In the spirit of good fun that the annual NCAA college tourney brings, I thought it would be fun to engage in some bracket-calling that’s a little closer to home.  So, I sat down with Matt Compton, marketing technology expert and ShopIgniter CEO, to get his thoughts on who’s leading at social media marketing, who might be the ultimate winner in the marketing cloud game, and what marketing spectators can learn from the constant up and down court action.

Social marketing vendors have seen their share of investment so will there be a few big winners or many players?

Anyone who has been in tech for a while has seen the ebb and flow of innovation and consolidation. Social marketing and the broader marketing cloud are no different.  While we’ve seen a great deal of innovation, we’re also starting to see consolidation both from enterprise marketing clouds and the social platforms. Oracle and BlueKai, Facebook and WhatsApp, being the latest examples. As traditional enterprise vendors see the pendulum swing from IT buyers holding the purse strings to CMOs having greater buying power, we will see more acquisitions from traditional Enterprise IT vendors as well as continued investments from Facebook and Twitter who now have significant IPO-driven war chests AND a pool of investors to please. Having said that, I do think there’s room for multiple players as social media marketing, mobile marketing and the desktop website worlds all collide. Frankly, it’s a long and messy process to build a full marketing suite, which will give independent companies needed time to thrive and grow.

What are your thoughts on the enterprise marketing clouds?  Any clear leaders? 

The product strategy framework across marketing clouds is fairly consistent: to deliver to the CMO a mechanism for both delivery and post-click landing experience for every marketing channel – from email, to display, search, social and mobile. To succeed, these companies need delivery and destination for most every channel available to marketers.

Today’s marketing clouds offer email and CRM, but hadn’t until recently focused on ad tech.  It absolutely has to be addressed since advertising is the single biggest line item in the CMO budget. Realizing this, some of these companies have taken that next step. Salesforce and Adobe were the first with Social.com and EfficientFrontier, respectively. Oracle was the furthest from having ad buying capabilities but they recently took an aggressive step with the BlueKai acquisition.

Where are we with Social Marketing – Sweet Sixteen or Final Four? 

We’re still in regular season but we’ve begun to see how this landscape is shaping up. The general players are known but major, disruptive changes still occur on a quarterly basis. Social advertising is now mainstream and viewed as one of the best mobile advertising channels.  However, smart marketers are just now moving off fan acquisition campaigns of questionable value to high value tangible objectives such as content consumption, lead gen and purchase intent.

Where do you stand on Facebook and Twitter’s future potential? What will influence their results most?

To maximize their potential, each really needs to play to their strengths. For Twitter, that means connecting advertisers to real time events and scaling its ‘second screen’ capabilities.  For Facebook, its transitioning brands from fan acquisition to higher-value outcomes via the combination of targeting, ad optimization and landing page optimization.

Just as important is the mobile opportunity.  Today, there are really only two players in mobile advertising: Facebook and Google. With Google’s mobile CPCs low and falling, it is important that Facebook is headed in the other direction. However, despite this positive news, Facebook is not very subtly weaning brands off free reach and it’s painful. The decrease of organic reach has made Facebook advertising no longer an option – it is mandatory. In order to compete, brands will have to embrace paid social. And, this is good news for Facebook’s bottom line.

Both are fast followers, able to effect change quickly, and yet both are young companies trying to quickly maximize opportunity. I expect to see continued investment in improving their ad tools and offerings.  The road will not be without bumps, but with some of the biggest concentrated audiences in marketing history, there will undoubtedly be growth in their future.

Should spectators expect platforms like Pinterest, SnapChat, and Whatsapp to make the Big Dance or sit it out?

The short answer is that they’ve already made it to the dance through function of audience size, or acquisition amount.  Whether their consumer scale and engagement allows for advertising revenue or a subscription model is a tertiary point to the role they’ll end up playing for social mobile consumers.  Which is the point: the take-all winner will be the platform that figures out how to effectively and efficiently maximize marketing outcomes from consumers who are now predominantly social AND mobile.

Don’t you just love vendor tourneys? Who do you think will make it to the marketing tech Big Dance and why?