I got a few emails from vendors I have worked with or are friendly with about the new Forrester Wave on Enterprise Listening (the new term for “Social Listening”) and figured it’s a good time to weigh in on it.
Source: The Forrester Wave™:Enterprise Listening Platforms, Q1 2014report
Forrester, based on what I read, asks it’s customers which social listening platforms they use, picks the most popular platforms in use for Enterprise Listening that have sales of over 10 million dollars a year and a number of customers from different industry verticals and chooses the top 10-12 companies/platforms to feature in a report like this one.
The purpose of this particular report is really to tell Forrester customers which Enterprise Listening platforms its membership should consider; the list of platforms they looked at are among those used by Forrester subscribers, already.
There is an online Excel tool for Forrester clients that customise the Forrester Wave for this report based on the circumstances for that company - and input into that tool might end up changing who comes up on top of the Wave. In other words, this Wave (above) represents the outcome of research Forrester conducted for no particular company and assumes that most Forrester customers now want a solution that integrates several use cases. That assumption is probably correct, but that might not be your situation, and if it’s not, the Forrester Wave may not be accurate guide for you.
If you are not a Forrester Customer you can’t use their customized tool and you will have to accept the judgements of their report on its merits, or not.
With those considerations in mind here is what strikes me:
MarketWired Sysomos – MarketWired appears to have given up on making Sysomos an Enterprise platform,I think it’s short-sighted on their part, but realistic, in that what it would take to bring Sysomos into competition with the other platforms is more than Market Wired wants to invest. Let’s fact it – even if MarketWired wanted to catch up now, it’s probably too late. Most PR based companies simply have no conception of what it takes to develop a full enterprise platform – till now it’s not been in their DNA. It might be that selling Sysomos to MarketWired was the eventual kiss of death for a platform that otherwise might, in other hands, have gotten a lot more attention.
There probably isn’t that much of a future in catering to a PR/agency market anyway – though it may be MarketWired can go on like this for a while – after all, COBOL, FORTRAN and even BASIC is still used as a programming languages – and data centers still have of mainframes going back to the 1970’s and 1980’s. In fact, many agencies are moving towards Big Data and Social Media Command Centers and that has driven a lot of change and mergers in the last year.
Companies (friends) like Brandwatch have developed Command Centers because they know that is what many customers now want. Going after mom and pop PR agencies is just short sighted and will lead to lowering sales and eventually a disappointing end. Too bad, because I liked Sysomos when I was using it – I could get stuff done with it quickly. Oh well.
Attensity got a warning in the Wave report, Forrester found a high percentage of customers were switching to other vendors after their contracts ended. Attensity was busy trying to up sell customers to solutions that didn’t entirely address their needs, or did so in a way that limited their growth opportunities. The various tools Attensity provided also were not flexible enough.
I never really worked with the tool set that is Attensity so I can’t say what their platforms are or aren’t capable of – but my sense is that if you build a lot of capabilities around a certain type of high-end client – you’ll probably find that you can not easily redeploy the same work to other situations as easily as one might think.
Penalties for having been too early in the market and rewards for being a newcomer.
Forrester thinks that Sprinklr, being only 5 years old, created a platform that is more flexible than the others in the this study.
Visible Technologies rebounded to more or less, the same position they had 5 or 6 years ago, after their various acquisitions of other platforms.
Salesforce Radian6, I suppose, moved up – but the Forrester report brings up a good point – that companies that acquire other companies need to spend time integrating the platforms – Salesforce is so busy trying to make the platforms they bought work together (as I predicted) they simply aren’t able to lead or innovate much because they have too much on their hands trying to sell the consolidated Clouds they have built – the Clouds that aren’t particularly suited for anyone but really big Whales, just like Salesforce, themselves.
Essentially, Forrester said to forget Radian6 unless you were already a Salesforce customer and the only expansion options Radian6 has, are ones that connect into other aspects of Salesforce – and if you’re not involved with the Salesforce ecosystem, you won’t want Radian6.
NetBase probably has the most potential to improve their game – they already have the best text analytics and sentiment platform for general use – but they don’t have the best dashboard by far, and they haven’t really expanded past Market Research according to Forrester – but they could. I have done some work with NetBase that it would be impossible to do with the other platforms discussed here.
I noticed a lot of people left NetBase last fall, when I last worked with them and did a Webinar (see below), and I wondered about the story behind that. Still, I have access to the platform and really enjoy the research I can do with it – so if anyone has a chance to improve a lot in the next Wave, I will give it NetBase to move up a bit in the 2016 Wave.
Crimson Hexagon is in the Forrester Report for the first time – and it may be that trying to be good at one thing, a certain type of market research, works better than trying to be the platform that can adapt to everything, which Crimson Hexagon can’t do, and probably won’t do.
I haven’t worked with Crimson Hexagon for a few years but my impression (and I don’t think the platform has fundamentally changed, though several enhancements have been added) is that it’s an analyst tool mainly – and the results are based on, almost entirely, on how well the analyst sets up the tool, almost more than any other platform in this list.
Set the tool up badly – the output will be mostly garbage – set it up well – the output could be gold nuggets – it all depends on who sets up the monitors and how well they are trained. It almost doesn’t matter what data you feed into Crimson Hexagon, and in fact, you’d probably get a better result from semi – structured data than the Social Data it’s better known for. Crimson Hexagon, in spite of whatever they may tell you – it the platform that, the most needs the right person to set it up or else, forget it. You can’t just jump into that platform, throw in a bunch of terms, get a pretty pie chart, and call it a day.
Synthesio is the leader in the Forrester Wave this time – and it’s well deserved in my opinion – they have really worked hard and merging form and function. I’ve been friendly with Synthesio and even did a Book Signing in London two years ago (was it really that long ago?) at the Hospital Club.
Perhaps it’s time to drop by Synthesio’s offices in New York City again, I was over to meet Loic M. and continue to be friendly with various people at this vendor – who probably really get what Brands want better than anyone. It shows. Last year they also did an interview with me and also included one of my self portraits – which I also greatly enjoyed.
It was pointed out in the Forrester Wave that Synthesio takes extra time to clean the data, they take the time to find out what the Brand really wants and they come up with solutions that are innovative when needed.
Forrester suggests that innovation and wide level of use cases is more important now than it was 2 years ago
Forrester’s current grading criteria seems to skew towards innovative solutions that platforms would suggest for their customers – the willingness to “stretch” to the edges of what customers need (once we figure what it actually is that they need).
Forrester penalizes Attensity and Sysomos for not “stretching” – for either purely “up selling” (Attensity) or focusing on a narrow use case (Sysomos).
To be fair, if you purpose isn’t “Enterprise” Listening, than maybe the whole Forrester Wave could be ignored, and you just go with the tools or platform that gives you the best approximation of what you think you want. But when you add “Enterprise” in the mix, half the platforms in the Wave are demoted, because they simply were not designed to be Enterprise tools, including Crimson Hexagon and even NetBase.
And funny as it seems, Radian6 was considered an Enterprise tool, but actually performs much worse in many respects than those who platforms who were not designed to be Enterprise – so I suspect the word “Enterprise” is a red herring.
Design – not Enterprise – that’s what is really important
In fact, it’s not Enterprise readiness that ought to be the thing your company should be concerned about – but rather good front end and back-end design, good performance and clean data. Most Enterprises are “silos” anyway, so the idea of an “Enterprise” ready platform is a misnomer – what you need is a platform that works well for the very things you wanted it to do.
The fact that none of these platforms came anywhere near what they promised to do a few years ago was common knowledge to most people working in this space.
The Forrester Wave 2014 Q1 really celebrates the fact that some of the platforms are beginning to deliver on the marketing hype they were selling all along.
The platforms that did the best in the Wave are those that have best mixed “human” and “machine” learning, and leveraged both.
Sprinklr does well – and comes up second in the pack – turns out to be the “swiss army knife” of Social Enterprise Listening.
I suspect one of the reasons Sprinkr is knocking it out of the park is they are willing to customize their platform for clients – it’s the kind of thing that Salesforce, Attensity and most of the rest are simply unwilling or unable to do.
I know for a fact, aside from the great business skills at Sprinklr, they have been known to add custom features to clients quickly and their development team can quickly come up with meaningful adaptations to the platform that affect the bottom line – I bet that is why they are growing so quickly.
I personally, having used the Sprinklr platform on occasion, but not lately (though I probably still have access) found it hard to navigate between the parts – that training really is important here. But on the other hand, as I point out above, Design wins the day. As Sprinklr can quickly adapt their platform to clients particular needs at an attractive price point – they win over most of the others that can’t or simply will not do such a thing. Perhaps, as Forrester claims, it’s due to Sprinklr late entrance into the game – or maybe it is just better software design – I don’t know.
Team BrandWatch continues to innovate
BrandWatch has massively expanded in the last 3 years (since my book came out – with a great interview with Giles Palmer, the CEO).
I noted last year that the new BrandWatch platform was vastly improved in functionality – it also added Brand monitoring of channels – moving into SocialBakers territory.
They opened offices in several new cities including San Francisco and Austin Texas.
Perhaps, following my suggestion, they entered the “command center” market and also retooled for “Big Data” with their Vizia platform (see presentation above).
BrandWatch partnered with HootSuite to provide Social Media Listening on top of Social Media Marketing capabilities HootSuite already had.
Lately they even picked up some people from Topsy who left after Apple acquired the platform in December.
They are constantly trying to improve and make their platform better.
BrandWatch may end up next to Synthesio in the next Wave – and perhaps we ought to be focused now on what the future will look like two years from now.
Converseon continued to stay in the game, but lost its part of its leadership position from two years ago in the Wave – probably due to the fact that the solution has to be customized for each client and, as I understand it, can’t do much or anything as purely self-serve – something that Enterprises also seem to want these days.
Visible Technologies rebounded because they provided a mix of self-serve and high-end consulting solutions that worked in large industries AND niche industries.
Tracx is a platform I haven’t worked with – but I noted that it had an interface with Google Universal Analytics, which most of the platforms don’t have in this Wave. Interestingly, Sprinklr does interface with Google Analytics, at least partially, but Forrester didn’t seem to mention it.
Where all the platforms need to go for the next Forrester Wave.
Mobile is the new frontier and new capstone – for the next Forrester Wave, the platform that best captures Mobile technologies will ride the crest of the Wave.
Geo-fensing capabilities that are already built into Geofeedia need to be integrated to some extent into the platforms that will lead the next Wave.
Source: Geofeedia recording of Rutgers University New Brunswick
I have been working with Geofeedia quite a bit – they would certainly need to make a bunch of changes to be in the next Forrester Wave, but they are doing something the other listening platforms aren’t – they’re focusing on mobile in a way that is not “keyword based”.
Even Crimson Hexagon can’t claim that – nor can NetBase – in fact, all the platforms in the current Wave are stuck in the keyword and boolean query paradigm – and have not been able to escape it.
Geofeedia, with its focus on actual geolocation capabilities and eventually, I suspect, iBeacon is positioned to grow well in the areas that are really needed for the future – those that focus on mobile devices.
Therefore, I urge the current Forrester Wave platforms to look at what Geofeedia is doing and start to think about ways to integrate with Geofensing and iBeacon/Bluetooth technologies.
Google Universal Analytics integration is missing from almost all of the platforms, but will be a factor in the next Wave as well – and all of the players should now be thinking of how to best integrate with Google Analytics, and Universal Analytics in particular. Some thought needs to be put into making sure the integration is a useful one – and it’s something I’d love to work on with any of the vendors who seek me out for this.
Happy to say my Social Media for the Arts class at Rutgers University has north of 180 students registered in it for the Spring semester – and for the first time, there are more students in the Sciences that are registered, than the Arts. We’re getting a TA as well.
My Baruch Web Intelligence classes are launching again this week (Monday).
I will be teaching a class on Social Media Analytics for Fashion in April at FIT (FITNYC).
A lot of other stuff, not all that I can talk about right now. More, later.
This is a short post – finally have a few minutes to relax (but just a few- ha!)
Second, I have been non stop since Christmas, updating my Social Media for the Arts course at Rutgers University – logging over 80 hours of time in the last two weeks – but now, I’m done! The nature of this updating is so intensive that I find myself unable to write much outside of it while I’m doing it.
And that’s not the end of it – stepping back and trying to look at what is ahead, this year does indeed look as if data and analytics capabilities are converging and I’m seeing it in not only the industry, but in my students as well.
Marshall Sponder is an independent Web Analytics and SEO/SEM specialist working in the field of market research, social media, networking and PR. He provides digital data convergence generating ROI and develops data metrics, KPI’s and dashboards that drive businesses by setting, evaluating benchmarks and teaches Analytics at UCI Extension and Social Media for The Arts at Rutgers University.