GetSatisfaction: The Controversy Cannot Hide The Facts

If you follow the news you know that GetSatisfaction was acquired by Sprinklr last week (link to press coverage).

Almost immediately the press and analysts went into congratulatory overdrive on a great step for both of them.  Slowly trickled out, and why I try to wait for a few days before publishing reviews, were the not-so-happy postings on the transaction – including this piece on Business Insider today (grain of salt: its business insider – the yellow press of business journalism) where one of the founders complain.

It is not, as you likely know by now, my place to take sides on fights that don’t involve me.  Ask my daughters – broken bones (sticking out) and blood are the only two reasons I get involved (thankfully never got to that).  Let the parties figure out the reasons for the fight and better yet – the reasons not to.

There are two issues though, that bear analyzing:

  1. the role of communities in marketplaces and workplaces
  2. the proper way to fund and support a startup

I’ll make it easy – I cannot contribute something worthwhile to the second one in a blog post; it is a very customized-personalized thing that changes from one to the next and whoever says different is just selling you a — well, their services.

I will gladly contribute to the first one – because i’ve been saying this for far longer than i remember: Michael Maoz (of Gartner fame and a good friend and former colleague while I was there) and I talked about this in 2002-2004 and then had to give it up since no one cared.

I wrote plenty about it before, including a difference between the many ways communities are shaping up to be.  Still, no one cared.

Now, y’all do.  Sort of – at least starting to.

Communities are (should’ve been) the only reason we started social networks and why social matters to organizations.  And they are the (renewable) power source for business transformation going forward.  Communities is something you, Mr/s. business person, should care about deeply – and yet, more than 85% of “youz” don’t.

I don’t have sufficient visibility into the dealings behind the acquisition, but I can tell you one thing: this is not the last.  If you look at the “communities providers” vendors they are all in the same: working through the resistance of 85% of the market that doesn’t get what communities are and what they do – and using the other 15% to propel them forward.

We will see more acquisitions like this very soon, in the next few months.  We will see more vendors with great technologies being folded into more complete social and even CRM suites.  We will see more dreams shattered (likely) and some realized.  We will see the beginning of the rise of communities to become mainstream (rule of thumb: 30% adoption in the marketplace) and to realize their potential.

One more thing: I am not talking about community managers and purposefully built communities.  That’s training wheels stuff when it comes to communities.

I am talking about the model that GetSatisfaction embraced and was unable to sustain in the market: ad-hoc, open, freely moldable and shapeable communities where people come to share power and knowledge – and no one controls or brands.

If you are interested in forums and structured communities you still don’t get the concept of communities for business.  This is not your grandpa communities – that was just more “training wheels” stuff.  This is about providing an infrastructure and let interested parties build and power communities.  Very different model than what you are thinking (and I know this because i talked to many of “you” every week).

What do you think? (comments below, use them)

13 thoughts on “GetSatisfaction: The Controversy Cannot Hide The Facts”

  1. Esteban, like you I’ve been waiting and digesting this news. Like you I am a great advocate of communities, but I’ve been wondering whether for the most part people simply haven’t understood them, how to integrate them, how to bring them into their mainstream, and so they have not gained as much traction as perhaps you and I believe they should.

    Equally, perhaps, the community vendors haven’t known either how to bring them into the mainstream, so they’ve ended up being interpreted as a nice to have, unfortunately almost as a poor cousin to Twitter, Facebook and the other social channels.

    Like you, I see the underlying platform as the cornerstone on which people then build their communities etc. This is for me where the power of the Sprinklr/GetSatisfaction acquisition lies.

    I think both the community space and the monitoring one are in need of a kickstart, and hopefully this acquisition will provide that much needed momentum.

  2. As much as I hope, like you, that this will kickstart the market experience has taught me otherwise.

    There is a multitude of events that kickstart a market. in this case, two things are necessary:

    1. renounce to social networks as more than what they are (crappy communities – at best)
    2. embrace the concept of communities as we outlined above.

    there is proof that twitter and facebook are failing and more and more proof each day that unstructured communities work. there is controversy over the use of forums. the data points are there, we are not connecting them.

    i don’t think technology is the solution, but having the basic infrastructure available definitely makes it more interesting. don’t you think?

  3. I would agree about having the basic infrastructure in place, but my fear like you, is that the mainstream will always be fascinated by the ‘pig with the lipstick’ to coin a somewhat hackneyed ‘social’ cliche from a few years back.

    If only organisations realised that providing the platform is in reality far more powerful a position to be in than actually trying to control what happens on top of it. Do I think organisations can break out of this approach and really unleash the power of communities – unfortunately probably not! But I do think the next phase of evolution will be an interesting one.

    1. Based on conversations and work I’m doing – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the next evolution. Not finished but great step forward.

      At least i hope so. 🙂

      Thanks for engaging.

  4. Right, we need communities, not collectives, communes or tribes. And technology is a great enabler. Do we need anthropologists there though?

    And it’s a big drawn out discussion with the security and legal teams BTW, in addition to the PR guys. All worried about data leaks, privacy issues, nuanced for each country and reputation management.

    1. oh, pick on the easy things….

      1. anthropologists – not necessarily. this is about people behaviors – so we may need to involve some psychologists, and the changes in society, we we may need to involve some sociologists, but in reality – none of those two things matter at this level (or in business to be honest, but that is because of the early days — if we make it too complicated and add anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists we will end up back where we are today with surveys (which, btw, had those people involved for the longest time): too focused on the wrong thing. the focus needs to be in making them SIMPLE, open and independent… but then, that brings your second point.

      2. security and compliance. what is the difference between communities and any other endeavor the company takes on? don’t, again, make it too complicated. we can focus on “special” rules and regulations and security and such – but why? another system, another piece of infrastructure — nothing is different if you really think it through.

      thanks for pitching it – let’s KISS 🙂

      1. Glad that we still agree Esteban. 😉

        But … if only wishes were horses!

        I don’t need the “logists” … But I can’t KISS with the security and legal folks. A very tough fight. Given that older systems don’t come under their radar but new deployments do it’s very frustrating too. 🙁

  5. Full disclosure: I’m the VP/Marketing at Sprinklr, so I suppose I have a bit of a dog in this fight.

    Esteban– your assessment of the critical, strategic role that communities will play in the next wave of marketing is spot on. Back in my pre-Sprinklr days, I coined the term “community driven marketing” recognizing the role that the community plays in shaping brand perception, acquisition, retention, and more.

    The thing that is critical, as you and Guy point out, is that a large enterprise needs the infrastructure to not necessarily “control” a community (since we all know that can’t be done), but to harness the power of the community. In that, I mean…find the people within the community who are the advocates, detractors, high spenders, trolls, etc. and then execute the workflows and programs so that they can engage in increasingly relevant, context-based ways.

    At scale, there’s no way to do this w/o an integrated infrastructure. The brand needs to know who the people are within the community, since it’s an idea, not a place, as you well know.

    My CEO, Ragy, said it in our press release (which we all know is a formality) but the purity of the expression is there… that “marketing begins with great customer service.” That customer service experienced can (and should be) shaped in part by the community.

    I think we’re in total alignment with your long-term vision (I’m fairly certain of it). All we’re trying to do is enable brands through the technology to create experiences that customers/communities will talk about. A lot will be up to brands in terms of how they organize/drive behavior in this “new” world, but there’s no way to do it w/o an enterprise-wide cross-silo platform.

    Thanks for posting.

    1. thanks for contributing. normally i’d delete the comment being from a vendor pushing their product – but i like you 🙂

      kidding, thanks for adding to the conversation. will continue to cover this in more detail through the year. stay tuned!

  6. As someone who has been doing this for more than a decade at firms, not just talking or selling it, I can tell you that the real appetite or understanding of real ‘communities’ at C-Suite is very hard to get by. Old school forums are still the best examples of true free form communities. (Supported by memberships or advertising).

    In commercial sense for brands, you have a rare opportunity to build a network for a network and that does require some kind of a infrastructure — so that I can justify what I am doing and align it against some objective. Before heading up Digital at Extreme Networks, I concieved digital programs at Bell Canada and IBM (one of the strongest communities on the planet — developerworks with over 5M members). Social software is a tricky beast and the value is hard to track until you become a CRM of some kind where you are able to connect the dots.

    My 2 cents.


    1. first,

      sorry for the delay – for some reason my systems marked your comment as spam. fixed. shouldn’t have that problem anymore.

      second, we may be having different conversations. all my conversations start with that question – what do i do with this this? true, i evangelize communities heavily and may be a guided conversation, but they could easily ignore or change subjects if they were not interested. they want to know what is the value and how to unlock it – and they hate forums and similar conventions labeled communities.

      they, in short, understand that communities and forums are different and would LOVE to have someone help figure this out.

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