The social media analytics arms race continues. As commerce increasingly moves onto the Web, organizations must learn to measure and understand online customer activity. And as e-commerce rises in popularity, so does social commerce, a phenomenon that has triggered a slew of recent acquisitions in the social media analytics space:
The list recently got a little longer, as Alterian, a provider of customer engagement solutions, acquired social media analytics firm Intrepid.
[Editors' Note: Alterian was named as a Leader in the marketing solutions category in this year's CRM Market Awards, the full results of which can be found in CRM's August 2010 issue.]
The acquisition will cost Alterian up to $11.5 million, $3.5 million of which will be paid up front. The other $8 million will be paid based on whether or not revenue targets are met over the next several years.
"With the explosion of social media, many brands are well aware of the need to harness this exciting new channel as a key and integral part of their marketing mix," said Alterian Chief Executive Officer David Eldridge, via company press release. The Intrepid acquisition strengthens Alterian's position in social marketing, a fast-growing segment of the company's business.
"The growth in the adoption of social media has been astounding," writes Intrepid CEO John Song, in a blogpost, "yet we're still just in the early stages." In the post, Song contends that the combination of Alterian's integrated marketing platform with Intrepid's ability to analyze social data will help Alterian customers yield a "goldmine of actionable insights."
Bob Hale, senior vice president of corporate development at Alterian, says that Intrepid's corporate focus and geographic spread were among the many reasons Alterian selected the company.
"Intrepid is focused," Hale says. "A lot of service providers are diversified in search engine optimization or content creation [among other] things that didn't fit into the types of services we were looking to enhance with. Also, a lot of companies are U.K.- or U.S.-based only. Intrepid has offices in the U.S., U.K., and Vietnam."
For the past year, Intrepid has invested in a social media research center in Vietnam, where the company is able to capitalize on low costs and a population that is young, educated, and familiar with social media. According to the company, 60 percent of the Vietnamese population is under the age of 30.
"[It was important for Alterian] to have a local Asian/Pacific presence," Hale says, "to be able to add sentiment analysis in multiple new countries and languages."
The biggest factor in the acquisition, Hale says, was Intrepid's range of services and its ability to deliver clear return on investment (ROI) for users.
"The way Intrepid combined a marketing research and social analytics company together allows them to drive much larger projects," Hale explains. "Intrepid is able to drive real ROI around social media and that sort of thought leadership aligns with where we want to take it."
Intrepid's own offering will also improve as a result of the acquisition, according to Song. Alterian, he wrote in his post, provides Intrepid with a solid marketing platform that will allow Intrpepid to be "a legitimate player in coming up with over-arching social intelligence solutions that are more efficient and germane." In addition, Alterian's global reach will permit Intrepid to push its product into new markets.
The move, according to Forrester Research analyst Zach Hofer-Shall, addresses a gap in the level of services offerings and overall consulting in Alterian's SM2 product, which he highlighted in the 2010 Forrester Wave on Listening Platforms.
"Here at Forrester, we've seen the same growing demand for professional services around listening initiatives," writes Hofer-Shall, in a blogpost about the acquisition. "Many clients ask about building, or improving, their programs, but lack the internal resources — social media knowledge, listening expertise, measurement skills, and, most importantly, time — to go from passively collecting social media data to improving their marketing or business goals from insights within the data."
David Raab, principal at Raab Associates, views the acquisition differently. He says the deal is unusual because software companies typically shy away from services because they are labor-intensive and less profitable than pure software sales. Nevertheless, Raab says, there's a clear line of logic behind Alterian's move.
"Social media is a new and rapidly evolving medium," Raab says, "so few marketers — and few of Alterian's existing marketing services vendor partners — have much in-house social media expertise available. Thus, adding services is a way for Alterian to grow SM2 more quickly and probably doesn't pose much risk of conflict with existing partners."
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