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With relatively little fanfare, and even less market reverberation than one would expect, Google decided a few weeks back to shut down Wildfire as an independent service. As a reminder, Wildfire was one of several social marketing companies to be acquired in the “We’ve gotta have one of those!” social marketing hysteria of 2012, in this case for $350M by Google.
Here’s the announcement on the Wildfire site:
What’s interesting about the announcement is the plan to integrate Wildfire with the existing adtech optimization platform aimed at corporate B2B clients, the venerable DoubleClick. This decision is entirely consistent with what Gartner, Forrester and other analysts see as the eventual destiny of social monitoring, especially social marketing: integration with a strategic application platform. The Big Question is why? Here are a few thoughts:
Standalone social marketing ROI is soft when compared to Adwords
Let’s face it, Social Marketers have been hyping the impact of social on hard-to-measure marketing activities for years now. There are clearly isolated cases of hard ROI numbers in social marketing, but far fewer than one would believe. When compared to using Google Adwords, a marketer would have to stretch to make the $’s of investment in social seem anywhere near as effective.
Social is an additional channel for digital marketing, not an alternative channel
A marketer running a variety of campaigns will not rely entirely on social, but use social as one of several methods to attract engagement and generate leads. Therefore, a social marketing tool will need to sit alongside, or within other applications anyway.
The pattern of acquire and integrate is well established. Jenny Sussin of Gartner did a great job of cataloging the various Social CRM/Social Marketing acquisitions over the last several years. In general, her thesis (which we support at Buzzient) is that social is an enabling application for many platforms, and a requirement not just to satisfy customer needs, but also a competitive necessity:
This integration of Wildfire also gives rise to several predictions:
Standalone Social Marketing tools will disappear for Enterprise users
The integration of social marketing is already taking place for those companies acquired in 2011/2012: Radian6, Vitrue, BuddyMedia have all been consumed/subsumed by a larger “host” marketing suite. Vendors seeking to “go it alone” will either have to stay in the SMB/SME tier, or will be consolidated in the Enterprise.
AdTech companies will need to acquire social marketing/analytics apps
Many of the AdTech companies have little to no-social marketing functionality. Those vendors who (quite rightly) focused on more traditional click measurement of marketing will need to add social capabilities driven more by social engagement metrics and sentiment. Expect to see an M&A rush by the AdTech platforms to add social capabilities if only as a counter to Google.
So, though Wildfire will no longer be an independent service, the integration of social capabilities into larger marketing suites and AdTech platforms is probably just beginning. As the Wildfire team ride off into the distance, expect to see additional consolidation of social marketing.
Social CRM is on the surface all about being open. It’s about creating intimacy with the consumer, and being open to customer feedback 24/7, on multiple channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and others.
Since the acquisition of Radian6 by Salesforce, and the subsequent copycat acquisitions by enterprise vendors such as Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft and others, we’ve see the formation of vendor-specific social solutions. Though largely aimed at creating an outbound (i.e, campaigns/advertising/sales) “marketing cloud” many of these solutions also contain an inbound (customer service/contact center) capability. Without too much pushback, one can say that with over $3B of social marketing acquisitions since 2011 there are more than enough solutions available to help enterprises push messages out over social channels.
What’s not discussed is the degree of fragmentation that has been created, and even accelerated by the wave of social M&A. These tightly-coupled social layers in different vendors apps have created a problem we refer to at Buzzient as “Social Silos”. Here’s a prototypical example:
– A Global Company (we’ll call them “GloCo” for purposes of illustration) with multiple divisions and lines of business decides to “get social”. The impetus for doing so comes from the CMO’s office, and is framed in the language and structure of using social for outbound campaigns to attract new customers.
– A Social Marketing team is created, who build a set of Facebook and Twitter promotions. This team is staffed by Millennials who the CMO figures “get” social better than other people in the company. Coincidentally, their short tenure at GloCo has not enabled this team to develop strong relationships across the company with other departments.
– The Social Marketing team chooses from amongst the latest new social marketing suites, based on a set of criteria which include (1) cloud-based, (2) sexy UI and (3) ability to schedule publication of tweets/postings so that it looks like there is always someone at GloCo available to talk to customers on social channels.
– The new social campaigns launch to much fanfare, and Social Marketing starts reporting back daily/hourly the increases in retweets, post volume, likes, klout score, and other social metrics.
– The Customer Service/Contact Center operation, which has been largely left out of the CMO’s plans, starts to see odd activity. Phone calls drop off. At first Customer Service is pleasantly surprised, and reports their own positive metrics such as reduction of trouble tickets in the queue, upward to the COO.
– In reality, what’s happening is that consumers have come to believe that GloCo has a unified social application front. Consumers who used to call customer service to complain are now going to social channels instead. Marketing is reporting on increases in volume, but not necessarily understanding why. Customer Service is blind to what’s going on in social, as their department was never included in the campaign planning. This is the first type of Social Silo, and is based on business function.
– A second Social Silo is also building that is architectural in nature. Assumed in the selection of a cloud-based social marketing product by the CMO’s team is that ALL of the critical applications in GloCo are already in the cloud. In reality, GloCo, like any complex enterprise, will have a mix of cloud and on-premises applications from multiple vendors. Marketing might be in the cloud, but Customer Service, Supply Chain, Contact Center, etc. applications might very likely be on-premises, for legacy, security and regulatory reasons.
As far as the consumer is concerned, they expect that their tweet might be answered by Customer Service, routed to Loyalty Marketing so that GloCo understands the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) for that consumer, and potentially rectified by a new product being shipped through the manufacturing team. None of this is possible unless the social infrastructure of GloCo can route that tweet across different applications (cloud and otherwise) from different, maybe even competing vendors (Oracle vs. Salesforce). This is the second Social Silo, that created by the architectural boundaries between cloud/on-premises apps, and between different vendor stacks.
So, though social marketing might be considered a done deal for many organizations, the Social Silos created by those same activities may be more far-reaching and important to the complex enterprise. In planning a social business strategy, we at Buzzient recommend looking beyond the functional/architectural boundaries to build a more integrated social platform.
In follow-up to our previous post, here’s additional insight on what we at Buzzient are seeing in Telecommunications, especially a drumbeat of demand for Social CRM with Oracle applications. The characteristics of this demand are:
- Global: The companies organically contacting Buzzient are from all over the world, most notably from Asia, Latin and Central America, and Europe. In these geographies, new networks are being built to accommodate the ever-growing middle classes.
- Out-of-the-Box Social Applications: At the same time as new consumers are coming online, new mobile/social applications are being deployed . As a result, the carriers have to monitor and analyze social media as a necessity in customer care.
- Legacy CRM applications are the norm: Despite the ongoing drumbeat of deploying cloud-based software, even the emerging market carriers often have legacy CRM assets. Net new applications might have a cloud flavor, but no one is in a hurry to throw away their legacy assets. As a result, the vast majority of the carriers are still using Oracle Siebel CRM, with no plans to upgrade to Oracle Fusion. Salesforce is of interest, but not in the “core” operations in customer care and the contact center. Salesforce is of interest more so in the “edge” applications in marketing. We’ve seen anywhere from a 3:1 to a 10:1 ratio between the number of Siebel users vs. Salesforce users in these accounts.
The result is a pipeline of interesting opportunities where we at Buzzient believe we can make a real difference. Our mission of bringing social data to life in enterprise applications is being received very positively, and reinforcing our original vision.
As an example, here’s what a major Asian telecoms carrier used to describe how they would use Buzzient for Social CRM as well as for driving marketing analytics and loyalty programs. Buzzient’s ability to seamlessly integrate social data with their existing Oracle applications enabled them to see very rapid value, as well as enhance their customer experience offerings in a very competitive market:
Not only can Buzzient be used to provide a social media feedback look on how well the carrier’s brand is perceived, but enable customer care to identify and respond to specific problems with applications and devices, all from within the Oracle CRM application. This provides the carrier with invaluable information as to which applications serve their customers best, as well as which devices they should subsidize. All of this adds up to cost savings in customer care, reduction in churn, as well as valuable segmentation and revenue-generating marketing data.
The biggest reason why these carriers are choosing Buzzient for Oracle CRM? It’s available TODAY for applications they already own, vs. someday in the future for new applications Oracle is trying to get them to buy. At the same time, Buzzient provides a vendor-agnostic “insurance policy”; Siebel users can use Buzzient today, but also migrate in the future to Salesforce, Zendesk, NetSuite and soon other apps, keeping the social data intact across vendors.
There’s been a lot of conversation about Social Media Command Centers in the past. As 2013 emerges, we believe at Buzzient that this is going to be shown to be a dead end. In reality, social media data for customer care and other purposes needs to be a part of the application experience, and not a standalone “department”.
Remember DotCom subsidiaries? These were the specialized groups in the company that “handled” the internet in the late 90′s. If you wanted to post something outside the corporate firewall, you had to go through these gatekeepers. DotCom groups were also chartered with figuring out the internet business model for the corporation. In the meantime, normal everyday use of the internet was actively discouraged unless sanctioned.
Think of how silly that sounds today. Having to sanction a web search, or the creation of a web-based marketing campaign or test. At Buzzient, we believe that shuttling the social listening, customer care, and analytics efforts through a standalone department will seem just as silly by year end. Posting to Twitter or Facebook, or responding to a customer on one of these channels shouldn’t be the domain of people who in many cases know nothing about the underlying business processes of customer care or ecommerce. Social will need to be integrated with the CRM, ERP, ecommerce and other applications used by the business unit, and not left up to these “outboard motor” standalone teams.
Look on the bright side, though. The LED/LCD screen makers have had a good run at these companies…
As the Buzzient team is getting geared up for Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco next week, a key question we’re asking is whether Enterprise Social Media is a phenomenon being driven from the West Coast and to a lesser extent, from NYC? Just think, during the “quiet time” of summer, we’ve had over $3B of M&A in the Enterprise Social Sector:
– Vitrue, acquired by Oracle for $300M after raising $30M
– Involver, acquired by Oracle for undisc.
– Collective Intellect, acquired by Oracle for undisc.
– Rypple, acquired by Salesforce.com for undisc.
– BuddyMedia, acquired by Salesforce.com for ~$700M, after raising $100M+
– Yammer, acquired by Microsoft for $1.2B, after raising $100M+
– Wildfire, acquired by Google for $250M
– Kenexa, acquired by IBM’s Social Software division for $1.3B
There’s a pattern developing here. Largely west coast public software companies acquiring largely west coast startups (obviously ViTrue and BuddyMedia as exceptions).
What’s glaring is the lack of acquisitions by Boston-based software companies, and the lack of Boston-based startups. Further to the point, with the exception of General Catalyst’s investment in Vitrue, almost all of the investment in Enterprise Social Media is being driven from the west coast. That’s led us to ask, is Enterprise Social Media a west coast thing? If so, why?
Our experience at Buzzient has been somewhat telling. When we started the company 4 years ago, social media was still in a state of relative infancy, driven by west coast platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace (!). At the same time, Boston enterprise software companies, still largely on-premise, were by and large slowing their growth or being acquired themselves by west coast giants. That created a gap, where the linkage of the emerging platform of social to the enterprise market was not a “no-brainer”.
Investors on the west coast saw this gap, and funded companies such as Lithium, Yammer, Jive and others initially in the community space. Later, a wave of investors funded social tools companies, and marketing/publishing platforms for social media. The response in Boston? Largely crickets.
Now, as we prep for our third consecutive Oracle OpenWorld, we expect Buzzient to yet again be one of the only companies in the room started in Cambridge/Boston. The real question is whether Enterprise Social Media companies like Buzzient can/will stay in Boston if all the action is elsewhere? More on this later!
Well, we’re in the last few days before the iconic technology event of this decade: the Facebook IPO. Every decade we seem to get a new platform company that goes public and defines that technology era; companies like Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Sun, Oracle, Netscape, Google, and Salesforce.com have all shaped how we look at technology, use it, and what we believe is possible. Most notably, all of the companies mentioned spawned legions of developers who added value to the ecosystem, as well as made them “stickier”.
Facebook is about to join this elite group. Whether your privacy settings are set to “High” or “Low” there’s a good chance you have an account if you’re reading this post. Count yourself among the ~1B users who are going to make a lot of Facebook folks really, really rich.
The Facebook Gold Rush won’t stop there, though. I predict that this IPO will spawn an explosion of opportunities, especially among business users. In the same way that B2C commerce led the internet, web 2.0/social media has led this wave of companies. The fast followers will emerge, soon followed by the B2B players. Here’s where I predict a lot of interesting innovation, as vendors emerge to sell tools/apps to companies trying to “sift” their way through social media to find meaning.
In the California Gold Rush, it was far better to be a shopkeeper selling picks and shovels than a miner. Just ask Levi Strauss and Co. I wouldn’t be surprised if this generation’s “rush to wealth” creates the same sorts of opportunities.
I’m recently getting pulled into a number of discussions about the direction of the social media market and how this affects enterprise computing. I would agree with skeptics of the “social enterprise” that this market segment is still evolving, but as with the business internet, the shift in consumer behavior to social platforms will ultimately require enterprises to adapt as well.
My thoughts are that the evolution of Enterprise Social Media breaks into three phases. Upfront I’ll acknowledge that these phases may overlap:
- Social Media Monitoring (SMM)
- Social Media Analytics (SMA)
- Social Media Integration (SMI) and Enterprise Social Media
I’ll briefly describe each of these, then save more detailed analysis for later posts.
Social Media Monitoring (SMM)
Social Media Monitoring (SMM) is the foundation of Enterprise Social Media. SMM is the basic listening function that all social products need to have. SMM enables a company to hear what social media users are saying about their company, products, brands, or even specific people. In general, listening is configured on a keyword, theme, or identify basis. The vast majority of listening tools require a human being to run the tool, and interpret the data. I liken SMM to the contrast knob on a color TV; you only notice it when it’s not there.
Most of the social media tools (over 100!) are in this stage of development. They provide basic monitoring, but they also require a human being to manage the application, and don’t provide any aggregated summaries or intelligence.
Tools such as Radian6 dominate the SMM market, which is generally seen in marketing and marketing communications teams.
Social Media Analytics (SMA)
The more advanced SMM applications include embedded analytics. These analytics range from simple post counts and tag clouds to deeper textual analysis and Natural Language Processing (NLP). These monitoring tools that include analytics I categorize as Social Media Analytics (SMA).
With SMA, the raw social data is transformed into some type of measurable framework that customers can use to track changes in social media. So, words and posts are converted to a numbers. Some SMA applications include reporting of the social content in forms that can be distributed to non-social media experts, and without need for humans to be involved in their creation. Other SMA tools provide the ability to mash up the SMA data with Microsoft Excel™, so that customers can correlate SMA data with revenue, trouble tickets, marketing leads, or other internal measures. However, with SMA this correlation of social media with the business is still an outboard, discrete operation. As an example, a number of companies such as Dell and Gatorade have established “social listening” teams which use SMA to track the social impact of their products or brands. These social listening groups are eerily similar to the “dotcom subsidiaries” of the 90′s; discrete standalone groups that are not integrated with the overall business.
Radian6, Visible Technologies, and Buzzient all provide applications for SMA.
Social Media Integration (SMI) and Enterprise Social Media
At some point, customers awaken to the need to fully integrate social media with business operations. As opposed to relegating social to the niche social listening squads, prescient companies realize that social media is enterprise content just like other data forms, and thus needs to be embedded in existing processes and workflows. With this shift comes the need for bringing social into the application user’s experience, in as native and natural a means as possible.
For example, a customer service representative looking at a client’s record would also want to integrate their Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare feeds into the client history. As opposed to waiting for the social listening team to share with them the “voice of the customer”, the customer service team can independently capture the social media relevant to customers, and assess how best to service the customer using social data as the catalyst.
Just as the Internet proved to be a powerful new channel for Enterprises, and eventually cut across all business functions (not just the dotcom subsidiary), social media is in the process of enabling customer service, HR, sales, QA, ERP and other corporate functions to directly interact with customers over social channels. The full integration of social with multiple business functions is the ultimate realization of Enterprise Social Media, where Social CRM, Social ERP, Social HCM, all emerge as the next iterations of existing application categories.
Buzzient is the only company positioned to integrate social media with multiple, heterogeneous business applications; Buzzient integrates social media seamlessly with Oracle, Salesforce, Infor, Interactive Intelligence and other applications.
As customers think about social media, it’s critical to understand what tools they have, as well as where these specific tools fall on the maturity path of phases 1-3.
This post has been a long time coming, but with today’s latest twitter conversation, I thought I’d share my thoughts on Boston’s Innovation District(@IDBoston) and more importantly, why we just moved here from Cambridge.
First the news: Buzzient just signed a lease for 5000 sq. ft. on Farnsworth Street. We’ve taken over the entire 4th Floor below Skyhook Wireless. Not only are we psyched to be a subtenant of such a cool company (Thanks, Skyhook!), but we’re really happy to be in the Innovation District. I’ll enumerate:
1. Pattern Recognition: As a native of the Bay Area, this has EXACTLY the same feel as South of Market (SOMA) just prior to the internet bubble. In my opinion, it’s better than that, as there are already a number of great places to eat(Menton anyone? ;o)) and entertain in IDBoston. Back in the day in SOMA, you only had a few choices, and most of those were quite, let’s say “authentic”. The infrastructure is in place, the timing is right, and the price is nice. Just like SOMA right before the boom. What was once a wasteland in SOMA now has companies such as Salesforce.com, Organic, Twitter, Zynga, Rapleaf, CNET, and tons of others. IDBoston has the same “bones” as SOMA, and IMHO, the same opportunity. From the Ferry building to Potrero Hill and the REAL Dogpatch/India Basin, the SOMA area is more like IDBoston than it is different.
2. Geography is destiny: Proximity to downtown financial district, airport, south station, bus lines, 93 and the Pike mean that this is a natural concentration point. To use a military analogy, think of this as Gettysburg or Bastogne for geeks. All the roads converge here, so there’s an opportunity to concentrate forces quite easily. From my office, I can walk 100 yards to the Silverline and be through security at Virgin America to SFO within 30 minutes. I can likewise use one of the ubiquitous parking lots and drive to Waltham in the same time or less,without having to cut through the character-laden cobblestone streets of Cambridge. It also means that customers and partners in established companies who drive to/from work can visit my company easily.
3. Customer access: Boston has a handful of world class industries where startups can get traction. One of them is financial services, especially buy side/asset management. The proliferation of “suits” nearby means that not only are we surrounded by other startups in IDBoston, but horror of horrors, potential customers. So, as opposed to operating in the echo chamber that is Cambridge, of “startups talking only to other startups”, in IDBoston you can develop ongoing relationships with people who might actually buy something. Go figure. I have meetings now with Fortune 1000 prospects who I can walk to within 10 minutes. There are restaurants here which cater to business meetings, and multiple hotels and a convention center where prospects converge who can walk a few minutes to visit Buzzient.
4. Cost: We’re paying 1/2 to 1/3 of what we’d be paying in Cambridge for much better space. Honestly, the space we’ve got is the best I’ve seen in the Boston market after several years of looking, and is the cheapest.
5. Ability to recruit other people: Contrary to what some might believe, there are a number of schools that you might want to recruit from in addition to MIT. With 25% of MIT’s graduating classes going into finance anyway, any startup with serious growth ambitions needs to tap into other talent pools. By virtue of being in IDBoston, we’re able to recruit from not only MIT, but also UMass Boston, WPI (those people who drive in on the Pike and use the evil parking lots), Northeastern, Wentworth, and other institutions. A bigger tent and a more diverse talent pool adds up to better companies in my experience. We can also enable students to work PT/FT while still in school, since we’re so accessible via car/MBTA.
6. Political Backing: The involvement of the Mayor and the Innovation District team is a key reason why we’re here. For a guy who regularly gets calls from the west coast as to why I’m “still wasting my time in Boston”, a key reason we stayed was the level of involvement of Mayor Menino and this team. Mayor Menino has actually been down here, shaking hands and encouraging development.
So, all in all, moving to IDBoston was not only a no-brainer, but was the BEST choice for our company. If we were a university spinout that required an MIT professor to have ongoing access across the street, this wouldn’t be the place, so different courses for different horses. We’ve made our bet though, and it’s on IDBoston.