Forrester Releases Wave Report on Social Media Marketing

Forrester Research has released a Wave report evaluating social media marketing vendors, selecting seven companies as the top providers. Compiled by analyst Zachary Reiss-Davis, the report names Kenshoo, Marin Software, Optimal (recently acquired by Brand Networks,) SHIFT, Unified, Salesforce.com (for its Social.com app), and Nanigans as the best performers in social media marketing management and compares how the seven stack up against competitors and each other.

According to Reiss-Davis, social advertising generates more than 85 percent of revenue for both Facebook and Twitter, and marketers are continuing to spend more to advertise on the social networks. "In fact, the vendor customer references I spoke with for this evaluation spent an average of $512,000 per month on social ads," Reiss-Davis wrote in a blog post. Because social networks' native management tools have proven insufficient for enterprise marketers, the need for enterprise-ready products has grown, and vendors have responded with a variety of product offerings. Seven vendors, however, stand out.

The companies were evaluated based on several criteria; at a minimum, each had to have a standalone social offering, a self-service platform, enterprise customers, and customers that spent more than $50 million on social advertising over a period of one year.

Ultimately, the winner and runners-up are a diverse group of companies. Kenshoo, which took the top spot, and Marin both have a search marketing background and did not initially specialize in social media marketing, according to Reiss-Davis. Salesforce.com does not specialize in social media marketing either, but instead looks to "acquire platforms of all sorts to meet all of a marketer's needs," Reiss-Davis says. The remaining four companies are start-ups, with much more social media marketing focus.

Kenshoo led the pack due to its impressive performance in "analytics, reporting and optimization capabilities as well as its ability to combine search and social advertising data," the report states, citing customer feedback. Five of the runners-up, called Strong Performers, each had "at least one capability that stands above Kenshoo and all of the other vendors in this Forrester Wave," but didn't quite measure up overall.

Salesforce.com, for example, failed to secure the top spot because its social media advertising platforms remain disjointed. "Buddy Media and Radian6 have not been integrated with Social.com onto one single marketing cloud and, as a result, [the] Salesforce.com tool is just not reaching its full potential yet," Reiss-Davis says. The offering received low marks for integrations with both social relationship and social listening capabilities and with search and display advertising, according to the report.

As for companies that didn't make the cut in this Wave report, Reiss-Davis urges them to establish a unique, differentiated approach to social media marketing going forward. "There are simply too many companies competing in the space at this point," he says, and recommends that companies narrow their social media marketing solution with a focus on automation, a focus on a different market such as SMBs, or a solid CRM integration.

Reiss-Davis also suggests that all companies competing in the space dedicate serious efforts to effective campaign measurement, namely measuring how social media marketing is driving sales. "It's very easy to spend money measuring how many 'likes' or 'shares' a campaign is delivering, but what marketers really need to be focusing on is conversions," he says.

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