You can be assured that when industry analysts focus on a category, it’s driven largely by brands looking for clarity and answers within a complex and confusing environment.

Nowhere is this more true than within the social space. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen a flurry of new, insightful research designed to help brands separate fact from fiction, and make better decisions about vendors and solutions. We applaud these groups for providing much needed, independent, informed perspective to the world.

We, at Converseon, were very pleased about how we fared, especially given the robust and detailed methodologies that the analysts used to come to their conclusions — including, in many instances, user feedback.

Here is a run-down of the three most recent reports, in chronological order:

1. Gartner Group Magic Quadrant for Social CRM
July 25, 2011

Social CRM is hot, with Gartner expecting that it will become at billion dollar business soon. The market clearly understands the opportunity in this space, underscored by the value of some recent valuations in the space. As Gartner says, ”

“Hype around social applications by sales, marketing and customer service departments has exploded during the past two years as companies implemented social applications mostly as experiments or for tactical purposes. Actual use cases are still diverse, narrow in scope and unevenly diffused across companies, with experimentation that, most times, forgoes measuring business benefits…Successful social CRM vendors will provide clear benefits for companies and communities, with multiple use cases for sales, marketing and customer service processes.”

Gartner further noted that, in 2010, spending on social software for marketing, customer service and sales increased by 40 percent, but social CRM remains less than 5 percent of the total CRM application market. Gartner expects the social CRM market to reach over $1 billion in revenue by year-end 2012, up from approximately $625 million in 2010.

After thorough evaluation based on a variety of factors including offering, marketing strategy, innovation and more, Converseon was included for the first time in the elite list for the first time as a Niche vendor. Several other vendors were dropped because they didn’t make the minimum criteria. Gartner said about Converseon,

“Converseon has a broad understanding of how effect change across marketing, customer service and sales departments… measure success and impact the key KPIs … and tie into more traditional CRM transformation approaches. … strength in B2B use of social media… gives Converseon an advantage over competitors in B2B.” (italics added)

We were pleased that our industry leading B2B social media experience was clearly cited in such a well researched report. Although we also do significant B2C work, social media in B2B require different approaches that understand the nature of B2B pipeline management, and, in many cases, the nature of relationships in marketing and selling. Often, content strategies and subject matter expert (SME) enablement are much more critical in B2B social.

And of course CRM is just one business function that we support. We focus largely on deep intelligence for multiple and complex use cases in organizations. CRM for us, is just one, but very important use. We’re pleased our offering was included.

The full report is available for Gartner clients here.

2. Gleanster’s “How Top Performers Use Social Intelligence”
August 7, 2011

Jeff Zabin at the newly-formed Gleanster has assembled a very strong team of analysts that focus on “real world” analysis based largely on client input and feedback. Jeff himself has always brought keen insight and deep understanding into the social media space.

As the report says, “Social intelligence is being increasingly used today to describe the next rung on the evolutionary ladder of listening to and acting upon consumer conversation on the social web. That rung maps to a number of technology innovations. Chief among them are improved capabilities around analyzing and integrating all sources of voice-of-the-customer data to generate more actionable insights. Social intelligence also speaks to an emerging corporate mindset regarding the strategic importance of social data and the need to better capitalize upon it. This Gleansight benchmark report reveals how Top Performers are achieving success when it comes to the incessant quest to extract customer insights and take actions that ultimately translate into revenue growth, cost reduction, risk reduction and relationship enhancement.”

Drawing from the experiences of 387 companies, the report offers a comprehensive look at how Top Performers are harnessing the power of next-generation social media monitoring tools and capabilities around analyzing and integrating voice-of-the-customer data to generate actionable insights as well as to reduce risk, improve marketing and enhance customer relationships.

The benchmark report, which can be downloaded for free, is 28 pages and consists of seven sections: Topic Overview, Reasons to Implement, Value Drivers, Challenges, Performance Metrics, Success Stories and the Vendor Landscape. The latter section includes descriptions and analyst commentaries for 39 solution providers. It also includes comparative rankings across four key dimensions of evaluation: Ease of Deployment, Ease of Use, Features and Functionality, and Overall Value.

Converseon, we are proud to note, scored highest for Features and Functionality and Overall Value.

Altimeter’s “A Framework for Social Analytics”
August 10, 2011

Susan Etlinger, as part of the very able group over at Altimeter Group put together a 40 page report on social analytics. In our view social intelligence is a piece of social analytics. But it also includes social engagement metrics which is also an important focus for us. It’s not just listening but the impact you have when engaging:

Altimeters said:

“The Report is Intended primarily for business people who are tasked with understanding, interpreting and acting on social data — executives, strategic planners, social strategists and marketers. It will outline the key challenges of social data, propose a value-based framework for social analytics and recommend clear and pragmatic steps that companies engaged in social media must follow to ensure they are gaining insights, measuring effectively, interpreting accurately and taking appropriate action — both today and in the longer term.”

Altimeter’s research also found that 82% of corporations expect to have a brand monitoring solution in place within the next year.

Converseon was pleased to participate and cited in the report which is available for download here.

We thank all the analysts for their attention and consideration, and for contributing some important knowledge and insight to the industry.