While only 24 percent of interactive marketing executives at companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue are implementing or piloting community platform programs, the most recent Forrester Wave on Community Platforms projects that the number should balloon to 55 percent this year. In an industry with as many as 90 vendors, Forrester identified the top five, which “have a significant lead,” writes Melissa Parrish, Forrester Research analyst and author of the Wave.
According to the report, organizations need their chosen community platform vendors to offer:
• Ease of deployment: Marketers seek community platforms that let them configure, deploy, and manage communities efficiently with minimal reliance on internal technical support.
• Matching of community results to business goals: Marketers want vendors that offer analytics tools and strategic services to help them understand which of the platform’s functionalities will allow them to meet their goals.
• A healthy community. Marketers are relying on the community management expertise and services of their platform vendors to help them keep customers engaged, the communities vibrant, and misbehavior to a minimum.
Forrester evaluated the following five vendors and their respective products (listed alphabetically) based on the number of customers, revenue, average company size, and client demand:
• Jive Software: Jive Engage;
• KickApps: Social Media Platform;
• Lithium Technologies: Social Customer Suite;
• Mzinga: OmniSocial 2010; and
• Telligent Systems: Telligent Community.
Each vendor listed has “a large client base of interactive marketers with consumer-facing communities,” Parrish writes. … [They also have] healthy revenue and growth.”
In further detail, here’s how Parrish ranks the evaluated players:
• Lithium: “There are two key differentiators. First is its expertise in community management, which includes a full-service community management and moderation team, led by the company’s chief community officer, and the basic services that are included with every deployment of its platform. Second is its strategy, which focuses on the marketer with laser-target exactness and which aims to provide tools and services to meet marketers’ needs as they engage with their social consumers.”
• Jive: Its platform is built for richness of applications and deep integration within the entire organization.“Jive courts not just the marketer, but also the whole enterprise.”
• KickApps: “KickApps has the most complete and mature set of self-service tools for launching and extending community functionality.” But off-the-shelf tools and services need improvement.
• Telligent: This company thrives “when a customer comes to it with a clear strategy, an innovative idea for a piece of functionality to build on top of Telligent’s platform, and the resources to implement.” In that scenario, the social and community experiences can “wow” a consumer. But because this collaboration isn’t always possible, Telligent is less desirable than the category’s leaders.
• Mzinga: Though Mzinga has been a big player, its OmniSocial 2010 product is “in its early stages and has room to improve.” Parrish encourages Mzinga to add official partners to iterate more quickly and to migrate customers on legacy technology to the more robust tools that the OmniSocial product offers.
Awareness, Leverage Software, LiveWorld, and Pluck were left off this year’s Wave.