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I've been tracking acquisitions in social media analysis for years. It feels like we've had a lot of deals this year, and based on what I've seen, it's true. The volume has gone up every year. This year, I thought I'd do something new: I wrote a recap of the activity, which you can find at The Year in M&A, Social Media Analysis 2012.

As with the big directory of over 400 companies, the list of transactions requires some judgment about which deals to include. The companies that offer turnkey platforms for monitoring social media are easy. Others offer some of the building blocks for developers who want to focus on other pieces or enterprises building their own tools. Most run on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, though some licenses software for on-site installation. The variation gives the market a fuzzy edge, so it's not obvious what to include.

For SMA, I've chosen to go with a coarse filter, which means that I tend to err on the side of inclusion. If I sometimes reach too far, its because I think there's value in knowing what's happening on the other side of the fence.

Looking back
2012 was about more than acquisitions, of course. The investment deal flow continues, which I plan to recap separately, and I'm still discovering new—and new-to-me—companies fairly regularly. At the other end of the lifecycle, I've noticed an increase in companies shutting down quietly and a few sales of "assets" (as opposed to operating companies).

In 2006, I thought I'd find every company in the world developing tools to work with social media data. By now, I think we've established that it's not possible, but it remains an interesting space to watch.

Update: the 2012 investment recap is now up.

Make Your Company Look Alive


Store closedWhen I talk with people in the social media analysis business, it's common to speculate about a coming reduction in the number of competitors. Having just finished a long-overdue review of my vendor database, I'm here to report that it's already happening. A number of companies have already gone away; they're just not the ones you've heard of.

At the beginning of the review, I had roughly 350 companies in the database. I've always been generous in my definitions, so these aren't all direct competitors, but they all did something in the area of monitoring and measuring social media, with their own technology.

Thinning the herd
As I went through the list, I found 19 companies that appear to have gone out of business entirely and another 76 that don't appear to be active in SMA this year. A few more have been merged into other services by their parent companies.

Some of the reduction is the result of my getting more strict with the definitions, but a lot of it is companies that have changed focus or deemphasized their listening businesses. Notice, for example, the companies that have repositioned themselves into the advertising space.

Acquisitions are always interesting; will the acquired product remain separate or be integrated with the acquiring company's platform? We've seen some of both in this market.

Show signs of life
A review of 350 companies is necessarily web-based, and I generally gave companies the benefit of the doubt. Still, some hints are pretty strong. If you're still in business, you might consider checking the vitality of your own company's presence:

  • Have a web site.
    First, you need a company web site. If doesn't respond, that's a strong, negative signal. If your domain name has expired, that's an even stronger signal that you're out of business.

  • Check your redirects.
    If doesn't respond and doesn't redirect to, I might jump to the wrong conclusion. Ask your SEO if you don't know how to fix it, but both addresses should get visitors to the right site.

  • Check your copyright notice.
    It's not definitive, but when the copyright notice still says 2007, somebody's not minding the store.

  • Post to your blog.
    Yes, we all fall behind, but after a year with no posts, we start to wonder if anyone's home.

  • Update your press page.
    If a company posts releases on its site and then stops, we wonder what else has stopped. If you never had a press page, at least it's not saying that nothing has happened lately.

  • Link to your Twitter account.
    Almost everybody in SMA now has a link to the company Twitter account on their home pages. Having no Twitter account is not a positive indicator in a social media business.

  • Check your LinkedIn profile.
    One of the more reliable indicators that a company is truly dead is a founder's profile that puts his involvement with the company in the past. If key people have moved on, it's even more important that the rest of company's presence shows signs of life.
Almost time to share
I've been sitting on this industry database for a long time, but it's almost time to share it. If I can figure out how to build it, I think you're going to like the industry directory I'm working on. And if your company is active in the space, look for an email soon.

Photo by Gregg Sloan.

All Acquisitions, All the Time

Here we go again. Before the discussion about the Radian6 acquisition had time to settle down, there's another acquisition. This time, it's KANA Software and Overtone, in a combination that's all about integrating customer service and analytics. If you're trying to keep up with all the moves, remember that I keep an acquisitions scorecard over at SMA. Before the next domino falls, though, I want to point out some of the insider opinions floating around from the Radian6 deal.

I'm actually interested in more than the latest company hookups, though that's harder to see when everyone's talking about who's going next. It's certainly spiced up my recent conversations with people in the industry. It's definitely driving up blog traffic, too, so keep it up. :-)


Where does it end? When one competitor acquires tanks.

Back-channel emails are a wonderful thing. A couple of CEOs have pointed out how few of the vendors ever featured in Forrester's reports on social media analysis are still independent. So, in the spirit of the filmmaker who's not sure how to end a movie, let's roll the "where are they now?" clip.

The first report in the space was Peter Kim's Forrester Wave: Brand Monitoring (September 2006), which introduced us to seven companies:

  • Biz360
    Acquired by Attensity in 2010.

  • Brandimensions
    Folded into its BrandProtect sibling in early 2009.

  • Cymfony
    Acquired in 2007 by TNS, which was acquired by WPP in 2008. Cymfony is now part of WPP's Kantar Media.

  • Factiva
    Dow Jones bought out Reuters' interest in Factiva in 2007. The Factiva Insight product is now known as Dow Jones Insight.

  • MotiveQuest
    Still doing what they do.

  • Nielsen BuzzMetrics
    Nielsen bought the rest of BuzzMetrics in 2007 and used it as the core of NM Incite, its joint venture with McKinsey, in 2010.

  • Umbria
    Acquired by J.D. Power & Associates in 2008.

Suresh Vittal's January 2009 report, Forrester Wave: Listening Platforms also covered seven companies, two of which two were not in the 2006 report:

  • Radian6
    Acquired by this week, but you knew that.

  • Visible Technologies
    Still doing what they do.
To complete our set of steak knives Wave reports, we have Zach Hofer-Shall's July 2010 update on Listening Platforms, which added four companies to Forrester's coverage:
  • Alterian
    Entered the market through its 2009 acquisition of Techrigy.

  • Collective Intellect
    Still doing what they do.

  • Converseon
    Still doing what they do.

  • evolve24
    Acquired by Maritz Research in 2010.
So, out of 13 companies ever featured in a Forrester Wave in this space, four are specialist firms that are still independent. In case you were wondering.


For a really entertaining angle, ask the same question, but focus on the people at each company this time. You'll have to do that one on your own, though. I don't want the angry emails. :-)

Every few seconds this morning, TweetDeck brings another comment on today's announcement that is buying Radian6. The announcement's not exactly a surprise—Radian6 was the obvious acquisition target in social media analysis (SMA), and their platform had supported Salesforce integration since mid-2009. The price ($340 million in cash and stock, including retention bonuses for the founders) is larger than expected, but overall, it's a logical deal that surprises no one.

Blogging about the day's big news is sort of obvious, so I'll focus on the question I haven't seen raised yet: what does the Radian6 acquisition mean to the other companies in social media analysis? A few thoughts for discussion:

  1. Radian6 just took a big step toward solidifying its position as the standard.
    Radian6 was already the company most likely to be mentioned in any discussion of social media monitoring (note the careful use of the term). The Salesforce endorsement makes them the default choice for 92,000 Salesforce customers. Competitors need more than a me-too monitoring platform to win.

  2. Aquisitions say something about the segmentation of social media analysis.
    The Radian6 deal says a lot about interest in social CRM, or the integration of social media monitoring and customer relationship management. Other acquisitions have tied SMA firms to PR/media (Sysomos/Marketwire, Brandtology/Media Monitors), market research (Cymfony/TNS, Umbria/JD Power, Evolve24/Maritz), and marketing management (Techrigy/Alterian). SMA is a feature set that can work into multiple categories; look for SMA companies to focus their feature sets on specific use cases, and expect acquisitions that work into acquirer's existing businesses.

  3. Enterprise software has noticed social media analysis.
    Salesforce joins SAS in making a serious move to tie social media analysis to nuts-and-bolts business operations. Social business software companies Jive and Lithium have picked up their own listening platforms. Any acquisitions or product announcements by IBM, Oracle, and SAP should be completely expected, but pay attention to the emerging distinctions between social media analytics and social media monitoring (see #2).

  4. Obvious acquisition candidates are getting harder to find.
    Despite the presence of 300+ companies in the space, only a handful of the product leaders are still independent companies. Radian6 is easily the most recognized name in SMA, so most of the remaining independents are not widely known. Looking back to my report on social media analysis platforms for workgroups (March 2010), six of the 21 companies have been bought in the last year.

I don't think there's one obvious candidate for the next acquisition, and in any case, any deal has to start with specific goals (just like any purchase). If it's not already obvious, the many companies in SMA are not the same. The differences in what they do and why is what makes the space so interesting. I know you want the list, though, so here's a quick reaction on who I might look at:

  • Attentio, Brandwatch, Sentiment Metrics and Synthesio don't usually come up in the social media conversation in the US, but they all have solid SMA platforms.

  • Converseon blurs the lines that divide research, creative marketing, and management consulting services. They drive me crazy because they're always working out the same things I am. Nobody else does the one-stop social media shop like they do.

  • Visible Technologies has unique capabilities in managing the response component in social media monitoring, as well as a nicely designed interface for working with solid analytics capabilities.
If your needs are more specific—you want an analyst team or a virtual focus group capability, for example—the list gets longer quickly. And, of course, we have regional specialists around the world who can help fill gaps in your coverage. If you want a real recommendation based on your company's goals and gaps, call me.

Disclosure: Radian6 is paying my way to their user conference next week. I consult with companies (usually buyers) on partnerships and acquisitions in social media analysis, but I do not represent the companies listed here.


If you start to lose track of all the combinations, remember that I'm keeping a score card on acquisitions in social media analysis.

One more blog post came across the radar today, making it a trend. Companies in the social media analysis business are showing the growth of their business by expanding their presence internationally. Other companies have grown an international footprint when they were acquired.

Announcements that hit the screen recently:

And that's what I've noticed just in the normal course of things. Wonder what I missed?

I'm seeing a lot of job openings with the vendors, too. Hey guys, get your free job listings (including international) at SMA.

Infonic and Lexalytics have announced the merger of their text analytics businesses (press release, PDF) to create Lexalytics Limited. While not as well known as the usual suspects in social media analysis, these companies are growing behind the scenes, supplying the technology for automated sentiment analysis and more.

From the press release, Thomson Reuters and Dow Jones Insight use Infonic for sentiment analysis; ScoutLabs, Cisco, Smartbrief and BurrellesLuce use Lexalytics software. Other back-end technology deals are in the works. Based on a recent conversation with Lexalytics for their entry in the Guide to Social Media Analysis, they're also developing custom monitoring and analysis platforms for service providers (though not necessarily the ones listed above).

The technology behind the curtain
Lexalytics is focused on licensing their core text analytics technologies to software developers and building social media analysis platforms for vendors. The software licensing model will make text analytics—automated sentiment analysis, for example—available in a wider range of tools by lowering the barrier to entry for their developers. The custom software development model, meanwhile, will help service providers without a strong software development capability to match the features of platforms from more technology-focused companies.

For clients, this means more and better tools will be available. For vendors, it suggests some questions about technology strategy, which I'll open up in another post.

Monitor110 Exits

| 1 Comment

Monitor110 is over. The company web site displays the company's statement on the decision to cease operations and shut down the company in the wake of its failure to arrange additional funding.

Clients, employees, and investors:

I regret to inform you that, effective July 15, Monitor110 has decided to cease operations and shut down the business...

W. Brennan Carley, CEO

See the full statement on the company site.

Interesting space, little information
In the process of writing the second edition of the Guide to Social Media Analysis, I've talked to several companies who are mining media content—social and otherwise—for investment purposes. I've found almost as many strategies and analytical approaches as companies, so it's an interesting specialty.

Several competitors I talked to thought that M110 either wasn't selling their services or wasn't finding success in the market. Nobody likes to talk about their revenue, so I never know what to believe absent win announcements or customer references. In the financial space, that's especially sensitive, so there's no real information. I'm going to work on that.

Brown pastures?
Some blog comments (discussion on paidContent, SAI) have made the point that, if it really worked so well, M110 would have started their own hedge fund. Given some of the backgrounds at M110, that's an interesting point and a possible outcome. The company's announcement doesn't mention anything about liquidating assets, but I assume that they're thinking about how to extract the value from the development work they've done.

M110 isn't the first company to abandon the financial services market. Others have started with similar goals, only to switch focus to the broader corporate marketing and communications market. M110's failure suggests that the others may have made the right decision. I am, however, hearing from competitors who contrast M110's trial customers with their own paying customers. It's too soon to declare the financial market dead.

Going deeper
At the moment, I'm closing in on the completion of the second edition of the Guide, which should be out by the end of the month. Now, there's one less company to include, but others focused on financial applications are included.

Once the Guide is completed, I plan to take a closer look at the information arbitrage specialty. As usual, even the companies in the space tend not to realize who else is in their market, so this should be fun.

Related posts:

TNS and GfK have announced details of their planned merger of equals to form GfK-TNS plc. The resulting company would have its headquarters in London and its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange. In the wake of the announcement, WPP is expected to make a third attempt to acquire TNS.

Other letters of the alphabet were unavailable for comment.

J.D. Power buys Umbria

J.D. Power and Associates, a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP) announced the acquisition of Umbria, Inc. this morning.

So much of the early interest in social media is based on defensive monitoring of customer complaints online. It's interesting to see Umbria's capabilities explicitly linked to J.D. Power's "voice of the customer-based studies on quality and customer satisfaction."

You can find a complete roundup of mergers and acquisitions in the industry in SMA's acquisitions scorecard.

About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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