Social Shift: Brian Solis move to Altimeter signals consolidation in social media firms


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Brian Solis has a Klout ranking of 78 and Klout generates this summary of his Twitter status:

Brian Solis is a Celebrity You can’t get any more influential than this. People hang on your every word, and share your content like no other. You’re probably famous in real life and your fans simply can’t get enough.

So when this message appeared in his Twitter stream it caused a flash of reponses:

News: I’ve joined @charleneli @jowyang & the team at Altimeter Group about 12 hours ago via web

The responses were mostly congratulatory, but the thinking behind the scenes, as from @axels for example, was about the forthcoming consolidation of the social media consulting industry.

Is the the first big signal of that consolidation?

Almost certainly – YES!

Brian Solis refers to his reasons in his post Flying to a Higher Altitude with Altimeter Group and here are three that signal the shift to me:

  1. The move of “social media” to “social business” and then to just “business” and therefore business strategy. That’s accelerated as leaders understand the pervasive role of “social” in their cross-functional business plans.
  2. Because of point #1 it then becomes a complicated path to execution – the gap between strategy and execution as Brian Solis says. To execute requires advice and assistance from business consultants with a wide range and depth of experience, the least of which may be “social media” per se.
  3. Developing strategy and implementing it, in a complex organisation with breadth, depth, people, existing processes, politics, legacy, and everything else requires a well structured consistent set of methodologies and training built around those and applied consistently. These methodologies, or frameworks, are also a basis for continuous improvement – an important requirement in bigger enterprises.

As I read it, Brian Solis’ move to Altimeter is to consolidate these capabilities, among others.

The new consulting firm

You can think of it as building a new “McKinsey” from the roots of social business consulting – branching up into business and strategy. Strategy consulting itself, as a standalone field, has become very difficult. McKinsey itself has extended its reach and range into more execution teams, and into operations and measuring as examplified by their JV with Nielsen NM Incite.

Therefore blending a touch of good strategic thinking capability, with execution and operational experience in social media, with good methodologies and training, and a critical mass of people able to sing to this same hymmbook, and you have the new consolidated social business group.

Why aren’t the global “agencies” the natural winners in this race?

For one because agencies and “creatives” usually rebel against the “straight jackets” of methodologies and the details of complex execution. The shift is to business strategy/innovation + project managemennt/execution, not creativity + campaign.

For another reason, their scope of activity is usually firewalled to the marketing or sales group. That’s a severe impediment in terms of the forthcoming shift and where the power axis for social business will lie in the enterprise. It’s not bad news for agencies, their role will just continue as it is today, in essence.

Do you believe that Brian Solis’ move signals a consolidation trend?

What will be the nature of the consolidated firm?

Who will be the clients who most seek these firms – the issues to solve?

Walter @adamson

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Walter Adamson
I help firms create optimal customer experiences by integrating social data, teams & processes with enterprise systems. The much vaunted 360-view of the customer can be a bottomless pit without a clear data strategy. I help you deliver a greatly improved customer experience starting with a "45-degree" view of the customer, fully utilising social data analytics. I clarify your objectives and what data you need to service them, and guide you to operationalise "social at scale" to consistently deliver valuable customer experience at every social touch point.


  1. Yes, Walter, a sign of the maturing of the social media industry. The next phase will be larger more diversified consulting/services firms acquiring firms like Altimeter, along with some independents like Solis.

    Social media firms will not “grow up” to become business strategy firms, because using social media will never become the defining strategy of a company. But strategy firms will no doubt look to social media as another option that needs to be incorporated into the business strategy.


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