 I look forward to working with you and Susan to help define the next evolution of the market that goes beyond traditional SMMS. Simple monitoring & listening –though certainly important — just isn’t enough anymore.

  15. Hi Jeremiah. At MomentFeed, our key differentiator is that we built platform specifically for brick-and-mortar brands. This is our entire focus. We actually set out to build a marketing platform for multi-location brands. It’s a coincidence that Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Instagram happen to be effective channels for marketing locations due to the features they support (specifically mobile). Pinterest? Not so much (not yet, that is). Most other services I’ve seen started with Facebook or Twitter and built a solution to appeal to as many as possible. When we build a client account, the first thing we do is to upload their location data. That is the only way to build an account in MomentFeed. We have a completely unique technology infrastructure that’s sole purpose is to market and gain intelligence from locations through as many channels as the client would like.

  16. Very insightful post, Jeremiah. Interesting to see SMMS vendors take different positioning approaches – some are clearly trying to differentiate by cutting out almost niche markets for themselves. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages and I’d be really curious to see how these companies’ positionings change (and how they have already changed) over time.

    Also, love your point about social login (social sign-on). While social login is most commonly associated with consumer-facing websites, there is a real use for it in B2B settings as well – especially when users can sign in with business accounts like LinkedIn.

  17. Great research! At this time last year, my team at Friend2Friend played “guess the vendor” with the rundown of taglines you listed; back then it was somewhat easier. Looking at the list from a buyers perspective now makes it clear just how challenging it is for brand marketers to make a choice. While maturation is occurring, there is still substantial market fragmentation.

    We see this continuing for a while yet. The social media market is still fast forming and creating a broad array of new challenges: dealing with the fusion of social/mobile; handling the daunting task of cultivating fans across social platforms; successfully incorporating commerce; integrating channels outside Facebook like Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram into a cohesive social marketing effort; and holistically managing a paid/earned/owned media mix to deliver a compelling ROI. Today, no one vendor’s solution “does it all,” and brands are still relying on smaller, nimble vendors to offer innovative solutions. The major brands we work with are forced to work multiple vendors for their social solutions. They are constantly challenged to come up with creative and unique social brand solutions, all the while dealing with technical challenges, and managing a budget that is split between web, mobile, social and print. In summary, these are still early days in the SMMS/social media marketing space — for marketers the journey promises to be full of opportunity and challenges.

  18. Thank you Roger. Yes, differentiation is a saturated market will be key, as buyers need to know how to shortlist. Buyers may ask their peers, analysts, read press, but they eventually will be stacking vendor pitches side by side to make some of their decisions.

    Hmm, I smell a business opportunity, I could create a Memory or Flash card game with software taglines and kickstart it’s development.

  19. Thank you Patrick (CEO Gigya).

    Yes, some vendors are making unique niches by vertical, market size, or even capabilities, those may be dwarfed by the large giants Adobe/Oracle/Salesforce who will make some claims to do it all.

    Forms of social integration can still be deployed, as many corporate social media decision makers are using Twitter in their worklives. The question is, (and I know you know the answer) does Twitter have a SSO capability that could work for this market?

  20. Joel. I feel that the listening market has shaped up nicely.

    Not sure my energy should be spent there, as there’s already been mass market consolidation and a few clear winners.

    I focused my microscope on the red hot SMMS market as there’s been an influx of entrants, VC money, and clear market demand.

    But I’d love to hear your opinion, do you think there’s some rub there I should explore? I seek the “heat”.

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