It’s 2014. I can tweet from 36,000 miles up in the sky. I can turn the lights in my house off and on from my phone. I can adjust the temperature in my house from 1000s of miles away, with just a few taps on my phone. Taking selfies on stage, during a live event is common place. We have public political discourse on platforms like Facebook and Reddit. Edward Snowden can live stream in for an interview at SXSW. With platforms like IFTT I can have have every photo I take on Instagram be automatically backed up to my Google Drive account and then have a text sent to my wife, letting her know they’re backed up. Yeah, technology is amazing. It really is. Tech has evolved to a point where anything is truly possible. We don’t think in terms of “can we do that” – we think in terms of “how we’ll do it.”
With such maturity in technology, business adoption of digital/social and the marketplace as a whole, it’s perplexing that we still don’t have a truly enterprise social platform. Oh, we have platforms. We have no shortage of platforms. These platforms are like tools that go into a toolbox. Ask a social marketer what’s in their social toolbox and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. The toolbox will run the range of small and niche platforms that do 1 thing exceptionally well, to platforms that do nothing exceptionally well, but do everything. You’ll find platforms that you pay for monthly on a credit card and you’ll find platforms that are hundreds of thousands of dollars and billed every quarter.
There are platforms for publishing (Hootsuite). There are platforms for sourcing (Percolate). There are platforms for monitoring (Sysomos). There are platforms for analyzing (Crimson Hexagon). There are platforms for reporting (Simply Measured). There are platforms just to make data look better in the form of dashboards (Geckoboard). We have platforms for everything. What we don’t have is 1 truly enterprise social platform that can do it all, and do it all exceptionally well.
We had the promise of such a platform. Remember the marketing behind…SalesForce’s Marketing Cloud? It was to be the end all, be all answer for a social business. But, it fell flat. Actually, it imploded. Don’t take my word for it though. Marc Benioff, SalesForce’s CEO, at DreamForce 2013, all but admitted, Marketing Cloud never realized its vision. The revenue numbers reported at the end of fiscal for SalesForce back that up as well. I’m not picking on SalesFore, more so, it’s important to note that if a company like SalesForce can’t get it right, you can’t expect others to as well. It’s hard. Social, at scale, is hard.
At any marketing conference, you can bet, leaders of social are discussing the tools/platforms they’re using, with one another. If you were to listen in to these conversations, it would sound a lot like something connected to something via tape, bundled together with rubber brands, with Google docs in there somewhere, filling a gap. It’s a mess. And, honestly, as we close Q1 of 2014, I can’t believe it’s still a mess.
I always say, don’t shake a stick at something, if you aren’t willing to offer a recommendation for how to fix what’s wrong. With that in mind, here’s what I think a truly enterprise social platform needs to have…actually, before I get into that, first let me outline what companies building platforms need to understand:
The “Plumbing” Isn’t Easily Changed: If you’re already working with a suite of platforms and partners, and chances are, you are, changing platforms and partners can be painful. While there are some platforms you can change out with very little pain, the fact is, often times, changing platforms brings upon legacy challenges. There’s also the likelihood that there are some platforms you’d like to retain. With all that in mind, what makes a buyer’s life easier is if your platform works more like a connector than a pipe. If you’re coming into a situation where there’s already existing plumbing in place, your platforms ability to connect and play nice with all the existing platforms that are in place, makes your platform enterprise ready.
The Seat License Model Is Antiquated: There’s simply no reason you should be offering a seat license model, if you’re claiming your platform is designed for the enterprise. A truly enterprise approach would mean that anyone, at any time, from any team, any partner, across the globe, should be able to access and use your platform. What makes your platform sticky in an organization is having it used by a significant number of people. The more people who use, enjoy and rely on your platform, the better. When you charge per seat, what you’re conveying is that you don’t want your platform used at the enterprise level. Let’s use some simple math to illustrate this point. Let’s assume your platform uses a $100 per person per seat per month approach. At a company like Walgreens, where we have 200,000+ employees, you’d in essence be charging $240,000,000 a year. Yes, I said, $240,000,000. Even if I go with a 90% discount, and it’s only $10 a person per month, we’re talking about $24,000,000. That’s insane. Beyond the fact the dollar amount is ridiculous, it also positions your company as someone who nickels and dimes. If you have a great platform, price it like one. Don’t try to compensate for how much your platform lacks, by charging on a per seat basis.
Sell The Platform or Services, Not Both: Building on my nickel and dime comment, don’t adopt a car dealer mentality where after I’ve bought the car you keep selling everything from warranties to undercoating. If you make a killer platform, make a killer platform and charge a fair price for it. If you’re great at enterprise services and strategy, start a consultancy. When you try to sell both, it makes buyers wonder if the reason you’re pushing your enterprise services so hard, is to compensate for an inferior platform.
Ok, now on to what a true enterprise social platform should look like. It’s actually quite simple. A social enterprise platform needs 7 core features:
Light Listening: A light listening feature needs to answer one simple question, “what’s going on, right now.” That’s it, it’s that simple. I’m serious. This feature needs to address the business scenario that often arises, where someone asks, “what do consumers think/feel about X.” This feature takes the pulse of a situation. It’s directional. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. It needs to be accurate enough to offer some directional context.
End To End Publishing: Your platform should allow for the sourcing of content, review of content, editing of content, distributing of content and the evaluation/measurement of content. Many platforms do 1 or 2 of these things really well. But, no one does them all at an A-level.
Rich Analytics: Where light listening answers the question, what’s going on right now, rich analytics answer the question, “what happened.” Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20. Rich Analytics need to be 20/15. If we’ll accept 70% accuracy for sentiment analysis with the light listening portion of a platform, the rich analytics must be 90%+ accurate. You also can’t lock this data behind a wall. It needs to exportable into a wide variety of formats. It should also have the ability to mashup other data sets. For example, a conversation volume chart, is a nice 1st step. If everyone is talking about a specific link on your website, wouldn’t it be great to be able to see your Omniture data related to that link, in the same enterprise platform?
Customer Care Management: If you want to be a serious enterprise player, you need a customer care module. The key here is that module must work as a stand alone feature, because in many orgs, care is handled by a separate team. It also needs to fit into the other modules for situations where an org has 1 team working across all aspects of social, including care. Most platforms can only do 1 of these flows well.
Mobile At The Core: We don’t want to hear it’s mobile web friendly because it’s built in HTML 5. That’s a nice first step. But, your platform better have an app there iOS and Android ready. Simply put, 75% of everything I can do from a desktop experience needs to supported in your app.
Flexible Integration: This is the hardest part. I get it. I want you to integrate with Simply Measured, but you see them as a competitor. I get it. But, I also need you to figure it out. Again, if you want to be enterprise and you want to become the irreplaceable plumbing, you’d better figure out how to play well with a whole host of other platforms and partners.
Multiple User Roles: Probably the easiest feature to nail. Some people need to be administrators, capable of changing, creating, deleting, etc. Others require just read only access. There’s also a host of other roles in between those two end points.
I don’t pretend to know how to build software. It’s not easy. I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate that in the Wild Wild West that has been the last 5 years, in social, it was much easier to build a half baked platform that sorta did 1 thing really well. Clients were lining up to buy your version of Windows ME and there was little reason to think bigger and establish a higher bar for quality of experience.
It’s 2014. Social is growing up faster than we all thought. The bar is high now. It’s no longer amateur hour. I’m sure I missed a few things in this post. But, I’m also confident I hit on 90% of the pain points and requirements, expected by Sr. leaders in social.
You can do better. You need to do better. If there’s one thing history has shown us, the first one to really nail it, wins. In this space you don’t want to be 2nd place.