The Forrester Wave: Listening Platforms, Q3 2010

The listening platform landscape is vast, fragmented, and confusing. As a result, I handle more client inquiries around vendor selection than any other single topic. Companies want to track customer conversations, monitor their brands and competitors, measure their social marketing, learn from online discussion, identify customers online, and more. And they need technology help getting there but don't always know where to turn.

To address these questions, we've just published The Forrester Wave: Listening Platforms, Q3 2010. This research is the result of nearly four months of vendor interviews, product demos, lab evaluations, reference checks, client interviews, and customer surveys. All in all, we evaluated nine leading vendors across 76 criteria, talked to dozens of buyers, and surveyed nearly 200 customers to determine the state of the listening platform market today.

This Wave covers vendors that best address an enterprise's Social Intelligence technology needs, through a listening platform's three main steps: social media data retrieval, unstructured text processing, and insight delivery. Each vendor has its own technology platform and professional services team for consulting and can scale to meet vast enterprise needs, both in a large installation-base and between different parts of the organization -- such as marketing, PR, market research, and/or customer support. We evaluated the following vendors: Alterian (SM2), Collective Intellect, Converseon, Cymfony, Dow Jones, Evolve24, Nielsen, Radian6, and Visible Technologies.

You'll have to read the full report to see how the vendors match up, but from my evaluation I uncovered a few emerging trends:

  • Integration is key. Each of the leading listening platform vendors knows well that social media data becomes even more powerful when it combines with other data. Vendors focused on two distinct areas of integration: integrating data in by combining social media data with traditional marketing or enterprise data, such as campaign measurement data, or text from call centers, surveys, or chat logs -- and integrating data out, into existing CRM databases, support ticket systems, workflow software, or into raw data format for custom integration. Companies that take social media data seriously must integrate the data both in and out, to make it fully functional, and therefore all vendors have built tools to address this demand.
  • Services take focus. Every vendor told me that they've seen increased requests for consulting services around social media data. This is because companies know the importance of social and are ready to listen but may not be readily equipped with the internal resources to make it happen. Through this Wave process, we dove deeply into the level and quality of vendors' service offerings -- because the insights found in social media are only as good as the people analyzing the data.
  • Dashboards need work. Regardless of how customers rated a vendor's dashboard, nearly every vendor either just revamped, or is planning to revamp, its user interface. Of the clients I spoke to, many complain about the difficult user experience with their vendor's dashboard. But, upon deeper questioning, most were actually frustrated with the data within the dashboard, not the dashboard itself. For example, many often complained about the dashboard, saying they spend too much time digging through spam -- a complaint directed at text processing, not the user interface. Vendors must still perfect their dashboard experiences, but text processing and improved analytics are step one.

There are many, many other vendors in the landscape that also deliver quality technology and services. Due to the market's large scale and fragmented nature, I've already begun working on an accompanying landscape report that covers the broader spectrum of vendors in the space. If you're a vendor interested in participating, let me know through a comment below or a Tweet, and I'll be in touch later this month for more information.

There is much more analysis of the market within the report; if you get a chance to read it, I'd love to hear your feedback.

Lastly, a huge THANK YOU to my supporting team on this research, Suresh Vittal, Emily Murphy, and Michael Grant.


Thanks for the post Zach.

Thanks for the post Zach. There's indeed tons of confusion in the market (e.g. I ran across this long list of Social listening vendors today -

I'm looking forward to reading your report.



Thanks for you and the forrester team for the clear eyed, comprehensive analysis. Your overview of the category and vendors is a strong contribution to the industry and will help to demystify the solutions for brands. We clearly remain in the early days and the best -- and most exciting -- innovations are yet to come. Of special note is the recognition that the highest impact requires technologies + services to truly drive business transformation. I think all readers will appreciate the thoroughness of the process and the analysis.

Social Monitoring Wiki

Hi Akash-

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing that link. Ken Burbary (with the help of his network) put together a fantastic resource with that Wiki. I've sent people there in the past as it's great to see so much of the market in one place.

And Rob-
You're absolutely right. As much as this market's grown up in the last year - it's still the very, very early days. I certainly agree: the best is yet to come.


Zach, Thanks again for


Thanks again for including us. We have a world of respect for your perspective on the industry and our company. This industry is growing at a rapid pace and your view around the transition from 'Listening Technologies' to 'Social Intelligence' is dead-on with the way global brands are viewing the emergence of the marketplace. We look forward to future collaboration with Forrester as the industry continues to mature.

Mike Spataro
Enterprise Client Strategy
Visible Technologies


Thanks for the kind words, Mike - it's quite the process we go through, but the results are well worth the effort in the end. Thanks for reading.

Synthesio included?

HI all, I see the summary of the report, is the leader for Europe included? nl. Synthesio?

Kind regards

Hans Smellinckx

Great report

Zach -

It was a pleasure working with you and your team on this most recent wave, and congrats for putting out a great piece of analysis. Your attention to more than just technology - and the value of the people doing the work - represents what's truly happening in the space and I'm sure that clients struggling with this question will very much appreciate your view.

I agree with Rob and Mike, the most exciting days are still to come. And i think all of us in the space feel and see the momentum building towards that on a daily basis. Along those lines, we are hiring! We have just opened 15 research positions in our brand new Chicago office. If anyone knows of folks looking to get into the social intelligence space - have them email

NM Incite

The industry standard

As usual guys, great work on another informative report covering the social media research industry. The Forrester Wave gets referenced by many of the potential clients we speak with. It tends to be the industry standard reference guide for enterprises seeking the appropriate toolset for their strategies.

We regret not being included in the report this time around. We at Infegy certainly feel we are a worthy reference for this guide.

For those who have not yet made a decision, I recommend taking a peek at Social Radar. Used by many of the world's largest Ad Agencies, PR companies, and Fortune 500s, Social Radar is widely recognized as a key research platform for the entire social listening landscape. Backed by the largest social database in the industry, we provide the quickest, most flexible software for understanding millions upon millions of messages and articles in an instant with accurate analytics and insights. If you can use Google, you can use Social Radar.

Take a look at

Thanks for the thought, Han.

Thanks for the thought, Han. I know some of our international clients have found it invaluable to have a European point of view for their projects and the capacity to monitor in up to 30 languages.

One point we are working on that you mentioned, Zach, is integration with a company's CRM. We've spent more time working on the service side of our offer and the technology so that there is no spam in the dashboards or reports since the information is filtered and analyzed manually by a team of analysts, but we are currently have an engagement platform in beta.

We would definitely be interested in participating in your landscape report. I'll get ahold of you, and others can find us at @Synthesio on Twitter and can reach me at michelle Thanks for extending the opportunity.

Looking forward to talking soon

Best, Michelle

Many Great Vendors

Hi Adam, Michelle-

Both Synthesio and Infegy's Social Radar will be included in my landscape report. You both offer solutions that my clients have used and given me good feedback. If I haven't already been in touch to set up a call, I will be sometime before the end of the month.

Thanks for reading!


Interesting stuff here Zach.

Maybe for your Q4 report (if that exists) you may also want to include Sysomos' software. We're pretty happy with our software, but more importantly our customers love it.
As well, our dashboard is quite helpful as is, but can also be configured to each companies specific needs.
Just a suggestion.


Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos


Hi Sheldon-

My report will indeed exist and Sysomos should play a role in the research. I'll be in touch. Congrats on the Marketwire news.



Thanks, we're very excited about it.

And that's great that you'll take a look at Sysomos. You can contact us through our website, or you can email me directly at sheldonATsysomosDOTcom and I'll get you in touch with the right people when you're ready.



great overview

This is a very much needed report, thank you.

My company VICO is also a vendor and we're doing some great stuff here in EMEA - you can reach me
Best, Vera


Thanks for stopping by Vera - I'll reach out to you later this month, or early next to chat about VICO.

Listening Platforms Q4

Hi Zach,

Can I please add Onalytica to your list for consideration for the Q4 wave? I can be reached at - please do drop me a line when you have the chance.

Many thanks,


Thanks Becky, Onalytica is definitely on my radar. I'll be in touch in the coming weeks.


Good information quiet useful

Good information quiet useful can you please see mine if any use to you this is Business Intelligence Solutions is a consulting firm which provides flexible and cost effective quality system solutions for FDA regulated companies.

Q4 report?

Hi Zach -

I was wondering if you had any insight into when the Q4 report will be available? Q3 was very helpful and we're anxiously awaiting the next version!


Coming soon!

Thanks for asking - I meant to comment on this a few weeks ago. The upcoming landscape report is in editing and due out very soon. Look for an update here.