Is social media today the grain of sand that will become tomorrow’s pearl in the analyst ecosystem?

icon-social-media-blue.jpgWhile getting significant buzz, the use of social media in the analyst ecosystem is still at a nascent stage. Some analysts and AR professionals are making interesting use of blogs, Twitter, and so on, but for the most part social media is just being played with a little or being ignored all together. Those members of the ecosystem who are not seriously looking at social media might wake up one day to find that social media has become a force and they are seriously and dangerously behind the curve. 

A natural pearl occurs when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, gets inside an oyster’s shell which the oyster cannot expel. The oyster then starts to secrete a mixture of aragonite and conchiolin in minute layers around the irritant to coat it and reduce the irritation. Over time, many many layers of coating transform the grain of sand into a beautiful pearl. This is an apt metaphor for social media because definitely some members of the community, analysts and AR teams, consider social media an irritant and have yet see the slow transformation that is happening around it.

Major changes in a market or form of communications are often not via a big bang, but by the accretion of little changes that reach a critical mass. The individuals or companies who benefit the most from these changes are Continue reading

Analysts chattering on Twitter – the genie is out of the bottle

icon-social-media-blue.jpgThere is an interesting blog post by Redmonk analyst James Governor on Industry analyst relations and Twitter: The Dark Side and a related one by Marketing Strategies for IT Vendors analyst Merv Adrian AR: Tiering Analysts Is Good, But Don’t Play Childish Games. These posts bring up several issues (e.g., tiering analyst lists, confidentiality, and transparency), but the one we want to address in this post is the issue of analysts tweeting about planned vendor briefings and how some AR professionals would prefer analysts not to do so. 

Both Merv (“But this “pssst…don’t tell anyone we’re talking” thing is something else entirely. It smacks of gamesmanship…”) and James (“The first rule of vendor briefings is… don’t talk about vendor briefings. That is just crazy.”) do not like the idea of being asked not to tweet about an upcoming vendor briefing. To a certain extent they have a point. Being asked not to tweet runs counter to the whole ethos of social media and sharing information. However, some analysts are using their tweeting as a marketing tool by in essence saying “See how important I am? I am getting briefed by Acme Software! Don’t you want to brief me too?”

While we see the analysts’ perspective, these and other analysts with the same opinion are not looking at from the vendor’s point-of-view. Knowing that a vendor is briefing an analyst provides AR at a competitor with valuable competitive intelligence. In fact, harvesting useful intelligence about what a competitor is doing with the analysts is one of the reasons SageCircle teaches vendors why AR teams need to be on Twitter and other forms of social media. However, there is an underlying tension with wanting information about your competitor, but not having information about your activities publicly disseminated.

So in this brave new world there are implications for both AR and analysts.

Analyst relations – Get over it. The Twitter genie is out of the bottle and there is no way to stuff that critter back. AR needs to adapt to the changed environment by deciding how to deal with Continue reading

A potpourri of observations on social media and the analyst ecosystem

icon-social-media-blue.jpgTime to take a minute to check in with what’s up with the analyst ecosystem and social media.

Atwitter about Twitter – Twitter continues to be a hot topic in general with some negative backlash developing (e.g., Morgan Stanley’s report that teens do not care for Twitter and Nielsen’s research that millions are “Twitter quitters”). So what? It does not matter how many millions of users don’t use Twitter after signing up or how many millions follow some actor or talk show host. What matters for AR teams is whether their most relevant analysts are using Twitter and how it is being used.

Forrester and Gartner Blog Traffic: Nothing to sneeze about – We caused a bit of a buzz when we compared the traffic hits on Jeremiah Owyang’s personal blog to Gartner’s and Forrester’s corporate websites in Don’t underestimate the visibility a blog can provide an analyst because Jeremiah’s blog had twice the traffic of the two corporate websites combined. Looking at the firms’ own blog networks shows good traffic to them as the graphic illustrates (click here or graphic to enlarge). Forrester’s team blogs have averaged 65,000 unique visitors per month over the last year. The Gartner Blog Network has grown steadily since its September 2008 launch to 29,000 unique visitors in July.

Forrester Gartner blog networks traffic - small 

Social media metrics, useful but not “special” – As we were working on Continue reading

Don’t discount the business value of analysts’ 350,000+ phone-based inquiries with end-user clients

icon-social-media-blue.jpgIn all the buzz about 21st century social media like Twitter and blogs there is this 19th century warhorse that is the analyst firms’ secret weapon – the telephone.

 Yes, the lowly telephone.

A common conversation SageCircle has with vendor executives is their opinion that analyst research is commoditized because so much information is available for free on the Web and in blogs, thus analyst influence must be dropping. It quickly turns out that the executive is almost always referring to the analysts’ published research. Our point in this post is that written research has always been commoditized and thus the written word is not what sells analyst services. What clients really buy is spoken advice – personalized and delivered real time – that cannot be commoditized, digitized, and distributed around the Internet.

Many members of the vendor community do not have a visceral feel for the client value delivered by these ad hoc phone-based inquiries between analysts and end users because they have never participated in one. Often vendor executives approve spending for analyst contracts because they think it is all part of a pay-to-play payola scheme. Because of this attitude they never bother to actually use the inquiry services they buy. 

However, the typical end user client of an advisory firm does not have this negative bias about analyst firms. For the enterprise IT manager, the advisory analyst is a trusted, objective advisor. In many cases, the analyst can actually save the client many times the analyst contract cost by providing timely insights – via a short phone inquiry – about a vendor contract the IT manager is Continue reading

Don’t underestimate the visibility a blog can provide an analyst

An interesting exercise is to compare the relative web traffic between the largest advisory analyst firm (Gartner), the largest IT market research firm (IDC) and a very visible analyst who has his own blog. Using the site comparison feature of Compete here is the graphic showing Forrester analyst extraordinaire and social media poster boy Jeremiah Owyang’s (bio, Twitter handle, blog) personal blog Web Strategy by Jeremiah, Gartner.com and IDC.com:

Traffic comparison Gartner.com IDC.com and Jeremiah Owyang blog 

Click here or on the graphic to enlarge. The top blue line is Jeremiah’s blog, the green middle line is Gartner.com and the bottom orange line is IDC.com. There is not a single month in the past year where Web Strategy by Jeremiah did not receive more unique visitors (an average of 136,000 per month) than Gartner.com and IDC.com combined.

Not an apples-to-apples comparison… and that is the point 

Of course, comparing two very different types of websites, a blog vs. corporate sites, is not an apples-to-apples assessment. Rather this illustrates how a savvy analyst can leverage a personally branded blog to obtain unique access to a broader audience than he could even on the regular research website of a $1.2bn but very traditional analyst firm. This is because the analyst blog is easily Continue reading

Where do social media metrics fit into an AR measurement program? [Practitioner Question]

AR Metrics & MeasurementQuestion: Are social media like blogs and Twitter something we should be measuring or is it too early yet? Where does social media fit in a measurement scheme?

icon-social-media-blue.jpg If your analysts are using social media, then including those sorts of metrics in a measurement program is really not optional. In this case we are putting social media on par with published research, press quotes, and activity counts as something worthy of measuring. While a 140-character tweet does not have the impact of a Gartner Magic Quadrant, it can provide useful information that should be added to the data mix.

Social media has elements of both operational metrics and performance metrics. Some example uses include:

  • Operational
    • Unfiltered opinions feed into plans and briefings
    • Activity insights feed into interaction calendars
    • Tweets and blog comments by AR to an analyst fulfill top-of-mind touches requirements
  • Performance
    • Tonality tracks analyst opinion movement
    • Mentions of company, products, and competitors with opinion can track changes in perception

Social media metrics complement other sources of data. For example, social media can complement Spoken Word Audits because social media-based conversations between analysts and end users are often personal, unfiltered, and Continue reading

Use an AR team handle to divide the Twitter workload

icon-social-media-blue.jpgWhen AR professionals consider using Twitter to interact with analysts they often shy away from the activity based on their perception of adding yet another task to an already heavy workload. There is even the perception that following an analyst using a personal Twitter handle (e.g., @daveeckert or @carterlusher) sets the expectation that the AR professional should be interacting with the analyst and not just observing their tweets. While this is not an unreasonable concern, our experience is the effective use of Twitter rarely has a large workload impact (see Analyze social media traffic of analysts to determine your workload). 

One way for AR programs with two or more staff members to get around the perceived workload issue is to set up an AR team handle (e.g., www.twitter.com/vendor_AR) and then switch support duties periodically (e.g., on Mondays). Then only one team member at a time is monitoring analysts’ Twitter traffic and posting appropriate tweets about the vendor. This approach also has the advantage of building the AR team’s brand with the analysts.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Set up an AR team handle on Twitter – select a name which reflects it as a team-branded handle.
  • Create a schedule of Continue reading
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