Major analyst firms like AMR Research, Gartner, IDC and Ovum are rightly criticized for being slow out the gate when it comes to addressing and using social media. The one major firm that has done the most to leverage the potential of social media is Forrester, but even Forrester has not been as aggressive as it could be. Here are some ways that major analysts firms should be involved with social media tools:
Social media should be a topic of research. We think this is quite obvious, but with the exception of Forrester none of the major firms have done any in-depth, systematic research on the topic. No doubt some of the firms will say that their clients are not asking for research, nor doing any inquiries on the topic. Well, a couple of years ago the same could be said about Green IT and now look at the interest in the topic. AMR did hire Jonathan Yarmis (see here) and IDC hired Rachel Happe to research this space, but both need to broaden and deepen the teams focusing on social media. We would expect analysts to take the lead in new areas and provide good advice to their clients.
Social media looks like it can be an interesting and useful research tool. Blogs can be idea development platforms. LinkedIn Answers offers the ability to ask questions of people not clients of the firm. Twitter can be a platform for snap polls and intra-event communications. Can these tools be used to gather data? How else could they be used to do research?
Analyst firms could use social media to manage internal collaboration and knowledge. One of the great frustrations for the vendor AR community is that they have to conduct multiple briefings on the same topic for analysts for the same firm. This is because the analysts do not exchange information they receive from vendors because their firms do not invest in collaboration platforms and knowledge management. This would also offer the firms experience in how to recommend these tools to their clients.
The analyst firms have a huge asset locked in their published research and conference presentations. They should use social media to deliver that content. Yes, some of the material can be accessed via search on the website, but those searches turn up discrete PDFs with no organization. Imagine how much more powerful all that content would be if it was poured into a wiki with appropriate links between articles. A wiki would also permit clients, end users and vendors, to add comments, vote on the usefulness of an article and add insights.
There have been many articles written on the marketing uses of social media so I won’t repeat that material here. Suffice to say that analyst firms would derive much benefit from enhancing their marketing using social media.
Analyst firms are constantly looking for new products to sell. While some of the firms use focus groups and other traditional techniques to get new product input, social media has been demonstrated to be cheaper, faster and more intimate means to get this input. Once they get the information they could use that to promote both the social media and the information they learned from it.
Help establish social media communities. This is a topic that has been covered in depth in both traditional and new media. What is relevant for analyst firms is that they have a built-in opportunity by leveraging their existing client bases and the various groupings like role-based clients, executive forums and conference communities. By demonstrating the use of social media they could not only establish their own communities, but show clients how it can be done.
Bottom Line: The analysts are sitting on a potential gold mine of business value if they only leveraged the opportunity that social media represents. If they think they are the though leaders of IT they should demonstrate some of that leadership.
Question: How would you like analyst firms to use social media for research or client delivery?