Social Analytics 2011: The Honeymoon is Over [Part 1 of 2]

This is the first of a two part wrap-up of 2011 and look into 2012. In this post, I’ll lay out the top social analytics trends in 2011, and in the next I’ll make predictions for the new year. I’d love your input, in the comments or elsewhere. – SE

In evolutionary terms, we are still at the very earliest stages of social analytics, but we’re starting to see evidence of development and adaptation as the industry begins to mature. With that, here are the key trends I saw in the market this year.

#1: Everybody Into the Pool!

This was a big year for claim-staking as regards social media measurement. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Mergers & Acquisitions: Salesforce acquires Radian6.
  2. Partnerships: SAP and NetBase partner to deliver SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase. Other new relationships: Comscore and Buddy Media; Visible Technologies and Symphony/IRI and Oracle.
  3. Product and service extensions by web analytics solutions into social media measurement. Coremetrics/IBM, Adobe/Omniture, Webtrends all announce or step up their social offerings.
  4. Product/service extensions by social media service and product companies into analytics: Dachis Group’s Social Business Index, Buddy Media’s C-Rank.

In aggregate, these moves point to an increased desire to measure the business impact of social media, but a lack of consensus on how to approach it as an enterprise-wide discipline. It’s telling that the companies involved come from such different backgrounds. Some have their roots in the web, some in social, some in marketing, some in CRM and some in research. And they’re partnering with and being acquired by enterprise technology companies as each seeks credibility in the other’s domain.

Yet the true implications of these very new relationships won’t be known for some time. In Facebook parlance, “It’s complicated.”

Here’s a look at the different provenances of social media monitoring and measurement solutions, as well as caveats to keep in mind when considering them.

# 2: If Everybody is a Customer…

There is still quite a bit of of “trying-to-be-all-things-to-all-people” syndrome; a marker of young companies in an emerging market. I consistently hear waffling from vendors when it comes to the clarifying question of who’s the customer. Is it marketers? Customer service? Market research? E-Commerce? Strategic planners? Social strategists? The C-suite?

The answer, generally, is yes. Why? Because in this early stage, everyone is watching to see where everyone else places their bets. And thus we have deferred decisions on positioning and a lack of clarity as regards appropriate uses cases, let alone differentiation. This leads to trend #3…

#3: Nobody’s the Customer

What I hear from social analytics customers lately is a growing confusion and sense of frustration about who exactly does what on the vendor side, and who the customers and users are from the business side. The challenge is that businesses generally want to consolidate and optimize their technology mix, but in a fast market with low visibility.

Likewise, there are tough decisions to make for vendors, who need to be more transparent about who the customer is, who the user is, and who they really serve today in reality versus potentially in the future. Those are different conversations, and confusing pragmatism and the need to fulfill immediate needs with vision and hypothetical futures does a disservice to both parties.

The table below illustrates this shift, which brings us to trend #4…

#4: Organizations in Flux

Companies that have moved beyond a focus on tools to mining the potential of social data are discovering very quickly that social analytics disrupts much more than marketing, as groups who never before had a need to collaborate come to the table to discuss the implications of the customer’s voice.

Companies like Dell are making it a corporate imperative to integrate listening deep into the organization, and for a variety of purposes across the enteprise. We’re also seeing more interest in including social data as a point of reference for decision support in areas like market research.

Companies must develop repeatable processes and frameworks for how they will use social data, as the same tweet, post or comment can have relevance far beyond marketing to product development, strategic planning, risk management, brand management, customer service and beyond.

Right now, that is an extremely disruptive prospect–as organizational siloes, lack of data integration and perhaps most importantly, internal control and cultural barriers–prevent data access across many organizations.

#5: Early Indications of Social Data Integration

Just as enterprise customers start trying to simplify their tool sets, the uses of social data continue to expand. The answer, ultimately, is integration, but it still remains a speck on the horizon.

But late in the year we did start to see the enterprise players make significant announcements with regard to social data integration. Salesforce’s focus, at least for now, is on the marketer and the customer service organization, with the integration of Radian6 into the Service Cloud and their recent announcement of the Salesforce Social Hub.

The partnership between SAP and NetBase announced today is in some ways less ambitious (partnering rather than acquiring outright), but its implications are potentially broader, as the joint product, called SAP Social Analytics by NetBase, makes social data available across multiple organizations in the enterprise.

The most important take-away related to social analytics in 2011, however, is that the increasing focus on measurement means that the social media honeymoon is over. It’s time to get down to business and figure out how to integrate this frothy, trendy, shiny yet ultimately transformational force into business strategy.

In the next post, I’ll lay out a few related predictions for 2012. As always, I look forward to your thoughts.

Your trust is extremely important to us. Here is a link to Altimeter Group’s disclosure policy, as well as a list of disclosed clients of the firm.

About susanetlinger

Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group
This entry was posted in Research, Sentiment Analysis, Social Analytics, Social media, Social media measurement, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Social Analytics 2011: The Honeymoon is Over [Part 1 of 2]

  1. Peter Tarlan says:

    I think SAP and NetBase’s partnership will be highly significant in 2012 – looks like a step in the right direction for SAP. I saw an interesting Infographic on Twitter today actually, its shows the breakdown of all the industries that SAP covers – Worth a look.



  2. Really fascinating analysis Susan, I can’t wait for part 2.

    As I was reading it occurred to me that there might be a category missing – Companies that came from an account planning background .

    Interestingly two of the most innovative traditional research companies, Hall and partners and Brain juicer, we’re started by account planners not researchers.

    Now my point may be self serving as MotiveQuest is the only social research company to come from an account planning background. But our clients do tell us the way we approach social is completely different from their other vendors so it could be relevant.




  3. Great summary Susan! Roots of social analytics vendors visualization was really insightful!


  4. Pingback: The Social Analyst Manifesto | Listen Completely

  5. Pingback: The Social Analyst Manifesto

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