"Decoding and navigating the crowded social technology vendor landscape isn't easy," wrote analysts Nate Elliott and Zach Hofer-Shall. "Most vendors offer a unique range of social technologies, but no single vendor covers the entire value chain. Meanwhile, buzzword-packed marketing materials make it difficult to differentiate the players and find the right fit."
The level of emphasis and investment that companies should place on social software investments depends on their size, according to another recent Forrester report.
Immature companies should start small, analysts Allison Smith and Carlton Doty wrote: "Track down a high-impact use case, find a listening platform partner who can guide you, and experiment. This is an iterative, test-and-learn kind of process."
Companies in a medium stage of growth should not "settle for 'good enough'" from a vendor and must avoid signing more than a one-year deal, they added. "With limited exceptions, social listening platforms are easy to replace -- and if yours is holding you back, get rid of it."
When no single best platform is targeted after soliciting bids from vendors, "many companies opt to create a Frankenstein's monster combination of multiple platforms," they wrote. "This approach is cumbersome and pricey, but a necessary evil unless such firms are willing to simplify some business requirements."
Meanwhile, mature companies should "prepare to listen on a larger scale," according to Smith and Doty. "Developing into a fully integrated social intelligence practice will give you the skills to take your listening to the next level -- outside of social," they wrote. "Your customers engage with you across channels and in unstructured, nonlinear ways. They also provide feedback in traditional channels like surveys, in the call center, and in web-based self-service functions."
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com