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Listening Platforms Are Evolving Into Engagement Platforms


Forrester research has released their new report "The Forrester Wave Listening Platforms, Q1 2009. Thanks to one of the companies covered by the report, Visible Technologies, you can read the report for free.

The report covers seven companies.

Nielsen BuzzMetrics
TNS Cymfony
Visible Technologies
J.D. Power & Associates
Dow Jones Insight

Criteria for evaluating the technologies in the report included two new elements:

"marketers need more than passive monitoring, we added two new criteria: 1) text analysis to better understand how vendors analyze data, extract concepts, and identify sentiment; and 2) consulting and analysis services to assess how vendors delivered insights to support specific use cases like influencer analysis, new product development, and market segmentation."

Companies were also evaluated on three dimensions:

  1. Frameworks to support multiple marketing scenarios.
  2. Access to broad and deep set of data. Vendor monitor multiple social media technologies and geographies.
  3. Significant market presence. Companies had to have over $5 million in revenue and more than 50 large clients.

Looking for the following improvements:

  1. Sentiment and influence analysis to understand customer engagement.
  2. Product road maps to emphasize integration. Here the report suggests further integration into CRM systems.
  3. Consulting and analytical services to improve the value of listening.

Suresh Vittal wrote a great report about the state of the social media monitoring and analysis industry. He coined a name for the industry, "listening platforms." Importantly I think that as the industry evolves there will be further integration with CRM systems. While I like the term listening instead of monitoring, I believe these types of platforms are turning into engagement platforms. Where brands use these technologies to monitor, report, triage, and respond to customers and community. The integration with CRM vendors means that over the next few years you will see a radical change in the importance and direction of this industry. The much large CRM platform industry is starting to take interest in integrating listening functionality into their platforms, and listening platforms are integrating their data into CRM platforms. The listening platform vendors are in the best position to capitalize on this integration with CRM systems because of their ability to conduct sentiment and influence analysis and the head start it gives the vendors in providing interpretation for customers. However, as Suresh's report indicates many of the vendors need more a consulting and analysis capabilities in order to fully meet brand customer engagement needs.

Decisions about engaging customers through social media and gathering business intelligence are partly delayed because customers don’t have a business process set up internally to use the data gathered through such tools. While an existing customer service department may be able to handle a call or email, handling a public comment on a customer’s blog is a much more complicated process, and has to be handled with more diplomacy, quality control and expertise. Companies are in the process of understanding what type of infrastructure they need to build to handle these marketing needs, this is driving product development and integration with CRM systems in the listening platforms industry, and turning Listening Platform vendors into Engagement Platform vendors.