communities, Forrester Wave for Social Depth Platforms: Lithium, Jive, Acquia, TelligentNot sure when we started calling social community software "social depth platforms", but Forrester's latest Wave has hit the street and there are some well known social platform providers topping the list. 

A Better Way to Tell Your Story Online

57 criteria which encompasses things like the ability to add social functionality to a brand's own website, to integrate with at least one marketing platform and a strong market presence with some big name brands on board -- that's how Forrester came up with its list of providers of social depth/community platforms.

Who made the wave?  Acquia, Bazaarvoice, Get Satisfaction, Jive Software, Lithium Technologies, Livefyre, Mzinga, Pluck, and Telligent Systems. 

The key to this wave is to provide solutions that work with a brand's owned properties, creating what Loni Kao Stark refers to as a "destination site" (and of course, Forrester uses this term as well). These sites encourage user generated content and enable brands to communicate/interact with potential customers.

Why are these destination sites so important? According to the report:

  • The Internet is a primary research tool for people doing online purchases.
  • Websites with a strong social element are considered more favorably by search engines, and social activity attract people.
  • People like to know what other people think, so user-generated content is an important element of any destination site.

Forresters has done away with the community and social technology platforms, replacing them with a new word of the day:

Social depth platforms [SDP] are technologies that add social content and experiences to marketing sites.

Now, as far as I can tell, there's nothing new here in terms of functionality these platforms provide: support online discussions, user generated content, good analytics -- these things have always been in social software (i.e community platforms) for awhile. As Forrester clearly points out, this is a rapidly evolving market, trying to support marketers with a range of needs and a desire to have a single platform to support them all.

Leaders: Lithium Technologies, Jive, Bazaarvoice, and Acquia

Lithium is the big leader in this SDP Wave. It's praised for its simplicity and ease of use, customizable community capabilities, its Tribal Knowledge crowdsourcing functionality and its SEO and analytics platform. It also gets a nod for its professional services -- "a true partner".

Jive, who is more well-known for its internally focused social software has been putting much time and effort into its support for marketers. This dual focus gives customers a 360 degree view of all activity. Forrester notes Jive's analytics, customizable admin interface, collaboration features, gamification capabilities and content search as key aspects of the Jive platform.

We've talked about Bazaarvoice for user generated content features, such as ratings and reviews. It also has the Bazaarvoice Shopper Network, which connect millions of consumers to share feedback on products and services. However, Bazaarvoice does not have community features.

Acquia closes the leaders list with a strong set of APIs, SDKs and modules for the Drupal Commons platform. Its developer ecosystem and ability to implement a number of social and community features are praised, as is its ability to integrate with other systems.

The Runner Ups: Telligent Systems, Get Satisfaction, and Pluck

Telligent's strengths lie in its community features, rich media support and mobile access, among other features. It also has a strong developer community with its Widget Studio and Telligent Marketplace. There is concern Telligent isn't quite up to enterprise level complex deployments, but does offer a great 60 second lightweight deployment which is perfect for simple communities. Also note that Telligent is a Microsoft-based platform that integrates with MS Dynamics CRM and Office.

Get Satisfaction is a lightweight marketer friendly platform that although light on integration with other marketing platforms, does offer solid collaboration, gamification and mobile features. Forrester notes it as a good solution for support, peer-to-peer, and collaboration communities.

Pluck, owned by Demand Media, is not a platform we've talked much about. It made the list as a customizable community platform with over 500 modules to do with as a brand pleases. Strengths include discussion forums, ratings and reviews features, and the ability to deploy standalone social applications. Ease of use and deployment are not strengths according to customers and some features are hard to deploy.

The Up and Comers: Mzinga and LiveFyre

Livefyre is a new platform to the community game. Originally a web commenting platform, Livefyre has added social media features, and is strong in content curation. It's a vendor on a mission to become the social hub for brands. But as with most up and comers, it has some work to do and features to implement.

Last but not least we see Mzinga, who has really been around for quite a while, but seem to be constantly evolving its platform. I remember talking to them a few years ago seeing a strong contender in this field, then it was quiet. The last time I talked to Mzinga it was regarding its ability to support moderation in communities, with no strong emphasis on community features. Forrester notes that Mzinga has not kept up to date with the crowd, but big plans are brewing, so we'll see.

Building a Destination Site

I was trying to map this wave back to prior years when Forrester called Social Depth Platforms, simply community platforms. In 2010, Lithium, Jive, Telligent and Mzinga were at the top, then in 2011 the focused shifted to enterprise social platforms, of which Telligent and Jive still sat at the top. Pretty sure there's been another communities wave in there somewhere, but my search eludes me. 

You are always going to see the same vendors in these lists, because for the most part, they are all focused on helping brands engage better with their customer base. The only way Jive, Lithium or Telligent will fall off is if they stopped innovating and listing to the market needs. That's not to say there aren't other viable options out there, Forrester focused on a small portion of what's available and it's important to point out that a lot of web content management vendors are implementing their own community capabilities, so a standalone platform might not be necessary.

Image courtesy mypokcik (Shutterstock)