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Some big software players jumped into Forrester Research's hearts for platforms that help digital marketers make the most out of social media.

But they're not the leaders.

In its Wave for Social Relationship Platforms for this quarter -- targeted at B2C marketers -- the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm tabbed Oracle and Hootsuite among its most significant providers in the space. Those organizations did not make the cut two years ago.

They join Adobe, Expion, Falcon Social, Salesforce, Percolate, Shoutlet, Spredfast, Sprinklr and Sprout Social as significant providers in the Social Relationship Platform (SRP) space.

Forrester evaluated vendors with at least 100 enterprise SRP clients whose average deployment includes at least 25 seat holders.

"One of the things we looked for in our evaluation was vendors’ ability to automate key SRP functions," Forrester analyst Nate Elliott wrote in a blog post today. "We know -- automation remains a dirty word in social media. No brand wants to repeat the automation-driven mistakes of Coca-Cola or Bank of America. But marketers say one of their top social challenges is hiring and training enough qualified staff. In this environment, the greatest value that social relationship platforms can offer their clients is lightening their workload." 

Leaders of the Pack

The big guns may be on Forrester's radar, but they're not on top.

Among the 11 Forrester analyzed, three emerged as leaders -- Percolate (bold vision for social and nonsocial working together), Spredfast (strong product/strategy balance) and Sprinklr (features leader).

Providers that offer "competitive options" include Shoutlet, Expion, Hootsuite and Falcon Social. The others -- Sprout Social, Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce -- "lag behind."

Adobe, Salesforce, Shoutlet, Spredfast and Sprinklr are all returnees to this Wave. Expion, Falcon Social and Sprout Social are newcomers. Socialware and Syncapse did not make the Wave as they did two years ago.

With all the hype over social media marketing, Forrester researchers said few SRP platforms share data with "trusted measurement tools" or tell brands what to post and when. They are good at, however, saving marketers time as they manage multiple social media accounts.

Social media marketers want to measure performance, and vendors "do little" to solve this challenge, according to the Forrester Wave.

So while it's not exactly a slam dunk with these SRP platforms, Forrester's Elliott wrote, you should probably have one.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by Rev Stan.