After the past few months of immersing myself in vendor briefings, demos, customer interviews, scoring methodologies, and writing, I am pleased to announce that the long-awaited Forrester Wave™: Social Depth Platforms, Q3 2013 has been published! We included nine vendors in this Wave and evaluated them across 57 criteria to help marketers select the right technology partner to manage their social activities on their own branded website, microsite, or online community.

Social media has transformed the way that buyers discover, explore, and engage with a brand. As a result, many marketers have invested in establishing a presence on popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter yet are struggling with how to convert interactions on these social networks to a purchase. This is where social depth marketing comes in — by driving people to your own web properties, you can provide credible and current details on your products and services. And social features such as your own blog, ratings and reviews, discussion boards, online communities, and other types of user-generated content can inform and influence a purchase decision. We call these technologies and platforms "social depth platforms":

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

We are excited about the opportunities that social depth platforms provide to marketers who want to transform their static, company-centric websites into dynamic, customer-centric destinations. All of the vendors we selected for this Wave provide marketers with a wide range of social capabilities that can be embedded into a brand's product pages or deployed as a full-blown online community. Some of the key takeaways from the Wave vendor evaluations include:

  • The online community platform market is mature. Basic community features such as comments, discussion boards, Q&As, and moderation are table stakes. Vendors continue to seek ways to extend and optimize their platforms through either acquisitions or integrations.
  • Vendors differentiate through customization, analytics, and integrations. Because the market is mature, vendors have invested in analytics to provide marketers with more sophisticated ways to measure community activities and determine ROI. And in response to customer demand, they also strive to offer more customized features and integrations with other marketing platforms.
  • Search and user-generated content are key features for depth. When it comes to social depth marketing, content is critical because it has high influence on buyers who are exploring and considering a brand. But first, the content must be easy for buyers to find. We looked for advanced search and navigation features that facilitate content discovery. We also looked closely for features that facilitate the curation of user-generated content, which can include comments, ratings, and reviews. 

I hope that The Forrester Wave™: Social Depth Platforms, Q3 2013 provides you with the insight you need to select a social depth platform vendor that best meets your requirements. I look forward to your feedback!

And a huge thanks to my tech-savvy colleague Zachary Reiss-Davis, who closely collaborated with me on this report, and Sarah Takvorian, whose Wave expertise and organizational skills kept us all on track throughout the past few months!