It’s On: social media vendor consolidation

Folks in the social analysis space have for years talked about the wide and varied number of Social Media Management Services (SMMS) or social listening platforms or social engagement platforms. Industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang has long predicted a unified social software stack. But what does it mean?

Enterprises far along the “social journey” (here defined by my friends at Ants Eye View) are finding the need to be actionable and insightful with their social data and engagement.

It’s a difficult prospect in large companies, often when many departments and divisions are leveraging a variety of tools, but as the volume and complexity of pulling meaning out of social data increases, so does the need for enterprise-class tools.

It’s been happening a lot over the past year or so in the enterprise space. In 2010, IBM buys Coremetrics. In 2011, VMware buys Socialcast and SAP partners with NetBase. This year, Oracle nabbed Vitrue and Collective Intellect while Salesforce adds Buddy Media to its social software collection. Adobe is going gangbusters in pulling all media into its Omniture-focused analytics suite. The genius here is the immediate adoption rate, or at least the promise of, as existing web analysts can ease into adding social to the metric mix.

Some questions to consider:

What do I want to do with this data? Now? Next quarter? Next year?

So far, it’s been okay to pull your social data in, listen to the hot themes and memes, slap a deck together, toss numbers into a dashboard and call it a day. That data is often lost to the “ethernet.” But what if you missed something? Or want to revisit or trend those analyses? You’re stuck. Most, if not all, social listening vendors provision you with tenant space in their data store. By the end of 2013, I predict a lot more solutions coming to market where companies can opt to collect their social big data on their own infrastructure. Here at EMC we’re prepping for that now, but I see the big push here from the financial services sector where Sarbanes-Oxley, SIPC and FINRA regulations will catch-up with IT and the industry.

Who gets access to this data? And how can it be presented and manipulated?

Above all, this needs to be stupid simple. To date, it ain’t. Most of us are cobbling together data from a number of sources to present reports. A unified software stack will help here but it needs to be done thoughtfully. Can insights be mapped to action and customer histories? That will be the test. And it’s why I’m very intrigued by what Oracle (Vitrue and Collective Intellect) and Salesforce (Radian6 and Buddy Media) are up to.

These are two of the best and biggest examples of social software integration. And it should come as no surprise that both firms are already famous for their M&A ways. But both have serious rosters of enterprise software customers who could benefit from an integrated environment. Salesforce has been hot and heavy promoting the idea of the “social enterprise.” We’ll see if this helps their customers get there.

More interestingly, we’re seeing some vertical consolidation. LinkedIn snatched up Rapportive and SlideShare. Both deals should bolster the value of LinkedIn as a true professional networking tool. Facebook grabbed Gowalla and Instagram. Twitter picked up TweetDeck, Backtype and Summify. All of these are great examples of popular social networking use-cases coming together in the marketplace.

This ride ain’t over. Who’s gonna be next?

More social media acquisition news from Social Networking Watch