Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Demand Generation Vendors Offer Few Social Media Applications

Summary: marketing vendors offer several types of social media applications. But none truly automates social media management, which is what's ultimately needed.

Social media is this month’s Trend of the Year. But no one knows how best to use it, which has led to a wide range of offerings under the social media label. Here’s a quick and surely incomplete run-down of those I’ve seen recently. They provide three basic functions:

- send messages via social media. Treehouse Interactive just introduced a “talk it up” feature that embeds “share this” buttons in Treehouse-generated Web pages and emails. This lets people easily send a Tweet, post to a Facebook wall or create a LinkedIn article that points to the original content. CRM vendor RightNow offers something similar under the label of Cloud Links.

- add social media data to prospect profiles. InsideView is gaining the most attention for this at the moment. It lets marketers or sales people specify companies and individuals to monitor, and then scans media including social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook), public forums (blogs, wikis, Diggs, Twitter), paid sources (D&B, Zoom, Jigsaw,) and Web pages for information about those entities. It analyzes the results to identify key events and to build consolidated profiles with its best guess at the correct current information. These can be loaded into sales and CRM systems to make them easily accessible. InsideView is already integrated with major CRM vendors and with the Marketbright demand generation system.

Broadlook offers somewhat similar functions, although it is largely limited to Internet searches to gather the data it examines. The company’s main product, Profiler, extracts names, titles, email addresses and telephone numbers from a specified Web site. It can also search other Web sites for email addresses containing the targeted domain. An enhancement released last month, Profiler X, will also incorporate data from Hoovers. Other products include Eclipse, which scans online directories that require user log-in, and Diver, which scans the results of a Google search one page at a time. Results can be imported to sales automation and CRM files to update and enhance their profiles.

Many other vendors let a user automatically jump to the LinkedIn or Jigsaw profiles of the prospect they are reviewing. Ones I know about include Pardot, LoopFuse , TrueInfluence , Salesforce.com and ACT! by Sage This is a crude sort of integration – the data is simply presented in a window on the screen, not actually loaded into the demand generation or sales automation database. But it does save a few keystrokes.

- scan for social media mentions. Specialized systems like ScoutLabs, Crimson Hexagon and BoardTracker have been available to track social media mentions for some time. Just last week, RightNow announced Cloud Monitor, which integrates such tracking with the ability to respond with its sales and customer service features. This will surely be a standard CRM feature before long, and will probably migrate to demand generation systems soon after.

All told, I'm rather disappointed at what I see in this list. InsideView and RightNow have the most important applications, but neither is a demand generation system. Treehouse Interactive is the only demand generation vendor to offer anything beyond a simple LinkedIn integration, and even Treehouse is only making it easier to use social media as a broadcast medium. No one seems to be executing meaningful dialogs through social media, even though that is marketers’ truly pressing need because doing it manually is so expensive.

Of course, this ties into the larger need for automated personalized dialogs that I have previously identified the future of demand generation. I’ve now believed this for almost two full weeks, so it must be true.

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