Social media is too big, too fast, too messy, and too important to manage without the assistance of technology vendors. With its growing significance, more and more companies want to use the data social media creates to inform their strategies. Companies want social intelligence, but they need help getting there.

That's why I'm eager to announce that after almost two years since the last report, we're releasing a new market evaluation that will help companies understand their vendor options for social intelligence. Today we published The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Listening Platforms, Q2 2012 along with an updated market overview, The Enterprise Listening Platform Landscape. These reports are the culmination of more than fifty vendor briefings, hundreds of client calls, two end user reference surveys with hundreds of respondents, two weeks of hands-on lab sessions, and too many hours of writing and fact-checking to count. 

The reports are now available for client access, but here are a few key takeaways for everyone:

  • A large landscape vies for enterprise attention. One of the most difficult aspects of doing a Forrester Wave™ evaluation of such a large market is shortening the field to fewer than ten vendors. Today there are hundreds of listening platforms, social analytics tools, and social media monitoring companies out there (just check out this wiki of more than 200 social media monitoring solutions). In fact, there are more than 20 that regularly win enterprise-level business. So, while the Wave covers the nine with the largest footprints in the enterprise market (defined primarily by their revenue and base of $1b+ customers), the landscape report addresses the remaining short-head of viable offerings.
  • No single platform does it all perfectly. Although this year's Wave identified two leaders, no vendor escaped the processes without a few identified holes. We found that while some have strong dashboards, they lack the data quality required to make social media actionable. Conversely, while some show strength in data quality, they often lack the features and usability to make managing social media simple.
  • Integration gains importance, but few platforms are ready today. Just last month I wrote a post on how social listening must evolve into social intelligence, but while businesses may get this story, they require tools to help accelerate their maturity. The listening platform market must make managing and integrating social data easier, not just build dashboards to contain social data. For the first time in Forrester's years of evaluating this market, we built in multiple sections to understand how well the platforms can integrate other data sources into their dashboards and how well they export data out into other technology systems. 

At the end of this evaluation, I look back and am impressed by how much has changed. For starters, the landscape contains many vendors that didn't exist during my last Wave™. But it's buyers' needs that have changed the most. Now they focus on data — not just flashy reporting tools. They need vendors to address more use-cases like social research, social measurement, and customer support, not just brand monitoring. Ultimately, they want quicker and easier access to social media, to help them learn from and connect with their customers. After this much change from both buyers and vendors, I'm eager to see how much matures in the coming year.

Lastly, I want to thank my awesome research team for assistance with this long, grueling, and incredibly rewarding process.