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A Look at the Future of Social Marketing Automation

Editor's Note: Today's post comes courtesy of Nikki Serapio, the Manager of Marketing Community at Oracle. His job is to raise the voices and share the stories of grassroots marketers, community managers, and social media managers, including those who use Oracle products and technologies. Follow Nikki on Twitter @nikkiserapio.

The case for using marketing automation technology is clear.

Scoring leads and prospects accurately. Delivering personalized emails. Gathering real-time stats that tell you what your most valuable customers are doing online. These are important tasks that marketers no longer have to do manually.

But what about our efforts on social networks? Currently, a lot of social marketing isn’t automated at all.

In a way, that’s completely fine. Think about the countless brands out there (maybe you work for one of them) that respond to thousands of customer service requests and complaints on Twitter and Facebook every day. This job is notoriously tough. In these situations, there’s no substitute for putting your best people in charge. There’s no magical algorithm-fueled robot right now that can replace the value of a skilled customer service specialist or community manager.

That said, let me venture a friendly prediction. Human beings and their knack for graceful conversation aside, the future of social marketing will be automated. And conversely, the future of marketing automation will be decidedly social.

An example from my colleague Roland Smart shows one possible future:


(From Roland’s recent presentation at Eloqua Experience. You’ll find all of the presentation slides here.)

Today, having this kind of customer conversation on Twitter requires you to understand many layers of context. You figure things out as you go, and you do your best to make an educated guess about each customer’s needs and problems:

  • "It looks like this customer is visiting our hotel today. Maybe I’ll find them on Twitter: I should tell them about the new lobby restaurant that we just opened."

  • "This person sent me a thank you — via Twitter Direct Message — for providing them good customer service. Should I close the loop with a simple "You’re welcome!"…or should I incentivize a future purchase by sending them a new coupon? Maybe I’ll experiment with the latter."


The promise of social marketing automation rests on the extent to which it can 1) remove guesswork and 2) use behavioral data and a powerful probabilistic model in order to automate meaningful communication with customers. We don’t need our computers to act human we don’t need them to pass the Turing Test in order do these things well.


Here’s what this new kind of automation might look like in practice:

  1. Social automation technologies that can parse complex languages and all of their vagaries — including slang, incomplete phrases, misspellings, out-there neologisms, etc. These tools would be able to interpret most any tweet (e.g., “Gah, leaving SFO now, lots of traffic on 101, not gonna get to my hotel until really late”) and respond appropriately and automatically via social. For instance: “Hi Elissa! Sorry about that traffic…we’ll be sending a complimentary bottle of wine to your room this evening to help you relax. Enjoy!”

  2. Social automation technologies that trigger smart actions based on a person’s entire digital body language — not just short bursts of activity within a single social network or marketing channel. For instance, what if you knew that the aforementioned customer has ALSO opened more than 52% of your promotional hotel emails? Such findings can drastically improve your marketing in terms of timing, channel fit, personalized messaging, and tone.


Admittedly, the automation story above is part hopeful prognostication and part call-to-action. Einstein said, “I never think of the future — it comes soon enough.” At the same time, I’d add: You better be prepared.


As an immediate next step, take a close look at your marketing systems as they operate today. Are you building a sustainable foundation for the future of social automation? Namely, are you tracking key customer activity — including social activity — in one organized place? If not, what’s holding you back?

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