Market Researchers: Help Us Benchmark “Social Maturity”

We are starting a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations, and I want market researchers to be a part of this! Why is this project important? Well, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. Not surprisingly, we find each of these roles differs in its general level of usage of or familiarity with social technologies but that most companies are experiencing pockets of success. However, few, if any, are successfully implementing a social strategy across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some ahead-of-the-curve companies are using social technologies for business results.

Up to this point, it has been clearly established by many people (including us many times over) that social technologies are transformative tools that are changing the way companies do business. So with this social maturity effort, we’re not talking as much about the opportunity that social presents, but rather we are trying to determine the current reality of practitioners. It’s also clear that many companies have made tremendous strides in planning and organizing for the use of social technologies. However, the one question we consistently get is, “Where is my organization compared with others in the use of social media?” We want to benchmark these companies — as well as the roles within them — to see if we can answer questions like:

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Thoughts on IBM and Coremetrics

It's a funny thing, I was sitting in my office on Monday trying to decide what to blog about next, and as if on cue we had very exciting news yesterday in the Web Analytics business.  IBM announced its agreement to acquire Coremetrics.  So ended the deliberations on blog topics.

You can read the official press release from IBM here and the Coremetrics blog post here.  The deal is subject to standard regulatory approvals in the US and Europe prior to closing.  IBM has substantial experience in M&A, acquiring 90 companies since 1999 (source: Wikipedia), therefore I would expect that this deal will proceed with a high degree of precision to a successful conclusion. It is also interesting to note that this is not IBM's first go at Web Analytics, which ended in 2006 when they divested Surfaid to Coremetrics...so in as sense we're going full circle with this transaction.

I benefit from fortuitous scheduling, as I had already planned to have dinner last night with John Squire, Chief Strategy Officer at Coremetrics.  Timing, as they say, is everything. (By the way, if you are ever in the mood for an excellent pastrami sandwich and/or Belgian beer - on tap no less - I highly recommend Refuge in San Carlos, California)

Coremetrics will operate as a unit of IBM's application and integration middleware division, which is a common approach by IBM as shown by previous acquisitions such as ILOG. New business sales will shift over to IBM's core sales groups, but account management will remain within the Coremetrics team in an effort to make the transition seamless for current clients.

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Nielsen Joins Forces With McKinsey For Social Intelligence Consulting

More news in the Social Intelligence world today, as Nielsen and McKinsey launched a joint partnership to compete deeper in social media. Through "NM Incite," Nielsen combines its Buzzmetrics listening platform technology with McKinsey's management consultants, to offer a broad range of social consulting influenced by social media data and analytics. I spoke to the team earlier and learned that this venture is both a response to growing customer demand for social business consulting and a proactive step in building up offerings that will meet enterprises' future needs, as social media spreads inside and outside the business.

My quick take on this is that I see the announcement as a good leading indicator of the social media market: Many businesses want to harness the power of social media data, but few are currently prepared to make those steps on their own. Businesses need help turning social media data into action. This year many listening platforms have ramped up their consultancy staff and offerings in efforts to keep up with this growing demand. As I'll profile in an upcoming research report on listening platforms' consultancy services (in editing now, likely publishing in a few weeks), successful vendors have a strong dashboard for self-service customers along with professional services teams for data analysis, custom reporting, strategy guidance, and overall support. Now, Nielsen and McKinsey's joint venture ups the ante of the level of consulting services listening platform vendors provide.

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Social Intelligence Meets PR

On this blog I write about the importance of social media channels as a data source for Customer Intelligence professionals. Although that topic may be a bit esoteric, the concept of using social media data to inform business decisions spans well beyond just Customer Intelligence. Today I'm going to diverge from the CI pro because in today's Web driven world of vast amounts of metrics and analytics, more and more businesses turn to data-driven decision making. One of the business lines benefiting most from this today is Public Relations.

PR's gone through a dramatic evolution over the last decade and has been reinvigorated by social media. PR teams' day-to-day tasks shifted from news clippings and phone calls, to online media monitoring and emails, to today's social media monitoring and tweeting with influential sources. Social media, and the wealth of data it holds, provides PR professionals with more information to better conduct their work. Through social metrics they can identify and track influencers, better measure the spread of their company's coverage, and more quickly track potential crises before they spread. This should be no surprise to most, as many of social media's early mavens are also some of PR's leaders.

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The 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards

I am pleased to announce that we've just kicked off the 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards. We are now open to submissions detailing how you've put social media to work for your company. This is the fourth running of the awards (and my third year helping judge and organize the entries), and I am truly excited to see the state of the industry as it continues to mature.

This year I'm specifically looking forward to reviewing the "Listening" category entries. There are a lot of businesses out there that listen to social media, but how many of them achieve Social Intelligence and truly use "listening" to inform their business decisions and drive better marketing? If you can prove the business value of your listening initiatives, please submit your entry for either the B2B or B2C Listening categories.

Last year's B2C Listening winner, NASCAR's Fan Council, used an online community for market research. It conducted three times its planned research goals at 80% less cost -- and discovered insights from fan discussion to change NASCAR rules to include a double-file restart (disclaimer: I don't fully understand NASCAR rules and cannot explain what a "double-file restart" means, but was still impressed that it changed the official rules based on insights from tits customers) and in turn improved overall brand sentiment. NASCAR actually listened to its fans, acted on the insight, and generated real business results -- a real Forrester Groundswell Award winning case.

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The Theme Of The Week: Getting Social

It’s been a busy couple of days between talking to clients about my views on social market research, getting comments on the blog and through Twitter about listening, and delivering a teleconference on the topics as well. All in all, it’s been good affirmation that this is an area worth spending some time exploring even further.

To close out the week on this theme, I’d like to direct you to a podcast interview I did with a publication called Research in the UK.  It highlights the three main trends I’m seeing with regard to using social tools in market research, and it speaks to some of the points I raised this week around the interest in and challenges around using listening technologies.

This is a publication that I recommend market researchers follow in general. It’s a good resource for keeping up with market research news on both sides of the pond, and there are always a variety of compelling opinion columns on the current and future state of the industry.

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The Market Research Opportunity For Listening Technology Vendors

Whenever I talk to clients about social market research, the conversation inevitably and quickly turns to listening platforms and how/if market researchers can use them. Platforms like those from Radian6 and Alterian are attracting a lot of attention right now due to the fact that social media have become so mainstream among online consumers in the US and increasingly so in Europe. And the hope among researchers is that these conversations, when tracked and analyzed appropriately, will yield meaningful insights that would have been hard to come by through other means.

The reality is that listening platforms require a significant human touch in order to sift through mountains of data and extract golden nuggets of insight. I truly believe that it’s not too much of a stretch for market researchers to get comfortable with the methodological challenges of this kind of research, such as the fact that you never know the true demographics of the sample. Instead, what’s holding market researchers back is that it’s hard to do this research in an efficient and meaningful (read: insightful) way using just a platform alone.

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