After much anticipation, our 2015 Social Depth Platform Wave was published today. Our evaluation shows how much vendors' solutions have progressed since our first SDP Wave in 2013. When we first introduced "social depth" as a technology category in 2013, vendors were just beginning to build out their social depth capabilities. Today, vendors offer most of the social depth capabilities we identified as "must haves" for building a branded community, and they continue to fine tune their offerings and services to meet marketers' needs.
As a refresher, Forrester defines social depth platforms as:
Technologies that add social content and interactions (e.g., blogs, ratings and reviews, user generated content, forums, online communities) to branded websites to drive exploration of products and services.
We evaluated 7 vendors that provide social depth capabilities---Acquia, Jive, Lithium, Livefyre, Salesforce, Sprinklr and Zimbra and scored them against 62 criteria. Clients can access the full report here.
Some of the key findings from our evaluation include:
I'm frequently asked, "What makes a winning Forrester Groundswell Awards program?" To help you prepare your submissions, here's an example of a winning social depth entry from PGA TOUR Superstore last year and why it stood out:
Despite spending years optimizing their social marketing efforts, advanced marketers share a common hurdle: How do they make sense of all the data that their social marketing programs generate? It seems that this isn’t an easy endeavor — all 12 marketers I recently interviewed agree that their data capabilities leave much to be desired. They cited numerous reasons: They don’t have the skilled resources to properly analyze the data, their listening platforms are ill equipped to inform their marketing strategies, and their attempts to bridge data across siloed sources (e.g. social networks, agencies, and technolgy vendors) fail. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social data challenges.
If you feel inadequate when it comes to your data prowess, don’t despair — consider this an opportunity to strengthen your team’s capabilities. Many marketers struggle with data, but only the optimal combination of art and science will allow you to unlock social’s full potential. Brands that leverage social intelligence to shape both their social and non-social business strategies are well positioned to reach best-in-class status.
Social marketing is reaching maturity. It is moving past the awkward adolescent stage and is trying to become a responsible adult. But similar to similar to those awkward adolescent years, a social marketing program can take one step forward and one step back. Marketing leaders tell us that developing their social marketing capabilities is frustrating because they make progress in some areas and fall short on some others. And even best-in-class social marketing programs are not immune to development challenges. For example, an award-winning social marketing initiative may regress because the social marketing team fails to get more resources to grow their program(s) and/or their customers' social behaviors are changing. This is why you must assess your social marketing capabilities on a regular basis and make it part of your planning process. As soon as you become complacent, you lose your edge.
The 2015 budgeting season is underway, and my colleague and Research Associate Mike Carpenter has provided some excellent guidance on how to secure the resources you will need to run your 2015 social marketing programs:
Say the words social media marketing in a budget meeting and C-suiters immediately flip on their ROI blinders. Many marketers assume that executives will just “get” social, but lack of organizational buy-in continues to limit funding for social marketing programs. Thankfully there is a way to secure your budget just in time for 2015: speak in a language executives understand by building a business case for social.
In our report Get Approval To Fund Your Social Marketing Initiative, we detail the full cycle for getting an ample social marketing budget, including the steps to building a solid business case. Here are four data sources listed in the report to help you inform your case and win the funding you need:
1. Previous Campaigns
Arguing with history is tough, so flaunt your successful campaigns to fund new ones! Showing wins from previous social campaigns trumps mere speculation by providing confident directional data. By the same token, avoid highlighting campaigns that did not impact business objectives. Budget holders will be unlikely to dole out the dough if they can not see social's connection with real business outcomes.
Paying influencers, which Forrester defines as independent bloggers, industry analysts, and mainstream journalists, is a bad idea.
Public and analyst relations professionals have been managing influencer programs since long before the first utterance of the words "social media." They know how to strike the right balance of keeping influencers informed while gently motivating them to engage with their brand through 1:1 relationship building. Unfortunately, social media has ignited a population of "influencers" who are in it for the financial rewards more than for developing their personal brands. This has led to many brands jumping on the "pay for play" influencer program bandwagon, which, for some, has led to terrible results. For example, Microsoft learned the hard way back in June when its agency blasted out a paid blogging campaign invite to a large audience of influencers. And other brands that have been caught paying bloggers and influencers to write positive product reviews have also paid the price.
Paid influencer programs diminish the authenticity of the message you are trying to amplify, have legal implications (if not carefully implemented), and can really irritate influencers who detest pay-for play-programs. Yet over 35% of marketers still use financial incentives. My simple advice: Don't do it!
Today, both Jive and Salesforce announced updates to their customer community offerings. Although their updates do not include any groundbreaking innovations (where is McKayla Maroney when you need her?), I find it interesting that Jive and Salesforce have significantly dialed up their marketing efforts for their external-facing community solutions. Historically, both vendors have primarily focused on their internal enterprise community tools and seemed to be on a gradual trajectory to building out their external customer-facing community products. Today's announcements reflect my position that customer communities are becoming the tour de force of social marketing strategies. In fact, last year we published a Forrester Wave that evaluated the ecosystem of community platform vendors in which Lithium was the leader. In that report, I discuss how brands will increasingly seek out the best-of-breed social depth tools and/or enterprise community platforms that facilitate digital interactions with their prospects and customers — on their owned web properties. In response to this demand, Jive, Salesforce
Chances are, you've recently visited a brand's webpage and stumbled upon a visually appealing, Pinterest-like media gallery with photos of happy customers and the brand's products. Today, media galleries are all the rage as marketers attempt to capture the priceless content their audiences are generating on social networks and at live events. But before you run out and invest what's left of your 2014 marketing budget on a social content curation platform (see Figure 2 from this report) make sure social content curation will help you:
I became a LinkedIn member when it first arrived on the scene as an exclusive social network for business professionals. I recall all the buzz that was spreading throughout Silicon Valley about LinkedIn, and that one needed a special “invite” to become a member. Looking back, I remember how honored I felt to be “linkedin” by a fellow colleague — I was officially in the club! Over the years, I have watched the social network evolve into an effective recruitment platform (disclaimer: I got my analyst job thanks to a Forrester recruiter who found me on LinkedIn), then to a content publishing platform after it added Slideshare, a newsfeed and its popular influencer program.
Today, LinkedIn is attracting a plethora of B2B and B2C brands that are trying to build a presence in front of 300 million professionals. There are currently more than 3 million company pages on LinkedIn. All of this brand activity begs the question: What engagement rates are brands getting on LinkedIn? We looked at the top 50 global brands and their member interactions across a variety of social networks. We found that LinkedIn’s engagement rate was lower than other social networks that also have professional members:
Why does LinkedIn’s engagement rate lag behind the others? Members simply do not go to LinkedIn to interact with brands after they have purchased a brand’s product. Marketers understand this — only 5% use LinkedIn for a social relationship objective (e.g. drive customer loyalty, provide customer service).
Chances are, you have recently registered on a brand’s website or community page and were prompted to use your social network credentials. Perhaps you (reluctantly) used your Facebook login because it’s easy to remember — or it made the registration process a little less painful.
Personally, I am finding that I am using my Facebook or LinkedIn social credentials more frequently. Just the other day, I used my Facebook login to access the scheduling tool for my favorite barre studio. I use social login out of laziness (its easier) or because my memory is maxed out on user names and passwords. But the more comfortable I get using my social network credentials, the more information I will allow the brand to access — especially if it’s a brand I trust.
And I am not alone. According to this study, over half of the 90% of consumers who encounter social login use it. And for some websites, that percentage is as high as over 80%.
So if consumers are using their social network credentials, why are marketers lagging behind? Many marketers I speak with do not think about social login as a key component of their social marketing strategy. They understand the obvious benefits like faster and easier registration, but they struggle to see social login’s potential as a complement to their social marketing strategy.
And the adoption percentages reflect this. Social login is the least-adopted social depth tactic by digital marketers: