Spredfast and Mass Relevance merge: What it means for marketers and SMMS vendors

Spredfast + Mass Relevance

On April 2, 2014, social relationship platform Spredfast announced that it had merged with content curation platform Mass Relevance. I spoke with CEO Rod Favaron about the deal and what it means for the rapidly changing marketing technology space.

The New Spredfast

The facts

  • The new company will be called Spredfast
  • Mass Relevance stock will be converted into Spredfast stock
  • Spredfast has 200 employees and Mass Relevance has 150 employees; both companies are headquartered in Austin, Texas
  • Spredfast has raised over $60 million in venture capital funding and Mass Relevance has raised just under $6 million; both companies have Austin Ventures in common as an investor

The companies have at least a half dozen common clients and they had already been working on integration pathways between the two solutions. So this deal is good news for 1% of the new firm’s client base and great news for the Spredfast sales team that now has over 600 new cross-sell opportunities.

But what exactly is this thing?

My take is that it’s a bit different than what I’ve been hearing from the massive marketing cloud vendors (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce), that are focused primarily on integrating owned content across digital marketing channels.

In contrast, Spredfast is focused primarily on earned content, allowing “marketers to display [social media] content on every screen that matters, whether scheduled or unscheduled.” Mass Relevance helps brands curate the social web outside-in; Spredfast enables brands to publish owned content inside-out. The combined company enables content discovery, optimization, and distribution.

A content marketing platform powerhouse

My take: Spredfast has just created a formidable solution in the white-hot content marketing space. There are players here including Percolate and RebelMouse, potentially Sprinklr (+Dachis Group), and segments of the big three Marketing Clouds. One big advantage Spredfast may have over other firms is Mass Relevance’s native access to the full Twitter firehose, which has allowed it to make huge inroads with major media companies.

Favaron tells me that Spredfast intends to become a consolidator in the marketing technology space — which means the company needs to raise capital via a new funding round or IPO. In the case of the latter, given the amount of funding taken so far, the company’s valuation would need to be close to unicorn club territory to make sense. (Which, by the way, is not too far off from where Sprinklr stands financially as well.)

A native advertising play

Even if Spredfast gains access to a huge amount of capital, competing head on with the likes of Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP may not make much sense given the headstart the others have on integrating broad marketing cloud solutions. Instead, the firm might decide to double down on its strong installed base of media clients and own the market for a new breed of native advertising solutions, combining large broadcast networks with major brand advertisers and user-generated content.

This way to the egress

I’ll be keeping an eye on how competitors respond, especially Hootsuite which raised $165 million last year and acquired analytics firm uberVU last quarter. All firms remaining in the SMMS space need to map out a path to the exit because it’s clear that standalones won’t survive much longer.

Three Wildfire alternatives

Wildfire Evaluation Guide

I’ve spoken with two vendors this week that are experiencing an influx of inbound interest based on Wildfire’s impending shutdown.

I’m also discovering that not all buyers are ready to commit to the idea of a massive integrated social business platform.

If you find yourself in a position to explore Wildfire alternatives, here are a few choices to consider:

I did not find any public statements from Hootsuite, Adobe, Oracle, or Salesforce regarding Wildfire.

Endgame: Social Business Platforms

What U Choose Is What U Get

The news started trickling out late last week that Google is freezing support for social media management solution Wildfire in order to integrate more closely with DoubleClick. The company’s official statement says that they “won’t be building new features or signing up new customers” and current customers and competitors know what this means — there are suddenly dozens of brands and agencies looking for alternative social business platforms.

What U Choose Is What U Get - same goes for social business platforms

As an analyst at Constellation Research, I’m ramping up my marketing technology coverage and see a familiar pattern emerging as the social business software market matures. We’ve evolved well beyond the early days of the The Stack first identified by Jeremiah Owyang and now point solutions — which received all the early attention — are yielding to platforms.

My early take is that a “big three” have a headstart as the leading social business platforms:

  • Adobe (Marketing Cloud),
  • Oracle (Social Cloud), and
  • Salesforce (Marketing Cloud).

Each of the “big three” platforms acquired a standalone Social Media Management System (SMMS): Context Optional (now Adobe), Vitrue (now Oracle), and Buddy Media (now Salesforce), and Google + Wildfire, integrating with other social technologies to offer a multi-faceted value proposition. But buyer beware: websites and logos are easy to create; integrating multiple solutions to deliver a fully functioning unified platform takes a lot of time and effort.

Remaining standalone SMMS players have rebranded the space as Social Relationship Platforms (SRP) and include Spredfast, Hootsuite, Expion, and Sprinklr. Some have started to expand capabilities (e.g. Sprinklr has added listening and Expion has added advocacy) and some clients still want point solutions, but it’s clear that these players need to get big fast or find their way to an exit before they end up like Syncapse. It appears that they may be heading in that direction: as Forrester’s Nate Elliott recently found out, most SRP clients aren’t willing to recommend their vendor to a colleague.

In fact, I see SRPs on a path similar to brand monitoring providers. Their solutions gained a lot of attention in 2006 and I wrote the first Forrester Wave on these vendors. Here’s the current status of those original leaders:

  • Nielsen Buzzmetrics: went private, JV with McKinsey, shut down.
  • TNS Cymfony: acquired by Visible Technologies
  • Umbria: acquired by J.D. Power
  • Biz360: acquired by Attensity
  • Factiva: integrated into Dow Jones
  • Brandimensions: pivoted into anti-fraud
  • MotiveQuest: still standalone (!)

Even after rebranding as “listening platforms,” the market made clear that listening is a feature, not a product. Increasingly, publishing / social media management / social relationship management is turning out to also be a feature, not a product.

My take: the big three have the early lead in the competition to own the social business platform market, but we are in the early innings of the game. Standalone vendors will add features as rapidly as possible in order to stay competitive, and some categories originally thought to be independently viable — like enterprise social networks — will turn out to be nothing more than bundled feature sets as well.

I’ll write more to define social business platforms in upcoming weeks, including user case studies, vendor profiles, and technology evaluations. Stay tuned.