Twitter Takes Control Of Its Social Ecosystem

Facebook may play host to nearly a billion users, but Twitter controls the social ecosystem today. Twitter just announced its "Certified Products Program" and introduced a literal seal of approval for select third-party Twitter developers. Twitter explains that with the plethora of social technologies out there, it aims to simplify the ecosystem and "make it easier for businesses to find the right tools."

Twitter defined three categories of certified products: engagement tools to help businesses publish content to Twitter, analytics tools to help companies measure and learn from Twitter content, and data resellers that help distribute tweets to the masses. Twitter also announced the first 12 certified products, which we've mapped into the ecosystem:

Forrester Research Twitter Certified Products

Why is this worth blogging about? (It's not just a challenge to see how many times I can write "Twitter" in one post.) It's because Twitter is finally putting a stake in the ground and letting third-party developers know who's in charge. Over the past few years, Twitter has grown into the successful social network it is in great part because of its third-party developers. The apps we use - both for personal use on our varied devices as well as the data-driven technologies we use for business - helped make Twitter popular. But now that it's become one of the social kings, it's starting to lay down the law.

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Evolve Beyond Social Media Monitoring With Forrester's New Social Intelligence Playbook

If you've been following my sporadic blogging this year, you'll no doubt notice a recurring theme: the call to action around the social data collect. This theme comes as a result of the past few years of writing research and working with companies on their social media strategies but still seeing too many companies stuck just monitoring for brand mentions or collecting weekly "social listening" reports that tell them what happened on Twitter. Count all the Facebook likes you want, but there's a lot more to the data social media creates than what most companies touch today.

Fortunately, I'm not alone in this crusade to get companies using their untapped social data. My post back in March — Listening Must Evolve Into Social Intelligence — currently has more comments than any other post on the Customer Intelligence blog in the past two years. This isn't meant as bragging; it just shows that the message resonates within our community. We know we need to make social data actionable — it's time to start evolving our social intelligence strategies. That's why I'm excited to launch the culmination of this crusade: Forrester's Social Intelligence Playbook.

The Social Intelligence Playbook lays out the path to help companies establish the right framework and mature their practices around capturing, managing, analyzing, and applying social data. It contains twelve reports, focusing on four key areas:

  1. Discover the value of social data. The first series of reports lays out the concept of social intelligence, addresses the framework of how successful companies got there, and provides business cases for how to justify the investment.
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The Social CRM Arms Race Heats Up

Whoever said the summer's supposed to be a slow time for news had better be on vacation this week. While the financial markets keep a keen eye on $FB's fluctuation, my colleagues and I are busy analyzing the flurry of M&A around the social technology vendors. Simply put, it's a busy time in the social media world. 

Just over a week ago, Oracle purchased Vitrue to add social media management to its bigger technology offerings. Yesterday, Salesforce.com countered the announcement with the acquisition of Buddy Media. But not to be outdone, today Oracle announced it will acquire Collective Intellect, a social intelligence company. The announcement comes a year after Salesforce.com purchased Radian6 and now gives both CRM giants the components they need to piece together something powerful. With social CRM in sight, this social technology arms race is the start of something very big to come.

Let's answer some quick questions about this rush of activity:

Why now?

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The Leading Vendors Behind Social Intelligence

Social media is too big, too fast, too messy, and too important to manage without the assistance of technology vendors. With its growing significance, more and more companies want to use the data social media creates to inform their strategies. Companies want social intelligence, but they need help getting there.

That's why I'm eager to announce that after almost two years since the last report, we're releasing a new market evaluation that will help companies understand their vendor options for social intelligence. Today we published The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Listening Platforms, Q2 2012 along with an updated market overview, The Enterprise Listening Platform Landscape. These reports are the culmination of more than fifty vendor briefings, hundreds of client calls, two end user reference surveys with hundreds of respondents, two weeks of hands-on lab sessions, and too many hours of writing and fact-checking to count. 

The reports are now available for client access, but here are a few key takeaways for everyone:

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Social Intelligence M&A: Visible Technologies Acquires Cymfony

Big news in the social intelligence world: Two of the larger listening platforms become one as Visible Technologies acquires Cymfony. You can read more about the acquisition here

From my perspective, this is a smart move for both Visible Technologies and Cymfony. Although they have overlapping backers, the real benefit comes from their complementing offerings. Visible Technologies has its Visible Intelligence platform — one that receives consistent praise from end users for its usability, functionality, and data quality. But while Visible Technologies provides a strong tool set, the vendor has had some trouble growing internationally — both within its technology offering and in research and consulting services.

In an almost-exact contrast, Cymfony has one of the stronger international offerings — through its services and data sourcing — but its dashboard and technologies lagged behind the market's evolution. Combining Visible Technologies' dashboard with the support of Cymfony's services and international strength should create a powerful union.

Congratulations to both parties. I am — and I know both vendors' many clients are — eager to see what comes of this acquisition.

Listening Must Evolve Into Social Intelligence

Why do companies "listen" to social media? In short, they listen to learn and improve the business. Marketers use social listening to improve their campaigns and build customer relationships. Customer support teams listen so they can fix problems. PR teams listen to put out fires before they spread. Researchers listen to drive innovation. In this sense, listening isn't a social media strategy; listening is a data collection component of a business strategy. We "listen" as a means to drive action.

But that's not really the case, is it? Most companies I speak with know that listening is important - it seems that nearly all companies know the classic social mantra, "start by listening" - but years into their social strategies, they're still counting the number of Facebook fans or tracking for brand mentions. They're listening, not acting. It's 2012, and we're still passively - without purpose - collecting social media.

This rant comes as the result of two milestones: 1) the two year anniversary of our first research introducing social intelligence and 2) the week in which Google and Adobe double down on the social pieces of their analytics offerings. Although I'd love to spend an entire post talking about the past two years of social intelligence, it took Google and Adobe to inspire me to talk about today's market instead.

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Social Media Can't Predict Super Tuesday

A few weeks back, I wrote a post denouncing the idea of predicting the Super Bowl using social data. I had some fun pointing out the questionable research practices behind using consumer opinion to "predict" the outcome of a sporting event. One key issue I argued was that in sports, the public opinion has no influence over the event outcome. But what about using consumer opinions to predict a political election? This can work, right?

USA Today has an article running in parallel with Super Tuesday, aptly asking that same question: Can Social media Predict Election Outcomes? If my post's title wasn't enough of a spoiler, if you read that piece, you'll find a few quotes from me speaking out against the concept. Because, although predicting an election using online opinions is a much more plausible concept than predicting a football game, it's not going to work. And here's why:

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Explore Emerging Data Sources At Forrester's Customer Intelligence Forum

With winter winding down and marketers coming out of hibernation, the fresh air means one very important thing: It must be conference season!

Along with South by Southwest and a variety of vendor conferences, you'll find me gearing up for Forrester's Customer Intelligence Forum, being held on April 18th and 19th in Los Angeles. The Forum theme is "From Cool To Critical: Creating Engagement In The Age Of The Customer," and we will explore the ways customer-obsessed marketers will win in the next digital decade. This will be an excellent opportunity for data-driven marketers to connect and learn about industry best practices and future trends.

One trend I find most fascinating (and this will be no surprise to regular readers) is the abundance of new data sources for customer intelligence. As a result of my interest — and of course, attendees' interest — this year, I'm leading a track about identifying customer insights from emerging data sources. With help from my awesome colleagues Tina Moffett and Roxie Strohmenger, we're going to host four interactive sessions around new data, how to evaluate the various channels, and how to harness data from these sources to uncover actionable insights.

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Did Social Media Predict The Super Bowl? No.

Although most of my Cambridge-based colleagues don't want to bring it up, last night's Super Bowl was exactly the spectacle we've come to expect from the nation's most-watched event. We saw hundreds of new commercials (some good and many bad), a crazy half-time show (with a random tightrope walker), and one other thing . . . what was that? Oh, yeah, a football game.

In the weeks leading up to the game, I noticed a trend around the game itself. Dozens of blog posts and news articles claiming they could predict the Super Bowl winner using social media. Although most of these were fluff pieces to fill a slow news week and capitalize on the nation's renewed interest in the NFL, my research skepticism kicked into overdrive with some of them. Not to call anyone out directly, but with all of the PR teams sending me press releases about "predicting" the outcome, I just can't let this slide. So, can social media predict the outcome of the Super Bowl? No.

Each of these predictions came from collecting and analyzing social data. Some predictions came from simple metrics like the volume of mentions around one team against the other. A few of the predictions used the sentiment of mentions — such as a positive mention for the Patriots versus a negative mention for the Giants. And some predictions even used influence calculations to understand how different market segments discussed their favorite teams. In the end, this means that some of the predictions were right and some were wrong. But hey, it was a 50/50 shot anyway. Even with coin-flip odds, it seems that more than half were wrong . . . but that actually distracts from my argument, because even if they guessed right, they were wrong to do so.

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Social Listening Isn’t Enough: Start Integrating Social Data

Nearly two years ago, I published our first report on Social Intelligence; it included this headline: “The Time To Start Listening Is Yesterday.” In the report, I pushed for the importance of social listening, but I made a call that there’s more to social media than monitoring conversations for brand mentions. But now, as we near the end of 2011, we’ve found that while most companies do in fact listen, few have Social Intelligence strategies and most don’t yet gain true actionable business insights from the data they collect. So even though listening is still very important for brands, it’s time Customer Intelligence teams start using social data.

That’s why I’m eager to announce our latest research on social media data, “The Road Map To Integrating Social And Customer Data” (client link). This report focuses on the role social media data plays for CI professionals. And as the title hints, the role is “integrated with customer data.”

This research was born out of the idea that too many companies have siloed data practices, keeping marketing and business data on one side of the organization and social media data on another. But as I often say – if you only listen to social media, you only learn about social media. To get the most out of social media data, you must integrate it with other data.

For CI teams, integrating social and business data gives you deeper customer insights, the ability to inform targeted marketing, and a more complete view of marketing measurement. But because integrating social data is easier said than done, we’ve put together a road map on how to do it (hence the “Road Map” part to the report’s title) – here’s a quick peek:

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