Ten years ago, Vitrue, the company that would become the cornerstone of Oracle’s Social Cloud, was created. Vitrue was ahead of its time. Led by Reggie Bradford, current Oracle SVP, it took an opening in the marketplace - social brand management - and built the industry’s leading SaaS-based social relationship management program. Today, we sat down with Reggie to discuss what the next 10 years could look like for social business innovation.
Maggie Schneider Huston, Senior Content Manager, Oracle Social Cloud: These past 10 years have been exceptional. What have you seen happen in the social marketing and social business space? How has social matured?
Reggie Bradford, Senior Vice President, Oracle: If you go back to the very beginning, we had a vision that hinged around more people discovering information based on recommendations from peer or a friend. Social networks fueled and amplified that. Nine out of 10 people were buying products based on recommendations - but brands had no way to engage or influence that conversation. Vitrue was formed to help brands do that.
Another major part of my thought process revolved around the democratization of content. Any kid could set up a camera, shoot a video and share across the world. I knew that would have a profound impact on all industries.
Some of the early social networks, like Myspace and Friendster, were tapping into this desire for consumers to connect and share. It wasn’t until 2008 that Facebook started to develop partnerships with brands and marketers. I saw Sheryl Sandberg in the fall of 2008, with the simple idea that Facebook was keeping up with the needs of 20 million consumers. We wanted to build software to help brands manage their presence on Facebook. Fast forward to 2009, and Facebook opened up Pages. We were one of the first platforms to work with brands to help manage their Facebook Pages. We added content management, analytics, and grew our platform so brands could manage their presence across Twitter, Youtube, Google+, LinkedIn… basically, anywhere a consumer eyeball was, we wanted to be.
In 2012, Vitrue was acquired by Oracle. We knew that the world was becoming “flatter,” and we needed a global organization to scale us into the world. Oracle gave us that. Oracle saw the importance social would play for organizations. After we were acquired, Oracle bought Collective Intellect and Involver. We were combined into one single platform (Oracle’s SRM) that provides social publishing, analytics, listening and sentiment analysis to understand the conversations people are having around your brand. When you go global, you need to be able to speak the language of the natives - and the SRM can analyze 30 languages and growing, including slang with LSA.
A big change I’ve seen is the expansion of the marketing technology space and the growth of the cloud. In 2011, there were 100 vendors in Scott Brinker’s now famous marketing technology landscape infographic. In 2016, there are almost 4000. That presents a unique challenge for CMOs. We’ve taken the Social Cloud and created integration points with the Oracle Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Data Cloud. This is the wave of the future. All of these clouds will become more harmonious. We’ve also integrated with 3rd party apps to build out a robust applications marketplace to meet and exceed the ever-evolving needs of our customers.
MSH: Where do you think we’re going in the next 10 years?
RB: Social data is going to be more liquid and integrated into business applications. Cross-channel data will help marketers create a single view of the customer. Third party and customer data - from their own internal systems - will enrich it even more. Going forward into the future, there’s some very exciting technology that will enhance this data. Messaging platforms are growing very quickly - and they’re very geographically diversified. Additionally the innovation around AI will usher in a new era of sophisticated automation, like with chatbots, using technology and algorithms to enable brands to have a true global one-to-one relationship with their customer. Another area of growth is the Internet of Things. Biometric, device and geolocation data will create richer and more robust experiences for consumers going forward.
Social is creating massive amounts of data, but a relatively small amount of it is actually being used right now. One of the biggest challenges facing marketers is unlocking all the available data and making it accessible and actionable in an elegant UI system. You can call it the “democratization of data.” Data from social media gives that a tremendous lift. Marketers will be able to create more personalized experiences for their customers.
Employee advocacy will grow, too. As consumers, they’re increasingly creating content. They’re already on social networks posting images and video. Talking about your brand on your behalf is a natural extension of this. If you give them the right tools and capability, they’ll build your brand on your behalf. It goes back to what I was saying about people buying from friends. If they trust a friend’s recommendation on a restaurant, they’ll also trust a friend’s recommendation on a company.
MSH: What are some hurdles that could get in the way?
RB: Trust and credibility are hallmarks of social marketing. This medium requires authenticity. If a consumer doesn’t believe that you can keep their data safe, they won’t do business with you; but if they do trust you, you can build that relationship. For example, I use Waze. I give up my geolocation, so I get 15 minutes back in my commute. Younger adults are very comfortable exchanging data for a customized experience. I also believe there’s still a lack of understanding at the senior levels around social business capabilities. The next generation has grown up in this social world and really understands the behaviors and norms. Future leaders will be well positioned because they worked in this category.
MSH: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
RB: This is what I always say: first, find a big, disruptive market opportunity. Second, solve a real problem. Finally, choose good people to work with. Surround yourself with people that have a common vision and similar values.