Gartner - Cool Social Marketing Vendors

It’s not every day that you see the word “cool” used in the title of a Gartner report. But that’s certainly an appropriate descriptor of five selected agencies that strike the delicate balance between brand promotion and e-Commerce, as described in the new report.

Anyone can try marketing with social media tools, but you only get to be cool if you can drive personal recommendations without driving people away. The Cool Vendors in Social Marketing 2013 cites five innovative practitioners of the still-forming art of social media marketing -- Zuberance, Influitive, Woobox, Janrain and 140 Proof.

Harnessing Advocates

These agencies, and countless other marketers, are attempting to mine a potential power house, since, as Gartner points out, more than half of customers “are willing to publicly advocate their favorite products online.”

Zuberance and Influitive are cited for their ability to find advocates on social networks and turn them “into an auxiliary sales force.” Two others, Woobox and Janrain, improve customers’ social experience -- Woobox by reinforcing brand engagement with offers and discounts, Janrain by simplifying management of multiple online identities. 140 Proof is cited because its social ad platform targets users based on their public-facing interest graph.

A social graph targets ads based on connections in a social circle of acquaintances and friends, while an interest graph focuses on shared interests between individuals who do not necessarily know each other. Gartner notes that San Francisco-based 140 Proof was the first vendor to offer this kind of platform, which now can reach 40 million social users with smartphone games, tablet weather apps, desktop utilities, messaging apps, browser extensions and even old-fashioned websites.

Consumer-Style B2B

140 Proof’s platform is not just the sum of an individual’s shared interests, but requires a blend of data and intelligence, since, as the report points out, a social user could be a fan of BMW but may not intend to ever actually buy one.

Toronto-based Influitive is distinguished in large part by its application of consumer-style advocacy marketing to the B2B market. Its platform lets customers benefit via gamification techniques from the marketing and sales campaigns of their favorite vendors.

Portland, Oregon based Janrain addresses the issue of “password fatigue” for social users, since such weariness can increase abandonment rates. The agency has been a leader in the use of the OpenID protocol, so that users can register at any participating site or app with their existing social identity from nearly three dozen sites or services, including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. In addition, the user experience can be personalized by the permission-based use of Janrain’s profile data for that user.

Woobox, Zuberance

Woobox provides access to sweepstakes, giveaways and contests through a very low cost structure, which can be scaled up to match the fan base. The advantage is that brands can test promotional freebies without extensive development on their part, although the report notes that Woobox’s offering may be more appropriate for smaller brands than for larger ones, because of potential controversies that can beset large promotions for well-known names.

And Zuberance has a platform to locate and power the legendary brand advocates that lay untapped in the fan base. Launched in 2007, it has received visibility for being a key advocate of the power of brand advocacy, but, Gartner notes, the agency’s own success has led to a variety of competitors and the need to keep innovating.

Although brief, this Gartner report strikes its own perfect balance, pointing the digital marketer to five innovative shops and pinpointing their innovations as well as their challenges. “Cool” is an appropriate word for these agencies’ sense of finding what works, while avoiding what could easily turn off social users. But the cool factor changes quickly, as does social users’ sense of what is acceptable, so we hope Gartner will regularly report on the leading innovators in this space.

Title image courtesy of Korionov (Shutterstock)