Friday Nov 14, 2014

The Power & Engagement of Social


The customer is always right. If there had been any doubt about the truth of that adage, social networking has eliminated it completely. While delivering a satisfying experience has always been important, social networks make it more vital than ever.

In a very short time, social networks have fundamentally changed the way many customers expect to interact with businesses. In recent years, if a customer had a support question the person would typically refer to the support site and, if the answer wasn’t easy to find, call the contact centre. Now if a customer goes to the company’s support site or customer forum and doesn’t quickly get the answer, the satisfaction levels dip and the person will search elsewhere to see if others have encountered the same issue. At this stage, customers usually turn to social platforms or forums, which are the biggest source for such answers. The negative impact of dissatisfaction with the online experience cannot be overstated. If customers are not satisfied with the information they find when first arriving at a business website, they are more than twice as likely to visit a competitor’s site as they are to make a call to the company’s contact centre. Further, these customers are less likely to visit the site again to buy online from this organisation.

Reaching out to the customer

No one likes to reinvent the wheel. That is why when we as consumers run into issues, it is our natural inclination to try to find out if others have run into the same issue and what they did to resolve it. Given this, a company-sponsored customer forum can be a great focal point for customers. By creating a vibrant customer forum, an organisation will gain a lot of near-term and long-term benefits. A forum is where a lot of customers start when they need answers. When done right, company-sponsored forums can be the first and best place for customers to go when they want questions answered. With effective moderation, reputation models, and flexible control, customer forums can deliver significant value to the enterprise and customers alike. Organizations can also gain a wealth of insights that can be leveraged to foster improvements in product development, quality control, marketing, and other areas of the business as well.

‘Findability’ is key

Even without social networks in the picture, the challenge of navigating server directories, intranets, websites, e-mail folders and other resources to find useful information can be daunting. Customer forums and other social networks added into the mix can threaten to overwhelm internal and external users with noise, rather than come across as meaningful information.

To meet this challenge, organisations need sophisticated search capabilities that derive the true intent from each search. This requires search capabilities very different from those employed by web search platforms such as Google or Yahoo!. To derive a search as true intent, organisations need enterprise knowledge management that features an integrated combination of natural language processing, information lifecycle management, and analytical insight into user behaviours.

Building brands with social media

Social Media also provides a dais for organisations to connect and interact with their stakeholders directly and instantly. With a large user base, consumers leave vital pieces of information with each like or comment on the various social media channels. Amassing such information can furnish new insights for brand management.

Marketers need to adopt a further strategic form of communications rather than just spamming customers or prospect customers. This can be manoeuvred through communication leadership via forums, portals and even company websites. Being on a digital platform, means working on quick turn-around time and responsive customer communication. A consistency need to be maintained around messaging. Furthermore, when companies engage with customers openly on social media, they fortify a certain level of accountability.

To sum up, organisations can view the proliferation of social networks as a threat or an opportunity. It can be seen as a threat because of the seemingly endless new data streams social networks generate that needs to be sifted and processed for the information that is useful. However, enterprises need to approach social networking as a huge opportunity – a new way to communicate with and learn from customers in a mode that customers have embraced. By interacting with customers in their familiar mode, organisations can realise significant improvements in not only customer service but also product development, quality assurance, marketing, and virtually every other area of the business. By taking a strategic, knowledge based approach, organisations can most fully leverage the potential of social networks to truly enhance the customer experience and improve business performance.

Tuesday Nov 11, 2014

Facebook Allowing Users to “See Less” in Their News Feed

Author: Amy Sorrells, Oracle Social Cloud 

Facebook announced last Friday that it was giving users more control of what they see in their News Feeds with the network’s newly launched “News Feed Settings” tool. The personalized tool gives users better insights to what is taking up space in their Feed, allowing them to take actions like “unfollow” friends or Pages without unfriending them. Meaning, you don’t want to see their content right now but you might come back later and change your mind. The new tool also allows for users to choose to “See Less” content from selected friends and Pages.

Yes, the fight for News Feed real estate just got tougher.


No surprise here as Facebook must prioritize its users’ experience over anything else. That includes businesses and brands. It’s the right move as it’ll keep Facebook users happier and feeling more satisfied with their News Feed flow. That’ll keep users around and engaging more. That’s a win for users, brands and Facebook.

According to Mark Zuckerberg cited in a recent Tech Crunch article, there is on average around 1,500 posts per day that could be shown in a user’s News Feed.  Facebook shows only around 100 posts a day. A number Facebook feels is appropriate for the average user.

Zuckerberg repeated his devotion to users by stating, “we optimize for the readers.” As for Pages, he advises them, too: “Focus on great content.”

Focus on great content. Certainly you’ve heard that phrase one, two or a thousand times. But changes like this one Facebook made last week requires us to underscore the importance of creating and curating really good and relevant content.

Businesses and brands are tasked with generating content that will not only cut through the clutter but also help earn your way into the News Feed. We aren’t saying it’s an easy task, but it’s definitely possible. Here are five tactics to remember that will help you create better content, increase engagement and be more visible in the News Feed.

LISTEN & LEARN: If you haven’t started a “listen first” strategy then please start now. There are social listening and monitoring technologies available that allow you to listen across the vast social and digital web. Want to know what consumers are talking about? How about your customers’ interests and needs? What content does your competition use? How can you provide better value? Start setting up topics, terms and hashtags to follow and learn from the data flowing in. It’s like a giant focus group you should be leveraging every day.

2. qANALYTICS & INSIGHTS: You have access to a vast amount of data…but do you have any insights? Your analytics should tell you what type of content is resonating best. And what time of day gets better engagement. You should also know what networks are performing better and why? Those insights can be incredibly helpful in creating and publishing good content. And that is just scratching the surface of analytics and insights.

3.    INFLUENCERS & ADVOCATES: You should identify and engage with your influencers and advocates. And these are different audiences with different desires and motives. But both can be very powerful in helping share and socialize your content and brand. With the right listening technology, you can identify and learn what motivates them. Engage with them. Entice them. Co-create with them. They’ll guide you. Just listen, learn and activate.

4.   PAID & AMPLIFY: Paid should be part of your social media strategy. What percentage, of course, depends on your business, but at least some of your budget should be devoted to amplifying your message. Whether to support a planned campaign or to boost organic content in real-time that is resonating, you should have a system in place to execute on a coordinated paid, owned and earned social strategy.

5.     REAL & AUTHENTIC: This can’t be stressed enough. Behind every brand or organization, there should be an authentic, real and human voice. And it’s really not that hard. Think about your own personal relationships and how you want to be treated and the things that matter. It’s often just a dose of common sense and humanity. Take off your “selling” hat and just listen, learn, engage and provide some value to the conversation. Be real. Be relevant. Be engaging.

Friday Nov 07, 2014

Lessons Learned from Pivotcon: Listen, Learn & Humanize in the Age of People-Centric Business

By Meg Bear, Group Vice President, Oracle Social Cloud 

A few weeks ago I attended the annual Pivot Conference in New York City. The theme of Pivotcon, “The Digital Imperative,” focused on the creative disruption digital is having on society and how that is changing our culture, behaviors, businesses, homes, transportation, media and much more. The convergence of mobile, social and cloud technologies has altered how we view and interact with our world and empowered us to learn more, engage more, explore more, buy more, create more, share more and expand our digital capabilities beyond mere physical limitations.


(Photo L to R: Amy Sorrells, Oracle Social; Meg Bear, Oracle Social; Phil Colley, GM; and Rebecca Harris, GM)

Think about these changes within your own life. Uber has simplified and enhanced the transportation experience. We seek Yelp for locating the perfect spot to eat. We share stories on Facebook. We voice our opinions on Twitter. We network on LinkedIn. We control our homes remotely with Nest. We are never without our smartphones. And information is always just a click away. 

We are an empowered people. And it’s happening across all generations and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the rising millennials, no more a novelty but a mainstream reality, completely embody the digital imperative. They grew up mobile, social and open. They think and operate differently, embracing technologies for the greater good in a transparent, engaging and social way. They expect the businesses they buy from and work for to operate the same.  Here’s a reality check: In 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials – that’s your employees, partners and customers.

Organizations must completely re-think how they approach business. People now expect a higher level of interaction, personalization and value. Gartner analyst Laura McClellan said her research shows that in only two years 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience. Not on price. Not on product. On experience.  How’s that for a change?

Customer centricity and a priority on customer engagement is the business imperative. But I’d take that a step further. It’s not just a “customer” experience; it’s a “people” experience. Businesses need to enhance engagement and experiences not just for customers but also employees and partners. Believe me it all ties back to the bottom line. Happier more engaged employees can be your best brand assets. Ditto for partners. Listen, learn, personalize, engage, deliver value and build trust. You aren’t talking at “audiences” anymore; you are building relationships with people. If you listen carefully, with humility and openness, people will help guide you and co-create with you. You need to shift your idea of who has the power. Don’t operate as an impersonal entity; humanize your brand. Talk about a pivot.

Becoming a people-centric business requires major change and disruption. And it’s not going to be a clean, easy and fast process. But it’s something you must start championing inside your organization today. How? Well, that’s for another much longer discussion. But below are five reoccurring themes we heard throughout Pivotcon that are absolutely relevant to becoming a people-centric business. So think about how these should apply to across your business.

Collaboration: You absolutely can’t embrace major change and innovation without a collaborative effort across the enterprise. This falls in the “no more silos” bucket. CMOs can’t go it alone anymore. Neither can the CIO. Or the CCO. The famous Greek phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” is totally applicable here. Break down those departmental silos and start communicating across departments and people.

Information: This is all about learning and insights. You need to understand your people (consumers, employees, partners) as well as possible. It’s not about the volume of data; it’s about actionable insights. One of my favorite quotes from Pivot revealed a certain truth: “We are drowning in data but starving for information.” But with the right technologies in place, you can aggregate, analyze and simplify data for invaluable insights that will allow you to understand and engage like never before. Listen and learn.

Integration: This refers to technologies. And as our partner Rebecca Harris of GM stated at Pivot, “Integration is the linchpin of the customer engagement strategy.” To truly be customer and people focused you can’t have systems that don’t integrate, communicate and exchange information. A big difference today is the pervasiveness of technology and the ability to integrate and weave it out the value chain to engage with the customer. Organizations must make integration key across the enterprise.

Personalization:  We are accustomed to technologies and experiences that are tailored to us. Whether that’s an ad, article, merchandise or media, the more it is targeted to our likes and needs the better it resonates and more value it provides. The data is out there to understand your people. You just need to listen, learn and follow their cues. Personalized content and interactions are the cornerstone to people-centricity.

Trust:  As Brian Solis said during Pivot, “Trust will be the new currency related to people-centric engagement.” We are operating in an open world where social networks bring forward the good, the bad and the ugly. Consumers don’t expect businesses to not have flaws, but they do expect authenticity and transparency when things don’t go right.  Just look at how GM and Chevrolet handled #ChevyGuy for establishing trust, not to mention authenticity and humanity. Businesses and executives who operate in an open and accountable manner will earn trust. And that will be key to cultivating and establishing relationships with your customers, employees and partners. 

Tuesday Nov 04, 2014

Social Enabling Child Welfare Agencies to Engage Community to Strengthen Families

The average citizen has a limited understanding of the child welfare system; much of it based on “worst case” news stories that lack context. Allowing these misconceptions and stereotypes to persist is damaging to the system. Social media provides an opportunity to bypass traditional media channels and enables Child Welfare Agencies to build and manage a brand for the child welfare system that strengthens communities by educating and encouraging participation. 

Leveraging Social Media to Connect, Educate, and Strengthen the Community They Serve

Social Media is a new concept for Government. Child Welfare Agencies are beginning to embrace technology to connect with the community they serve. Each day Child Welfare Employees do many good things than never make the news. HHS Agencies are leveraging social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the positive things that the HHS Agency is doing. Whether it is promoting children for adoption; increasing foster care capacity; creating communities of practice that enables providers or working with the community to promote their brand. The right tools allow monitoring of social networks to understand impact, sentiment, and participation. With the power of social media, these outreach campaigns can trigger conversations about the value of the system in supporting children and families.

Focus on Campaigns that Work Best:

Abuse of alcohol and drugs has had a dramatic effect on foster care, particularly in the past 20 years. With increasing frequency, children are coming into care because their parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Agencies are looking at technology to modernize the way they outreach and recruit foster and adoptive parents.

Child Welfare Recruitment Managers embrace the value of automating campaigns and recruitment strategies. Technology allows them to connect with individuals that they have not had access to in the past. Outbound campaigns allow recruitment managers to nurture new individuals through the process, no matter how or through what channel the individual chooses to engage with the agency. Once they know someone is interested they can deliver the right content in the context the individual is at during their particular stage in the journey.

Often, the public is not familiar with the mission of a child welfare agency.  Having a social media presence allows individuals to be a voyeur and slowly become educated about the agency. Individuals are curious by nature and as the agency promotes articles that highlight how foster care kids are graduating as valedictorian of their high school class; bios of children that are available for adoption; or success stories about foster care parents and CASA volunteers they become more open to the message. Over time, Child Welfare Agencies are able to educate the individual and nurture them until they are comfortable and ready to take that next step whether is just to find out more information, take a training course, or decide to adopt a child in foster care.

Technology provides recruitment managers with data and metrics to determine which campaigns and strategies are most effective, so they can double down on what works and move valuable resources from ineffective marketing campaigns. They can leverage social media to build targeted campaigns towards specific populations, demographics, and communities.

The Future of Connecting and Strengthening the Community:

When it comes to harnessing the power of social media, the majority of Child Welfare Agencies are just getting started. Child Welfare Directors understand that advances in technology have changed not only the way we communicate with each other but it has changed the way the community interacts with government.

Social media’s unique ability to connect people and create communities can serve the needs of the child welfare system. Allowing virtual communities to come together and transform the way the agency connects with the community they serve. These communities can be public groups to encourage participation or private groups so current stakeholders have a forum to communicate. Confidentiality is still perceived as a challenge, whether it is the inbound or outbound message. Automated tools are available that ensure CW Agency complies with confidentiality polity to review posts before publishing messaging. Technology also enables the Agency to determine which posts need immediate response and which to label as customer service issues.

CW Agencies can take advantage of being able to listen and analyze what is being said about the agency around key topics. This allows the agency to proactively respond correct erroneous information and publish public service announcements when needed.

Automated tools make it easy for a child welfare agency to manage the agency’s social presence, provides insights about the work they are doing and how to better communicate with their community while providing the metrics to measure what is working. 

Friday Oct 31, 2014

13 Un-scary Tips to Get You More Twitter Retweets

Do you have Twitter-envy?  Come on, admit it.  You’ve been tweeting like a madman for months and have rounded up a grand total of 35 followers.  Meanwhile your friend just started tweeting last week about nothing but pickles and already has 20,000 followers.  And those followers are giving him retweets that help boost his fan base even higher.  


How are they doing it!?  Are there ancient secrets being hidden only from you?  Is it a conspiracy?  Is your Twitter account broken?  Are poltergeists erasing your tweets?  I don’t want to stop you from pursuing such valid leads, but just in case those aren’t the things doing damage, here are some tips to give your tweets a fighting chance of being more appealing and thus shareable.


1. Um, learn to write.  Your friend has clearly mastered the pickle subject.  Do you know how many tweets there are a day? Over 500 million. No one’s going to retweet you unless you can make them mentally say, “Man, that’s great!” You have to be that good.


2. Assimilate into the Borg.  In this case, the Borg is your target audience, and there should be very little to distinguish you from them. Think like them, use their terminology, know what they like, know what they hate. Your audience can sniff out a poser.


3. Get their blood up.  Get a debate going by bringing up something your audience is actually passionate about. Steer clear of contrived questions nobody cares to hear the answers to. If you can safely do so, prime the pump with your opinion.


4. Make other people famous.  Guess what?  When you mention someone in your tweet, they’ll think it’s a brilliant tweet and will spread it to as many people as possible. Make human nature work to your advantage.


5. Think about your posting schedule.  Find your sweet tweet spot as far as how often you post and when you post, but base it on your target audience’s behavior. Avoid over-tweeting…unless you’re making it clear you’re live-tweeting something.


6. Put at least a little thought into your profile pic.  If you have a recognized logo, use it.  If it doesn’t stand out in a timeline of other faces, get creative and change it. People fly through their Twitter streams at top speed and that picture has to stop them.


7. In your Twitter profile, say who you really are and what you really do.  If you’re cutesy, coy, vague, evasive, or say nothing at all, you haven’t given anyone a reason in the world to follow you or pay attention to what you tweet.


8. Promote your Twitter account.  It’s okay, really.  But be very clear about all the enriching goodness they’re going to get if they go to it. They sure aren’t going to do it just as a favor to a total stranger.


9. Keep it short.  If you max out your 140 characters, there’s no room for people to retweet you.


10. First in wins.  If you know a bit of news in your field and you notice no one seems to have tweeted it yet, get it out there. Suddenly you become the cited source in all the subsequent retweeting.


11. Tweet worthy, rewarding links.  You don’t want to earn a reputation for links that make people regret having clicked it.


12. Get your ratings.  Find a social media management tool that will show you how each tweet does so you’ll know what’s working and what’s a waste of yours and everybody else’s time.


13. Please, cool it with the hashtags.  There are proper ways to use hashtags, but when your tweet has as many symbols as letters, you’re off the rails. Use them to put your tweet in front of existing category audiences. If you make one up to be funny, make sure it’s really funny.


These tips aren’t that hard and definitely shouldn’t scare you away from tweeting.  The only thing you should really fear is a steady stream of tweets going out there from your handle that are imminently ignorable.  Remember, you have pickle tweets to compete with.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Oct 21, 2014

11 Ways to Wreck Your Social Relationships

social media relationshipsSocial media marketing is all about building authentic relationships. It involves many of the things human relationships live and die by; knowing the person, trust, altruism, patience, etc. So it follows naturally the opposite traits would lead to relationship failure; narcissism, mistrust, selfishness and the like.


When you look at how some brands treat their fans, followers and customers on social, it kind of makes you wonder what their real world human relationships are like. Even as long as social marketing has been around and as much thought leadership has been written on the subject, customers are still NOT getting the experience they want to have with their brands on social.


There are plenty more, but here are 11 ways you can risk having your customers one day tell you, “We need to talk.”


1. And You Are…?

Don’t get or pay attention to any analytics. Don’t try to find out who your fans are, where they are, or what they like. If you accidentally find out what they like, don’t act on it. It’s a great way to prove over and over to them you couldn’t care less.


2. Lie to Them

You silver-tongued smoothie. Just keep putting up those misleading headlines or links to things that violate their expectations. It’s a real trust-builder. And while you’re at it, throw some unrelated trending hashtags into your tweets to trick people into seeing you.


3. Keep Them Guessing

Start a social channel, sweep fans off their feet with content, then suddenly vanish for half a month. Play hard to get. Never let them know where they stand with you or what they’re going to get from you.


4. Bore Them Stupid

Ever been on a date where the other person talked endlessly yet managed to never touch on a single topic you cared anything about? Brands are doing that all the time with their content. People like you to talk about them.


5. Don’t Care How You Look

Let your Timeline go. Don’t give yourself an attractive cover or photo. Make sure your profile picture really bland. Don’t post a lot of videos or photos…just show them lots and lots of text. Oh, and make sure everything you do looks horrible on mobile.


6. Be Obtuse

Leave them thoroughly confused by cramming your tweets with as many tags, links, hashtags, and hieroglyphic symbols as you can. Make them WORK to understand what you’re trying to communicate. Maybe they’ll think it’s fun.


7. Come Across as Desperate and Needy

Who isn’t drawn to that? In every Facebook post and every tweet, make sure you’re pushing your product as hard as you can and trying to get a commitment out of them after the first meeting.


8. Show No Effort

Make posts and tweets like, “Is everybody ready for the weekend?” Nothing makes a fan feel special more than being addressed as part of the masses with a message that sounds like an obligation, created on your phone as you’re heading out the door.


9. Expect Too Much Too Soon

It’s very important that if you aren’t being Liked by thousands and they aren’t commenting and sharing your content like crazy, you start resenting them and abandon your efforts to connect with them. Just be sure to blame it on them and not you.


10. Ignore Them

IF they interact or reach out to you at all, that’s a really big deal. You should be doing flips. Ignoring their gesture or not responding to their interaction until 2 weeks later is a fantastic way to foster hostility.


11. Insist the Relationship Be All About You

What do you need? What do you want to get out of this? That’s why you’re doing this and that’s all that really matters, right? If your customer is happy and fulfilled, that’s nice and all, but it’s hardly the main point. Make sure everything is done your way and happens 100% on your terms.


You want your brand to be as desirable as possible in your social marketing. The people you’re courting want to be appreciated, thought about, cared about, and loyally attended to. If you don’t do it, it’s your brand that pays the price, not the customer. They’ll get over you, move on, and find someone else very quickly.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Oct 14, 2014

The Things You Hear When You’re an Oracle Social Customer

Oracle Social CloudWe mostly explore topics and trends around social marketing in this space.  (It’s not best practice to always write about your product.) That said, since readers aren’t privy to the emails Oracle Social Cloud customers often get announcing new features and capabilities, we wanted to put you in their shoes and summarize some they’ve gotten so far this year.


One actually was blogworthy, the rollout of Social Station, a customizable user experience workspace within the Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) platform. Customers can set up their work environments with drag and drop modules like Custom Analytics and an Enhanced Calendar so it works best for them. Meanwhile, our developers get to play and build new modules.


Engage is the part of the product where you watch and respond to activity on your channels and Listen topics. Our customers can now take action on multiple messages by doing some box checking then clicking an action in a dropdown. And they can now take public interactions private by initiating Twitter direct messages within Engage.


Listen & Analyze is the section of SRM where customers monitor what’s being said about them across social and the web. Lately they’ve gotten some good integration with Engage in that they can choose which topics they want fed to Engage right from their Listen & Analyze topics list. If it’s deleted in one, it’s deleted in the other. And topics show in the same bundle in Engage as they do in Listen & Analyze. All synced up. Plus 3 new languages (Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian) have been added to the Topic Creation language dropdown, and there’s a customizable dashboard chart picker.


The Publish component got some new toys too. Customers can upload their pre-planned content calendars via CSV, and those posts will be populated into Publish ready to go! We even give them the CSV sample file to fill out. The calendar is more interactive too. Click on a post in it and a sidebar opens showing them the posts for that day plus a short preview of each. Click a preview and they get even more details. From here they can edit or remove a post then go right back to the calendar.


You might know that Facebook lets you create Lookalike Audiences. It takes targeting data from a custom audience you created and makes a new audience based on it. We fixed it so customers can create Lookalike Audience within the SRM. They can also opt out their fans from Facebook custom audiences. Upload the fan list to the Media Account for the custom audience, and Facebook won’t include them in future custom audiences. Lastly, our customers have an updated pie chart on each custom audience's Detail page showing the percentage of their custom audience made from each source used to make that audience.


We hope that our customers love getting these regular emails telling them about our additions and improvements to the Oracle SRM platform as much as we love…well, adding and improving stuff.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Oct 07, 2014

9 Starting Points for B2B Social Marketing

Are businesses still debating whether or not there’s a role for social in B2B?  Sure you’ll still find pockets of resistance (and nostalgia), but the marketing dollars being moved to social say the debate is all but over.  It says at the very least, serious businesses do not intend to get left in the dust as their competitors build relationships and start ongoing dialogues with buyers via social.


Better that you be the one to beat your competitor to the punch in establishing a comprehensive, integrated social marketing strategy.  And if you’re going to do it, you may as well get started on the right foot with 9 foundational principles.


1. Know whom you want to talk to.  If your answer is “Golly gee, anybody and everybody who might even remotely be interested in what I have,” you’re going out there untargeted and smelling desperate.  Know who the likely prospects are and act on where they live digitally.


2. Use social to offer your prospects something they genuinely want or need.  They don’t owe you anything and they don’t care if your company does well.  They only care about solving a problem they currently have and making their jobs & lives easier.  Speak to that.


3. Track how the content you’re giving your prospects does with them.  Did they consume it?  Did they visibly react to it (engagement)?  Or did they find it immediately skip-able?  Don’t keep giving them stuff that fails, you’ll start looking tone-deaf.


4. Hire the most exceptionally gifted channel managers to run your social efforts and empower them with the social technology to maximize their greatness.  If your brand were a person, your channel manager is that person.  So it’s critical to get this right.


5. You should listen for signals from your prospects as intently as SETI listens for alien signals from space.  And you should get just as excited if you get something.  Respond in a rapid, constructive manner…even if the signal you got back was negative.


6. Be a thought leader in your industry or sector.  If you’re tired of the term “thought leader,” be a professor, an educator, or a researcher.  If you can teach a prospect something they didn’t previously know, you’ll achieve an elevated status in their minds.


7. Be consistent.  If you start posting on social then disappear, what good did that do you?  If your blogs are published randomly, or only come out when you can serve the brand’s interests, you’re sending some very bad messages.  I’m selfish and I can’t be counted on.


8. Use social to supplement your overall marketing efforts.  Integration is a big topic in the marketing world.  It’s what everyone is racing toward even though frankly, it’s not that easy.  Go with a tech partner that’s most likely to get you to true modern marketing.


9. Somehow, some way, acquire patience.  B2B selling is a process, and one that will never move as fast as you need it to.  Social will not get you to the quick B2B close.  So you not only have to be consistent, you have to be persistent and keep the steady social drumbeat going.


Those B2B prospects are a tough bunch, much less likely to give you quick trust or the benefit of the doubt like consumers.  But B2B is made up of real people (people immersed in a labyrinth of proposals and approval processes, but people nonetheless), so value can be given, relationships can be built, and coffee can go to closers thanks to social B2B marketing.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com



Friday Oct 03, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Thursday

Oracle OpenWorldAll good things must come to an end, although innovations in the Oracle Cloud and Oracle Social Cloud never end and are always an ongoing process. After all, we want to have great stories to tell and great announcements to make at Oracle OpenWorld 2015. Believe it or not, after a great night at Treasure Island with Aerosmith and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, attendees still made it in for one final day of discussions.


In the wrap-up of CX Central (which by itself had over 2000 participants and over 300 sessions) Meg Bear and GM’s Rebecca Harris were talking about the importance of Latent Semantic Analysis in social listening. For instance, Rebecca pointed out that “good morning” is often shortened to ‘GM’ on Twitter…a problem for their monitoring, as is the fact that “Chevrolet” is in the lyrics of almost 2000 songs.


Meg said we’re well past discussions of whether social is a fad and are now hearing more stories about product innovations coming through and from brand social channels. Orgs can turn that into strategic value. Rebecca said every department touches social in some way, with each department believing they’re doing what’s right. But there must be an integrated strategy through the customer lens, which involves stakeholder meetings that aren’t always pleasant.


Oracle’s Rahim Fazal and Mike Ballard led a great session on how governments and utilities can effectively use social before and during disasters/ emergencies. From its very beginnings in Rome, government was intended to be local, instant, personal and social. So governments must consider all channels to serve all constituents of all ages in all socio-economic groups, wherever they are. At its peak, Instagram users uploaded Sandy-related pictures at a rate of 10/second. Facebook mentions of Sandy and Frankenstorm were up 1 million percent!


During a crisis, don’t try to control the conversation. Let people vent. Your job is to provide actionable info. Mike said 624 million customers worldwide are expected to engage with utilities by the end of 2017. You won’t have much trust if you create a social presence when a major issue happens. It has to already be there and ready. Even if a utility is doing a great job in a disaster, nobody will know without steady communication. Mike suggests developing a social engagement and resource strategy, then stress test it to make sure it’ll work during the real deal.


Altimeter Group’s Andrew Jones had a nice chat with us about the importance of social identities. Limited insight will only lead to messages and ads that lack context and make no sense. 57% of consumers are fine with providing personal info if they benefit and it’s used responsibly. 77% would trust business more if they explained how they’re using personal info to improve their online experience.


The benefits of compiling social identities include richer customer profiles, cross-channel engagements, efficiencies of marketing budgets, and social media ROI. It also lets you leverage influencers, identify prospects, reach custom audiences, find lookalike audiences, nurture leads, personalize products, gain real time insight, retain and reactivate, reward loyalty, and tap advocates. Gee, is that all?


Oracle OpenWorld WizardThen it was on to Rahim’s super-casual chat about social data with BlueKai’s Molly Parr and Marriott Rewards’ Michelle Lapierre. Disparate data creates marketing complexity and lost revenue. If they can’t pull together all their data, marketers fail to target the right customers. Yet 82% of enterprise marketers have NO synchronized view of customer data. 58% say social data is important but 52% collect little to none of it.


Molly says data is fine, but the ability to activate on data is finer. Most data is tied to specific execution, but today it must be “unchained,” with focus shifting from campaigns to customers. Can multiple small vendors deliver that kind of unchained, actionable data across the enterprise? Michelle said that’s a tough way to go. It’s putting functionalities under one umbrella that makes more sense.


Thanks to all who attended our social and CX Central sessions at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld and for those who have virtually attended through this blog and @oraclesocial. But don’t leave now. Keep your eyes on these space as we continue to build the power of social listening and data into the newly upgraded Oracle Cloud.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial







Thursday Oct 02, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Wednesday

Oracle OpenWorld 2014It was Oracle Social Cloud’s busiest day yet at Oracle OpenWorld 2014, and here come the takeaways…conveniently packaged in a single post because you’re such a faithful Social Spotlight reader!


Faz Shoja-Assadi and Eran Cedar treated attendees to a peek at the Oracle Social Cloud roadmap and vision, explaining Oracle’s goal was to acquire best of breed companies, then unify and deliver one social relationship management platform that’s comprehensive, customer-centric and integrated. With 82.3% of CMO’s agreeing social impacts their business, it was and is a worthy goal.


Eran loves showing off our recent developments, like Custom Audiences, a paid media partnership program, Dynamic Link Tracking, a Mobile SRM, and Actionable Insights. But what fun is a roadmap if you can’t see what’s around the corner? Oracle Social Cloud customers can look forward to a new, modular user experience with a new calendar, Custom Analytics, user role dashboards, and a responsive design. Publishing will get simpler and more powerful; with more social networks, Quick Post, and content curation.


Oracle Social Cloud

And there’s the ongoing development of the newly announced Social Station and Social Intelligence Center, which lets customers show off their social activity at events (like we’re doing at OpenWorld) and at HQ. Integrations with BlueKai, Omniture, and Commerce are on the way. And lastly a Developer Platform will let customers extend Oracle Social Cloud to do what they need it to do via a variety of API’s.


Next, Oracle’s Angela Wells, Holly Spaeth of Polaris, Meghaan Blauvelt of Nestle and Michelle Lapierre of Marriott Rewards dealt with that pesky social ROI topic. Angela said 89% of brand leaders think measuring it is a priority, but only 49% can actually quantify its impact. 66% feel pressured to do so. The panel brought up the “Cost of Ignoring,” i.e. what will a brand lose by not doing social? Holly said since there’s not a clear direct path to the sale, brands should think about ROI in terms other than the sale. For instance, Polaris can save millions in warranty claims just by listening to customers, and that’s social ROI. Meghaan said the ROI of social and media is totally dependent on the quality and ROI of content. And Michelle said if you’re winning trust and preference, you’ve created ROI.


Our Erika Brookes chatted with Melissa Schreiber of FleishmanHillard and Chevrolet’s Jamie Barbour about “Superfans.” A top takeaway: there are differences between influencers and advocates. Advocates have more trust, are likely to recommend, share to help, have passion, and stick around. Influencers have huge followings and can get people to a brand, but from there, advocates are the ones who reinforce how great it is.


Oracle OpenWorld entertainmentThis kind of fandom has power, and value. Social users talking about Olympic athletes in Sochi not being able to get Chobani yogurt generated 380 million impressions and $70 million in unpaid media value. Jamie closed saying people are quite used to using social to tell their stories, and brands can offer bigger stages for them to do that.


Oracle’s Tara Roberts, and GM’s Rebecca Harris and Whitney Drake talked about how to create and operate “Global Command Centers.” GM’s has 16, count ‘em, 16 screens watching activity for their brands. In fact, it was listening on social that led to aluminum steering wheels being removed. They got pretty hot in the south. The panel’s advice was to start small, just start. Make each department’s role in the center clear. Have a “connector” to educate leadership on the tech needs. And be ready to adopt innovations.


Erika Brookes returned to hash out the changing roles in the C-Suite with Oracle Chief Customer Officer Jeb Dasteel; Kevin Bird, CMO of Buddhacom, and EVP Michael Farber of Booz, Allen & Hamilton. The gist was that the marketing and technology worlds are merging. Michael noted how we tend to add positions and not retire outdates ones. The org needs reimagining in anticipation of what platforms will be able to do in the future. His advice is communicate and don’t be so territorial. Jeb recommends the CIO be closely partnered with whatever Chief runs customer-centricity. His advice is to be a change agent and adopt a consultative approach. Kevin wondered aloud if there won’t be more joint C-level situations like Oracle’s co-CEO’s. His advice is to listen, be open to change, and be optimistic!


Oracle’s Tara Roberts and Kathryn Schotthoefer of Heavenspot presented on the effective use of social data. Tara put this wakeup call out there: 2/3 of digital info is created by consumers yet only 1% of the digital universe was actually analyzed in 2013. There’s so much to be learned. Kathryn said they use social data to find out what movie/TV fans are buzzing about. In the past, she’s been dubious but now believes Latent Semantic Analysis can work effectively, interpreting words that have different meanings depending on what community’s using it.


One more day to go! Let’s see what we learn tomorrow.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Wednesday Oct 01, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Tuesday

Oracle Social Intelligence CenterFew things are more gratifying than being at Oracle OpenWorld and having a big announcement to make. So imagine how gratified we were today to make TWO big announcements about the Oracle Social Cloud.


First, additional features were added to Social Station, the customizable workspace within the Oracle Social Cloud platform. Joining Custom Analytics and the Enhanced Calendar will be the Social Intelligence Center with its real-time data visualizations around geography, topic/theme, influencers, volume, and sentiment. The new Content Curation module helps you quickly find content on topics or for a certain social channels and react within Social Station. The Quick Post module streamlines publishing by letting you create posts alongside other modules. Lastly, the Social Media Mixer aggregates social data from multiple channels into one real-time visualization.


Next, we were proud to announce to all these Oracle fans in SF the release of Social Commerce. Building on the existing integration between Oracle Social Cloud and Oracle Commerce, hyper-targeted content can be delivered to segmented Facebook audiences thanks to insights about digital shopping behavior, resulting in better experiences, better relationships, and more conversions.


For those not yet familiar with the Oracle Social Cloud, Oracle’s Meg Bear, Reggie Bradford and Rahim Fazal gave a “Sky High Overview” with some compelling facts along the way. Gartner says the percentage of customers whose purchase behavior will be dictated by social and digital interactions is 80%. In 2 years, Gartner says 90% of companies expect to be competing almost entirely on the basis of customer experience. With that going on, just look at how marketing’s influence has expanded across business functions.


Marketing across the Enterprise


Forrester says we make 500 billion impressions on each other about products and services every year, so your social management platform becomes a critical tool. Differentiators of the Oracle Social Cloud include: a unified platform with modern configurable UI/UX, deeper precision listening, global social resources, and integration with CX apps and beyond.


You also don’t need a social platform that’s not really into innovation. In addition to Social Station and Social Commerce, the Oracle Social Cloud recently executed on a paid media partnership, SRM mobile, LinkedIn support, advanced global listening, and Dynamic Link Tracking.


The roundtable focused on how rapidly organizations, and the roles in them, are changing. Reggie said they’re starved for time and having to do more with less, so a global platform with integrated components addresses that. Today’s CMO must be embedded in science, data, tech, analytics. It’s not just art like it used to be. As for CIO’s, the smart ones will figure out how to bring their expertise in a way that moves innovation forward, and will see security and protecting the company become a growing emphasis of the position. We encourage you to watch the full interview Reggie did with GM on how social is driving their customer experience that was featured in the session.


And of course, Larry Ellison took to the OpenWorld stage once again, this time to personally conduct a live demo of the upgraded 2014 Oracle Cloud platform. Frankly, he looked like he was having a ball, a sentiment the social chatter backed up. The root of Ellison’s presentation was that everything on top of the platform, and even that YOU build on the platform, automatically inherits the modernizing characteristics of the Oracle Cloud, including social and mobile.


Larry EllisonEllison showed how with a push of a button, data and applications can be moved from on-premise into the cloud (and back if desired). Oracle can access all of your data sources, structured and unstructured, because the Oracle Cloud was designed on hundreds of standards. And while Ellison pointed out Oracle has not historically been known for ease of use or low cost, the company is focused on just that…made possible with automation.


As you can tell, a lot goes on here. In trying to come up with a next-best-thing-to-being-there offering, we’re doing extensive coverage on our Twitter handle @oraclesocial, doing these daily summary blogs, and you can check out our Twitter Waterfall on our Facebook Page. We’ll keep the knowledge coming.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Tuesday Sep 30, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Monday

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd

Day 2 of Oracle OpenWorld 2014, and there were so many takeaways for social practitioners that there’s not even room for a long opening paragraph.


The day began with a Keynote and a “wheel of customers” hosted by CEO Mark Hurd. Mark pointed out 87% of orgs are using a public cloud, and it’s projected by 2020, 1/3 of all data will reside in clouds. Yet most enterprises are still working off 20-year old legacy applications with over 80% of IT being spent on maintenance. The message: you must modernize to survive.


Walgreens CIO Tim Theriault said seamless integration from Oracle should help them leverage technology, even as IT budgets go down (falling IT budgets was a common theme today). Jamie Miller of GE said Oracle will solve the hard problems in ways we can’t even imagine today. Procter & Gamble uses Oracle to service 4 billion customers per day! Steve Little of Xerox said they have 145,000 employees and about 10,000 contractors, with no single visibility into all that because they’re on 150 HR systems worldwide! Naturally they’re moving toward one global platform. Intel’s Kim Stevenson spoke much truth when she said every industry is in a disruptive state, and she doesn’t know a business leader that thinks IT moves too fast. She asked Mark to make sure Oracle keeps innovating and driving these business transformations.


Oracle OpenWorldOracle Social’s Phil Sykes moderated a session on social for retail. IDC’s Miya Knights said their research shows consumers with 5+ devices are more willing to share data with retailers, but brands must treat that data with respect. Customers are learning how valuable it is. She reminded us many use social for info on how to better use products they already have. Kristina Console of Method says they need social sites to function as commerce sites, which is why they have great interest in Twitter’s “buy now” button. They’re big on Pinterest, offering incentives there, using it to remind customers the company is green, and wrapping products in imagery that conveys feelings, thus yielding amazing engagement.


But…ROI and measurement is still the tough nut that needs cracking. Miya said social listening is an absolute prerequisite for ROI, while Kristina said even if you get huge engagement, proving what happens after it is the hard part. Oracle’s Gary Kirschner aimed for the endgame: every aspect of the customer experience being variable in real time based on customer data.


Our own Angela Wells joined Tom Cernaik of Command Post and Katie Gulas of BBVA Compass Bank to discuss social for financial services. Angela kicked things off by saying the customer journey is no funnel. It’s a figure-8 loop including brand interactions during both purchases and ownership. Katie said social touches several parts of her bank; HR, Corporate Communications, Marketing, Web, and Service. And don’t think banks can’t do social contests. BBVA did one that generated valuable one-on-one interactions with small business leads. She does suggest using a contest vendor, keeping it simple, and anticipating questions though. Tom’s advice was around those fun-filled regulations. For instance you can share 3rd party content via a disclosure banner or an interstitial disclosure. Social is subject to the same rules that apply to traditional media. You should establish documented policies and procedures, train reps on their responsibilities, and disclose & disclaim. And you should have governance based on clear signals from the C-Suite, which must be involved in social processes and policies.


Social Media Customer Journey

Then manufacturers got their social advice from the likes of Oracle’s Bill Hobbib, Marshall Powell, and Polaris Industries’ Holly Spaeth. Bill conveyed that if a loyal customer engages, they’d like some recognition for it. Giving them dynamically personalized content will lead to more conversions. Holly actually did tell a good social ROI story. Their existing social listening tool wasn’t cutting it, so what Oracle Social Cloud offered was a way to eliminate irrelevant signals. Sounds simple, but it saved them 20-30 hours a week at $70 an hour. Money in the bank.


And of course, Oracle OpenWorld attendees continue to fill the Social Intelligence Center, where they’ve been able to see for themselves how we’re applying social listening to OpenWorld itself. Much more tomorrow!


@mikestiles @oraclesocial


Monday Sep 29, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Sunday

Once again, the streets of San Francisco have been bannered Oracle red, Howard street has been turned into an outdoor convention space, and every high-thinking, forward looking technologist has made their way to Oracle OpenWorld 2014.


The Oracle Social Cloud team spent the day fine tuning the Social Intelligence Center, located at CX Central on the 2nd floor of Moscone West. Here, attendees can see the Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) platform in action, especially where the ability to listen to social activity around a topic or big event (such as OpenWorld) is concerned. If you’re here, be sure and stop by. But even if you’re not, we’ll be reporting many of our findings, so be sure to follow @oraclesocial.


We first heard an address by Renee James of Intel, in which she made the highly retweeted statements that half of enterprises will operate in public/private hybrid cloud modes, that the private cloud is actually growing faster than public clouds, and that the cost point of private clouds is growing competitive with public clouds. Oracle and Intel are good partners, highlighted primarily by the new chip that was co-developed for Exalytics in-memory.


The main event, as always, was Larry Ellison taking the stage. This year, his message was all about the cloud and the culmination of a mission that began 30 years ago. A major upgrade to the Oracle Cloud platform in 2014 has brought us to a place where you can move any Oracle database from your data center to the cloud, with the push of a button, and without changing a line of code. Plus Oracle is the only cloud that gives customers the choice of moving it back to on-premise. This facilitates the public/private hybrid today’s developers are seeking.


How does social play into all this? Well, that’s the point. Social now plays into all this. The foundation of the Oracle Cloud is the Oracle database. On top of that sits 4 critical services that modernize the apps you build on it; multi-tenancy, memory, mobile, and social capability. In this way, all of the Oracle suites on the platform, CX, ERP, and HCM, are social-enabled. Remember how often we’ve talked about the social-enabled enterprise in this space?


As Ellison said, building all this wasn’t easy. If were easy, almost every other Software-as-a-Service provider wouldn’t be running on…Oracle. There are 49 SaaS and Data-as-a-Service products around social campaigns, 36 of them new.


A lot was accomplished in 2014. A lot. But there is still much work to do. Ellison pointed out that regarding the infrastructure, there’s got to be an emphasis on securing data. He says we have some clever ways of doing that. And there has to be an ongoing focus on reliability always being on the rise, and costs always being kept in check.


Keep your eye here for daily blog updates from Oracle OpenWorld 2014, and don’t forget to watch the activity on @oraclesocial.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial



Friday Sep 26, 2014

Why Oracle OpenWorld is for CMO’s and Marketers

social media marketing at OpenWorldThis year, as we head into Oracle’s biggest event of the year, Oracle OpenWorld 2014, social is a more prominent theme and topic of discussion then ever before. It’s been awhile now since the dawn of the consumer empowering social media revolution. The focus now is on developing and applying the power of technology to meet the new customer expectations in order to win and keep their business.


When social first entered the corporate picture, it was regarded largely as a novelty. Arms were folded across the C-Suite as businesses went into wait-and-see mode. Rebels and pioneers launched a brand presence on social. Interns and believers went about posting and building communities. It grew apparent that consumers actually wanted to be connected to brands as well as their friends and family.


But what did this mean? Was this a new way to get the brand’s ads in front of customers and prospects? The great “misunderstanding of social” movement began. Over time, we learned how consumers used social, why they used social, and what they wanted from the brands they voluntarily connected with on social. It wasn’t to be the recipient of a marketing megaphone. It was to build one-on-one relationships with brands that would lead to higher satisfaction. They wanted to feel special and valuable to their brands.


The tools (on top of the social networks themselves) and processes to actually facilitate such attentive, satisfying, one-on-one relationships have become the concern of a now fully invested C-suite; CMO’s with broader responsibilities, new creatures like Chief Digital Officers, Chief Experience Officers, and Chief Content Officers. Social has steered the dialogue to customer experiences and customer-centricity, which is what you’ll hear a great deal about at this year’s OpenWorld.


Frankly, from a tech perspective, not just anybody can pull this off. When you think of the integrated systems and platforms needed to:


  • Know the customer
  • Know their purchase & service history
  • Listen to what they’re experiencing in real time
  • Anticipate their needs
  • Reply to and resolve their problems in short order
  • Offer up relevant/usable content in exactly the right place at exactly the right time
  • Communicate on the right channel and the right device
  • Leverage satisfaction for customer advocacy & added marketing amplification


…you realize small players offering point solutions is a non-starter. That’s why CMO’s and marketers are finding Oracle OpenWorld more relevant to them than ever as they join their CIO and IT partners in attending. If customer experience and customer-centricity are indeed the name of the game today, such things as social marketing platforms, CRM, data, and the cloud must now be in the marketer’s curriculum.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial


Tuesday Sep 23, 2014

Why Isn’t Your Social Strategy Based on Mobile Users?

social media on mobileNo one is asking social marketers to make safe assumptions.  The shift to social media being consumed on mobile devices is here TODAY, and very real. But with many brands still in “catch-up” or “wait-and-see” mode regarding social, many existing strategies are based on the unsafe assumption social is still a desktop/laptop thing.


Comscore says we in the US spend 52% of our “digital time” on mobile apps. Mobile comprises 60% of digital media usage…a percentage that’s rising at a pretty rapid clip. Social, along with games and music, dominate mobile app usage, with Facebook the clear #1 for audience size and time spent.


When you drill down to how the individual social networks are predominantly engaged, 98% of the time US users spend with Instagram is on mobile. For Pinterest it’s 92%, Twitter 86%, and Facebook 68%. So taking these kinds of statistics into consideration, an aware social marketer would have no choice but to start thinking about social solely in terms of how it plays out for users on mobile.


Brands and advertisers start doing damage to their company when they comfortably jog far behind real changes in consumer behavior.


And here’s what that behavior looks like. There are more people in this world that own smartphones than own toothbrushes. 4 out of 5 consumers use them to shop. 52% of Americans use mobile for in-store research. 70% of mobile searches lead to online action within an hour. People that find you on mobile convert at almost 3x the rate as those that find you on desktop/laptop. Mobile offers the best use of hyper-local targeting and context marketing. Those using mobile are out and about, living their lives and ready to socially engage.


Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet report brought us some curious figures that illustrate a disconnect between where the public is spending their media time, and how much ad spend goes there. For instance, print usage is at 5% and dropping, yet the spend by advertisers comfortably jogging behind consumer behavior is 19%.


Looking at overall mobile ad market trends, however, things look like they’re heading in a reasonably right direction. BI Intelligence says it will grow the fastest amongst digital options, going over $32.6 billion in 2018 with social leading the way. eMarketer thinks mobile ad spend will surpass desktop PC advertising by 2016, then TV advertising by 2018, with Facebook controlling at least 71% of the mobile ad market.


The conclusion this brings us to is that here in September of 2014, a strategy centered on paid social mobile looks like the smartest play. The relationships you’re building with your customers on social, using the data they’re handing you via social + other enterprise data, with content served up at a time and place of high relevance, targeted and amplified with mobile ad options, is the increasingly obvious path to pursue.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

About

Get the latest changes and innovations to social technology platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube, and learn where social marketing trends are headed.

Connect With Us

Twitter