Forrester or Gartner launch a client-only social network – Looking ahead to 2010

Ticon-crystal-ball.jpghis post is one in a series where SageCircle pulls out the crystal ball and looks ahead to what happens in the analyst ecosystem in 2010. See below for links to all posts in this series.

As 2009 comes to a close there are only a few examples of analyst-created communities built on social networks. One example is the IDC Insights Community, which was launched in March 2009 and is built on a white-label social network platform. This is an open community that anybody, including competitors to IDC, can register to join. This is an interesting experiment by IDC as it potentially enhances IDC’s ability to increase its visibility with enterprise clients.

While 2010 will see more analyst-operated open communities built on free tools like LinkedIn Groups or purchased social networking platforms, the most interesting and controversial communities will be the “gated communities” that Forrester and/or Gartner might launch. These closed communities would only be available to clients of the firms.

Social media purists will no doubt howl that a closed social network violates the spirit of communities and that the firms are dumb for not using the communities a marketing tool to build awareness to non-clients. Perhaps these objections are valid, but there are valid reasons why closed, managed communities will actually be welcomed by enterprise end users.  Not everybody is comfortable with the rough-and-tumble attitude of some open communities. In some cases a limited number of participants – hiding behind anonymity – feel empowered to be rude, disruptive, and counterproductive.  Some enterprise managers will like communities focused specifically on their job responsibilities. Forrester and Gartner can easily facilitate this because they have already moved toward role-based research and self-identifications. Other enterprise managers will enjoy being part of an exclusive club. Yet another group of managers would resent that “freeloaders” who do not have contracts are getting free access to what they are spending tens of thousands of dollars, Euros, or yen to purchase.

Client-only programs are very popular at the big two advisory firm. For example, Gartner has around 3,500 members in its CIOs-only EXP service. If Gartner includes concierge service for the CIOs in the community, encourages analyst participation, and effectively promotes the community within its EXP membership, it could build a thriving CIO-centric community. This community would in turn become a valuable asset for selling EXP memberships.

What could be especially controversial for vendors is if the firms do not permit vendor staff to participate in the communities. There are examples, like EXP, where vendors are not allowed to sign up for the service simply because they are a vendor.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Competitors to Forrester and Gartner will need to monitor any closed communities to determine if this is an approach that may be emulated or countered with open communities
  • Enterprise clients and prospects of Forrester and Gartner should carefully weigh the benefits of joining a closed community, especially if part of a premium priced service (e.g., Gartner for IT Leaders)
  • Vendor AR teams will need include more budget funding for access of at least one seat to any closed communities in order to learn about how they are being adopted by end users – assuming the firms permit vendors to join the communities.

Bottom Line: Communities can be very powerful for analyst firms, but it is still too early to know what the right approach is going to be. 2010 will be a time of experimentation with closed communities being one of the models tried.

Question: Enterprise clients of Forrester and Gartner – Would a firm-owned private network make you more likely or less likely to participate in a community?

Looking ahead to 2010 Series

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4 Responses

  1. Hey Carter, Forrester already has a client only social network — currently accessible to FLB members only. It launched shortly before I left the company and, coincidentally enough, Jive is the technology provider.

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