Tuesday Jan 29, 2013

Scandal? CMO/CIO Relationship Revealed

No pictures!Ever get caught with someone you’re not supposed to be with?  Of course not, we didn’t think so. But increasingly, enterprise CMOs and CIOs are spotted together far more often than they used to be. And we should be happy for them, because they potentially have a beautiful future together.

Reggie Bradford, SVP Product Development for Oracle Cloud-Social is spilling the details today at the Evanta Southern California Mid-Market CIO Executive Summit in Los Angeles.

Bradford says technologies like social, mobile and cloud are upending business and organizational models, like it or not. The consumer is changing into an informed, connected, empowered driver of that change, and they’re using social to do it. They’re in charge, and now it’s the job of the enterprise to figure out how to best adapt.

The customer can interact across many touch points, globally and in real-time. And they love being able to do that, so expect it to grow, especially with mobile continuing to boom. By 2014, eMarketer estimates nearly half the total US mobile population will be mobile social networkers, and comScore indicates 24% of eCommerce will be transacted via mobile by 2017.

Customer expectations of you are higher. They know you’ve got immense amounts of data on them, and they seem to be fine with that as long as you’re using that data to give them a desirable customer experience. But while Fortune 100 companies are mentioned 10,400,123 times per month on social, 70% of marketers still have little understanding of the social conversations going on about their brand.

How do we get that understanding and use it to our and our customers’ advantage? We cheer on that budding CMO/CIO relationship.

Just as social plays a vital role in consumer’s everyday lives, so it should across the enterprise. It should be holistically integrated so insights, actions and interactions can be shared and acted upon across departments such as marketing, service, sales, and commerce.

That, of course, required unprecedented collaboration of people, processes and technology. The CMO needs the CIO more than ever to understand the science behind the art. The CIO needs the CMO more than ever to execute customer-focused tech. Relationship-wise, sparks are flying.

Oracle not only understands the changes enterprise organizations are facing, they’re uniquely positioned with the scalable technology tools that work in concert to field the cloud-based socially enabled enterprise. Social marketing, social selling, social commerce, social service, social HR, social recruiting, and social collaboration fully realized with Oracle’s global enterprise applications.

If that makes us CMO and CIO matchmakers, we’re okay with that.

@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto

Friday Jan 25, 2013

Social Graph Search: a Different Kind of Big Data

heart mazeYou can always count on social to give us a development that leaves everyone wondering what this new flavor of the month will evolve into or lead to.  The flavor of interest for this month appears to be Facebook’s newly announced Social Graph Search.

Most compelling is the wealth of social data Facebook has been able to accrue from willing users over the course of 8 years, and this new initiative to put that valuable data into play as a usable feature.

Facebook Social Graph Search lets a user enter a query such as “Friends who like Italian restaurants in New Orleans,” and get a list of friends (and friends of friends) who have engaged in some way around Italian restaurants in the Big Easy.

So there we have a much different algorithm at work than your friendly neighborhood Google or Bing search, which is keyword, link, and other SEO trickery-driven. Fueled mostly by social check-ins and Likes (at least for now), the power of trusted peer review and peer recommendation is now being surfaced in a quick and easy search function.

Facebook advertisers have long been able to target based on Likes, interests, etc., but soon the Facebook user base at large will be able to drill down and discover brands vetted and heralded by social connections who have nothing to gain by not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

For brands who are strong in the quality of their products and services, and who largely generate happy, satisfied customers, this is really good news. It does nothing but further amplify the voice and influence of your social brand ambassadors. Fans you’ve already won over will lead new customers who are specifically looking for what you have to offer right to you.

On the other hand, detractors of brands will be equally amplified and influential. What once was mostly unutilized, obscure information will now be mined and put on display in the search results of relevant queries, good or bad.

This makes your brand’s mission to use every social relationship management tool and social engagement & moderation tool at your disposal to effectively generate the social satisfied customer, that raving fan who’ll gladly post they ate at your Italian restaurant in New Orleans and can’t wait to go back. That Like, that check-in, that tagged photo of their entrée will now be paying perpetual dividends search after search after search, rendering every social fan acquired a significantly bigger ROI proposition.

And then there’s the big data that can now be mined from Facebook’s legion of users and from the Social Graph Search queries themselves. Know who’s searching your product category, know where they are, know what time they’re looking for it, their demographic information, even their overall likes and interests. If you’ve constructed the socially enabled enterprise, that’s the kind of big data that can be pulled into the CRM, used to inform future marketing, content creation, sales, UX design, product development, etc.

It’s a new kind of big data, but it won’t be the last new big data source to present itself. Fortunately, you can have social fully integrated across the organization to fully capitalize on Social Graph Search, as well as the other data opportunities that no doubt lie just around the corner.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jan 22, 2013

Social Customer Service: The CX Dream

sleepy catIn our last blog, we touched on the importance of listening and responding when social users reach out to the brand. Today, let’s go a bit deeper into just how much customers want to use social for this purpose, and bigger picture – how the right social customer service execution gets you significantly down the road toward the dream CX.

The days of “you’ll take what we give you” are over. Not only are customers empowered by social to amplify experiences both positive and negative to peers, they’re also empowered to set their own customer experience expectations.

No, you didn’t set those expectations, but it’s your task to address them. Failing to do so makes your dream CX more of a nightmare. When expectations are violated, the result is frustration, anger, resentment, and ill will. Also, friends are told the sad story of how the customer was “done wrong.”

Entire books have been written on CX. Thick ones. But as a loyal Social Spotlight reader, I’ll boil CX success down for you in two phrases.

EASY TO USE

DELIVERS THE DESIRED RESULT

Class dismissed.

That’s it. Nail those two things and you’ve built a dream CX. Unfortunately, as obvious as that sounds, organizations are quite tangled up and bogged down in their efforts to deliver it.

A recent infographic outlined how customers are connecting with brands and how they increasingly want to. The top 3 ways they’re connecting are quite traditional; phone (84%), email (80%) and company site (72%).

Though they’re traditional and have been around forever, the CX in these areas is often still a nightmare. Multi-level phone trees designed to keep you away from humans and that never seem to offer the option you need, automated form-response emails followed by radio silence, and site navigation resembling cluttered mazes even the most skilled lab rat couldn’t negotiate their way through in under a day.

Increasingly, customers are trying to get satisfaction through social and mobile. Why? Partly because the social networks instantly solve the “easy to use” dream. Customers are using platforms they already know, so on the customer-facing side, the social networks are doing half the brand’s CX job for them.

That leaves the other half, “delivers the desired result.” And that’s where bad traditional CX threatens to extend itself to bad social/mobile CX if not addressed.

The infographic tells us 56% of customers who connect with social feel a stronger connection to the brand, and 50% are more likely to buy from a brand they can contact with via social. There’s the opportunity customers are offering.

But…

-79% of smartphone users say they always or sometimes know more about the product/issue than the brand’s customer service rep (!)
-80% of smartphone users still haven’t been marketed to by their favorite brands via mobile (!!)

The socially enabled enterprise can pull social/mobile customer touch points into an overall CRM system so that integration with traditional customer service vehicles benefits and informs both, in every customer interaction. Inquiries can be easy for customers to make, and the answers they get back can be fast and usable.

They’ll think they’re living in a CX dream.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 18, 2013

5 Co$ts of Lousy Twitter Engagement

dead endTo be blunt (when am I not?), brands are blowing it when it comes to social engagement.  But right behind the bluntness, there’s good news. Technology tools are here to turn social engagement & monitoring into an asset instead of a liability.

An Acquity Group study reveals 45 out of 50 major retailers have active Twitter accounts. That’s good, right? Maybe not. Only 29% of them respond to customer questions and complaints. Let’s really soak that in. 71% are completely ignoring customers that liked the brand so much, they willingly clicked to connect with them. Which brings us to…

Co$t 1: Breaking your Customer’s Heart
In the hierarchy of human fears, only failure and death top the fear of rejection. Imagine expressing your affection for someone, and they ignore you. How warm and fuzzy do you think ignored followers feel toward a brand they expressed love for? In an era where customer service is the whole ball game, and with customers more empowered than ever, rejection is a very odd strategy to adopt.

Co$t 2: Helping your Competition Win
If you ignore your customers, make no mistake, a competing product will be ready to receive them with open arms. They’ll be going out of their way to prove they’re not like you, that they’ll treat the customer better. You’re giving your competition an engraved invitation to erase you.

Co$t 3: Being too Busy to Make Money
Brands not only have to sell, they have to sell again. Happy customers are the root of repeat buying. Repeat customers are very cost-efficient. All you have to do is reasonably service them. Ignoring a customer tweet is like coming right out and saying on your phone line, “Hold if you want to, your call really isn’t that important to us.” These people are trying to spend money with you, ignoring them on social costs leads and sales.

Co$t 4: Creating Anti-ambassadors
We know how powerful word of mouth marketing is. But word of mouth brand-bashing is even more powerful. Give someone a horrible experience on phone support, and that’s between the two of you (you hope). Give someone a horrible experience on social, and the world is watching how you treat customers. Social is where users go to advise each other. It’s a dangerous place to put your worst foot forward.

Co$t 5: Stopping Innovation
Your customers know your products intimately. They’re in the trenches with them every day. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They want to help you make your products, and your service, better. They want you to win. If you’re committed to not listening, or if you perceive suggestions as attacks, you’re passing on a raving fan base the likes of which you never thought possible.

None of the above costs are necessary. Social engagement & monitoring can give you listening, engagement and analysis capabilities across not just Twitter, but all social channels, so you can know what customers are saying, route issues to the right personnel, respond in real time, and not even give customers the chance to consider competitors. Armed with monitoring data, you can then measure overall sentiment, adjust strategy to changing customer conversations, and grow your brand advocacy.

The days of brands calling all the shots are over. The public has decided how they will use social where brands are concerned. If we aren’t there or don’t answer when they reach out, there is a price to be paid.

@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto

Tuesday Jan 15, 2013

Socially Enable Your Enterprise

no silosWith social displaying its importance for every consumer-facing department and application across the enterprise, silos are crumbling and the reality is setting in that a comprehensive, integrated social tech solution isn’t a luxury…at least if you want to stay competitive.

Oracle Sr. Director of Product Management Chad Estes is giving a presentation today at CloudWorld, Dubai. In case your private jet isn’t warmed up and ready on the runway to get you there, I thought I would pass along some of his takeaways on socially enabling the enterprise.

The socially enabled enterprise has powerful connotations when it comes to the increasingly all-important consumer experience. Why is it important your customers are happy?

*Almost 40% of consumers have Tweeted about a brand.
*58% have Liked a brand; 41% have shared content about a brand.
*A comScore study shows over half the US smartphone population used their phone to do retail research while inside a store.
*75% of social users have posted a negative comment after a bad customer experience.
*A typical user will tell an average 53 people about a poor customer experience.
*86% of customers will start doing business with a competitor after a bad customer experience.

I didn’t really have to tell you that happy customers are important. You’ve heard it before. They’re increasingly interacting with you and each other, they’re being influenced, they’re vocal, and empowered. Oh, and they expect a real-time response. How to keep them happy using the social networks on which they’re engaging us is a bigger issue for the enterprise. Workflows are getting turned on their heads.

Altimeter Group says companies now average about 178 corporate-owned social media accounts. And there are numerous niche technologies available to execute social strategy, from marketing to publishing content, to gamification, analysis, online advertising, SEO, etc. Once you put all that together, you have to put on your conductor coat and tails and orchestrate every instrument so you positively affect the customer experience. Whew.

Multiple devices, multiple social networks, multiple departments, overwhelming data, it all can be managed, shared and acted upon if your technology partner brings an integrated, seamless enterprise platform to the table.

Look for a cloud-based mission-critical enterprise infrastructure, platform and applications suite that includes social relationship management tools that can extend social’s power across every consumer-facing touch point (marketing, sales, customer service, and HR). The result you’re looking for is extensive social insight and data that’s married to other enterprise data, providing the actionable, real-time view of the consumer I’m talking about.

In the end, your socially enabled enterprise will be the textbook picture of a customer-centric organization, delivering the kind of enhanced, seamless experiences that will make your brand irresistible.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 11, 2013

Social and CRM: Why They Belong Under One Roof

Discussions around social being extended across all facets of the enterprise are especially putting a “social spotlight” (shilling my own blog there) on the symbiotic relationship between social and CRM.

Today’s public is gravitating toward social as the desired means of communicating and interacting with brands. So social becomes the potential touchpoint for every aspect of the CRM daisy chain, from attraction to lead to sale to upsell to customer service.

Which might leave you wondering, “How do we best connect our CRM system to a social management system so that data from each can inform the other in a beautiful technology dance rivaling the Paso Doble?”

I’d like to submit a word for possible consideration as having purely negative connotations: piecemeal. Many brands are entrenched in disparate legacy systems handling the various arms of the enterprise, even though total data integration is the obvious future. They’ve set about connecting these various systems from various vendors so data can flow from one to the other.

It’s not seamless, nor is it truly integrated. It’s piecemeal, with all the dangers and inefficiencies that come with it.

VP of Product Development for the Oracle Social Cloud Jim Anderson is helping enterprise organizations see the promise of one partner spanning both CRM and SRM (Social Relationship Management). If you were a fly on the wall in those meetings, here’s what you would hear Jim say:

Tech surrounding enterprise data, including social, is evolving quickly. With multiple vendors and platforms, what are the odds all will innovate and upgrade evenly? What happens when one upgrades, causing breakages or lapses in the others? These systems were not designed to work together, so you spend your time and resources fixing what breaks instead of innovating and advancing on a unified front.

Multiple systems exchanging data and playing nice with each other sounds do-able and cost-efficient. But with differing rate-limiting issues causing possible silent failures that lead to incomplete data and inaccurate conclusions, transaction interruptions, unexpected data types, unavailable systems, and differing language and international character sets (just tossing out a few examples here), your enterprise is essentially relegated to the “least common denominator” of what all the pieces of your piecemeal are capable of. That keeps you as far away from the leading edge as possible.

Now picture hardware and software from one qualified vendor engineered to work together, pulling SRM, CRM, HCM, and other functions of the enterprise under one roof in the cloud. True integration. A single point of contact, incentivized to align and resolve any disconnects. Such holistic approaches and long-term partnerships are the real path to capitalizing on innovations in data and confidently making enterprise-wide, data-driven decisions.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jan 08, 2013

7 Stressful Things About Social

stressed womanYes, technology makes our lives easier. But for businesses increasing their involvement in social, there are some downright stressful things being encountered along the way.

1. Too Many Social Networks:
It’s like having to make sure you’re not favoring one of your kids over the other. Tip: It’s okay to pick your horses. Depending on your brand, one network will make more sense than others and be the priority, with others getting the attention they deserve. A comprehensive social relationship management platform goes a long way in making an unmanageable number of social channels quite manageable.

2. I Can’t Think of Anything to Say:
Your bosses want to see a quarterly content calendar with each day filled in, and you’re not even sure what you’re posting today. It’s okay. Social is live and real-time. What you post often depends on what you see. That’s how civilians use social, so it’s okay if you operate, at least partially, live and in real-time as well. Tip: Establish tent poles of original content to appease the spreadsheet-obsessed, but round it out with curation and organic interaction.

3. I’m Not Getting any Engagement:
This is the sum of two other stressors, not knowing what your audience wants, and being afraid to say something wrong. If you’re using social as a loudspeaker, posting what amount to little more than ads, don’t be stunned there aren’t a lot of likes, comments or shares. Tip: People engage when they are moved emotionally. If your posts don’t really interest you, your fans probably aren’t very moved either.

4. Few or No Resources:
Take comfort, you’re not alone. But things are changing. Not only are commitments being made to social in marketing, social is being integrated for multiple functions across the entire enterprise. Tip: Be the leaky faucet in your organization, always dripping the great endeavors that could be executed with proper buy-in, be that production budgets or staffing for proper monitoring, moderation and response.

5. I Don’t Know if This is Doing Any Good:
Occasionally, the panicky thought, “Why am I doing this?” may arise. You’ll also see plenty of articles questioning the true ROI of social. Is it quantifiably moving units? Tip: Social is, at its core, a modern means of communication. Success or failure on it depends on how it’s used. Could you really dispense with one of the key ways the public communicates and gets information? There is value in relationship building via super-serving your customers and in brand affinity (ask Apple). Also, determine which of the numerous metrics available on social address your specific goals.

6. People Can Rake Us Over the Coals:
It’s part of the deal. You get to say whatever you want to about your goods and services, but so do your customers. No longer are buyers trapped in the echo chamber of customer service voicemail trees. They can publically hold you accountable. Tip: Like yanking out a polyp, getting slammed on social is ultimately for your own good. It will make you a better brand and a better company if you listen to what your customers tell you. They aren’t the enemy.

7. I Can’t Unplug:
Many users are virtually addicted to social. They don’t want to miss anything and feel tangibly cut off if they aren’t online. But on the brand social manager side, the “always on” nature of social can get overwhelming. Tip: See above on getting properly resourced. Short of that, a qualified social relationship manager will have flagging and notification functions that should allow you to go to lunch or see that movie worry-free.

Here’s hoping this knocks the stomach acid-level down a couple of notches so you can enjoy a less-stressed new year in social. Let us know what else about social is stressing you out.

@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto 

Friday Jan 04, 2013

The Value of Short and Simple

StopwatchPeople are busy. You’re busy.

2013 is going to be about helping people find and consume your content and message as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

When people have their time wasted, they’re not happy.

If they wanted to read reams of text, they’d go buy “War and Peace.”

Many brands pat themselves on the back for putting out massive content assets aimed just over their audience’s head. It impresses people inside the organization. Outside the organization, it’s getting skimmed…at best.

While users spend 6.75 hours per month on Facebook and 21 minutes a month on Twitter, the time spent considering an individual post (and that’s if it surfaces in the Facebook News Feed) is lightning fast.

Consider how fast you scroll through your own News Feed and Twitter stream. That’s how long others give your brand’s content as well. Scary, huh?

Yes, there are posting strategies for increasing engagement. But what really makes social users give a post a chance? An eye-catching image and/or a headline that’s so awesome it could almost stand on its own (which it often has to).

Twitter set its 140-character limit because that’s about how long a typical text message is. The public is accustomed to communicating via text. Anything much longer and eyes start to glaze over.

People are retweeting (and thereby endorsing) articles they themselves never took the time to read. C’mon, you know it happens all the time.

Most 20-page missives can be boiled down to a few worthwhile takeaways. The rest is filler and hot air.

If you do have volumes of sheer genius, break it up and feed it to your audience in bite sizes. Give me a bag of Skittles, don’t hand me one 50 lb. Skittle.

Social is the ideal medium for short, clear communication.

But it’s not just social. The value of short and clear applies to nearly all communication, from voicemail messages to emails.

The world and the people in it are only going to move faster in 2013. They’re adopting mobile specifically because they want to multitask and consume content on the go.

Respect the value of your audience’s time and play to it by telling them what you want them to know as clearly and as succinctly as you can.

@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto

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