Friday Mar 06, 2015

Oracle Social Cloud and Brand Networks Partner, Discuss What’s Next in Social

Q: What do you get when you cross two of the biggest names in social media technology? 

A: An awesome customer experience.

A new partnership between Oracle Social Cloud and Brand Networks promises just that.

As of today, any organization using Oracle Social Cloud’s SRM tool to manage its social relationships has the opportunity to use Brand Networks' award-winning social advertising platform to boost paid social efforts. The integration of these two technologies offers improved efficiency and productivity for Oracle Social Cloud customers looking to test, learn and deliver results through paid social tactics.

We sat down with Brand Networks founder and CEO Jamie Tedford and Oracle Social Cloud’s Group Vice President Meg Bear to dive deep into the details of the new partnership—and to get a glimpse of where social media is headed.

This is an exciting opportunity for Oracle Social and Brand Networks. What will this joint venture mean for your customers?

Meg Bear, Oracle Social Cloud: It will enable Oracle Social Cloud customers to extend the reach and relevance of their content by leveraging this integration with the Brand Networks Platform to support their owned and earned content with paid media. This benefits marketers committed to working with best-of-class providers to maximize returns on their owned, earned and paid efforts. 

Jamie Tedford, Brand Networks: Absolutely. I would add that Brand Networks customers who are already using Oracle Social Cloud will find new opportunities for collaboration across teams. We are really proud of this partnership and excited to see customers on both platforms reap the value.

What is the “next big thing” in paid media? 

Meg Bear: I’ll let you take that one, Jamie. [Laughs.] I know Brand Networks is investing heavily in paid social R&D right now. Where do you think social advertising is headed?

Jamie Tedford: It’s no secret that paid social is changing the game. For the last decade, the best digital display advertisers could do was cookie prospects and hope the cookie stuck long enough to serve as a proxy for conversion down the funnel. The rise of the smartphone totally broke this system, because as users shopped across devices, their footprints all blended together. The power of social data has not only saved the day for advertisers—it’s also taken digital advertising into the future. 

The next big thing in paid media is emerging from that powerful social data; Facebook calls it people-based marketing. Today, 1.3 billion people are on Facebook. And Facebook knows all kinds of details about them. This goes way beyond the basic demographic information advertisers have traditionally relied on. Right now, advertisers are taking the personas they’re using to define their best customers and target ads to people who exhibit the exact same characteristics and behaviors. All this happens without compromising anonymity and personal privacy.

People-based marketing is amazingly powerful, and as Facebook and the other social channels continue to push this kind of capability out into the open web, like Facebook is doing with Atlas, we’re going to see a total transformation in the effectiveness and efficiency of digital marketing. With that kind of accuracy, I think the value of advertising will go up for advertisers, and, perhaps surprisingly, for consumers too.

Facebook is a major platform, but it’s not the only one. How much value can the other social networks (LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest) add to a company’s social strategy? What role will paid media play in this cross-platform strategy? 

Meg Bear: Beyond the obvious value of being able to reach unique audiences in each social channel, the basic tenet of integrated media -- that a strong cross-channel effort creates a tide that lifts all ships -- is proving true in social, too. As the opportunity to deliver cross-channel social marketing increases, so will the return for advertisers. Oracle of course, sees the opportunity for data to drive more personalized experiences across all customer interactions as being the final state. Social platforms are great examples of this explosion of data. In addition to mobile that Jamie covered.

Jamie Tedford: Well said, Meg.The Brand Networks Platform currently supports social advertising and content marketing on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but we are working with the other social channels in anticipation of further integration and added cross-platform support for our users. Our clients are finding sweet spots with unique audiences on each platform, and the platforms are all investing heavily in delivering more unique value to their advertisers. It's a win-win-win for the social channels, their advertisers, and the technology partners connecting the two. 

Wednesday Feb 25, 2015

Social Insights from the #LeadOnCA Watermark Conference

By Meg Bear, Group Vice President, Oracle Social Cloud Platform

Yesterday was an inspiring day of thoughtful discussion at the Lead On Silicon Valley Watermark Conference for Women. Over 5,000 people gathered to discuss the issues that matter the most to women in the workforce. I am proud that Oracle sponsored this fantastic event to support the development of women leaders.

Moderated by Cindy Solomon (@CindySolomon), I spoke with Juliet de Baubigny (@JulietDeb1), Jami McKeon and Rima Qureshi about how organizations create courageous innovation within the workforce.

These discussions didn’t just happen in person – they carried over to the digital realm as well. Using the Oracle Social Cloud Social Relationship Manager (SRM) platform, we learned that over 6.6 million people were reached yesterday via #LeadOnCA. Hillary Clinton was the most talked about speaker (1,922 mentions) and the main theme of the conference was “Women and Men” which encompassed messages about gender equality, and the glass ceiling.

Oracle Social Cloud SRM also provided real time social media visualization of #LeadOnCA commentary across social networks.

Oracle Social Cloud’s data visualization of social media posts about #LeadOnCA

As people posted about #LeadOnCA on social networks, our advanced listening technology filtered these into a beautiful visual displays throughout the conference. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and our expertise allows participants to see what people are talking about in real time.

I’d like to thank Watermark for putting on this event and for their mission to increase representation of women in leadership roles. It is exciting to think of what the future holds for empowered women.

Monday Feb 23, 2015

5 Emerging Themes for 21st Century Business

When you look at the nexus of forces impacting business today we can clearly see momentum building.  Each of the themes noted below is already happening, albeit at varying stages, in businesses across the globe. The continued innovation and speed of technology, coupled with the rise of millennials, will drive a tipping point in the next 12 to 36 months that will have a material impact to the business of business.

Cultural Change Will Be the Driver for Modern Business Success:
Change is hard. But as Richard Branson said in a recent blog, “A company that stands still will soon be forgotten.”  A recent study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40 percent of today’s F500 companies on the S&P will no longer exist in 10 years. A key reason why: reluctance to embrace change. Organizational structures and business models have to evolve for modern, 21st century business.  The rise of millennials entering the workforce is fueling the flames of change. The Hartford Financial Services Group estimates that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Accounting firm PwC pegs it much higher - nearly 80% by end of 2016. Our future is digital and collaborative. Organizations have to embrace technology innovation and encourage new ways of doing business across their consumer, employee and partner relationships. More often than not, it is culture that prohibits innovation because culture, well, it doesn’t like change. The CEO becomes not only a strategy and business execution leader but also a change agent.

Marketing “Technologists” Will Usher In Modern Business - Equally adept at marketing and technology, marketing technologists will become critically important to businesses, especially as customer experience, digital technologies, social business, and data take center stage. Perhaps more than any other function, marketing technologists will help spur innovation and digital transformation within their organizations. Look for new hires in this area, as digital natives and data scientists begin to flex their skills for the benefit of the bottom line. The rise of CTOs reflects the importance of technology and data skills.

Data-Driven Customer Interactions Emerge: The prime directive of marketing is to build deep and lasting relationships with customers to ultimately drive top-line growth.  To do this effectively in the digital era a marketer needs to understand the impact of every customer interaction.  While the amount of digital data available today is greater than it has ever been, the number of different technologies that are currently employed to interact with customers has grown out of control. Today’s reality is that we have actually moved further away from our goal of deep understanding. Disparate data systems and the inability to easily tie offline and online actions together has made attribution and data management too challenging for most organizations. As we progress to the next generation of these modern customer experience systems, we are going to finally solve this complex problem, bringing traditionally “siloed” technologies—marketing, social, service, commerce, third-party data—to an integrated and unified customer profile.  Collaborative efforts within the enterprise—across people, processes and technology—are driving major changes, while modern cloud-based systems with API driven architectures are creating platforms that are finally able to talk to each other effectively. The moment we have all been waiting for, the convergence of cloud, integration technology and digital tracking, is finally here.  Look for the continued integrations of consumer-facing technologies to merge for more data-driven and complete customer experience solutions. This is going to have great impact on top-line growth as well as customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

User Experience Leads Technology Adoption and Innovation: User experience will continue to be a critical requirement for enterprise software adoption.  Consumers today have high expectations from their technologies, as they are accustomed to modern, engaging, personalized and intuitive experiences. Those expectations don’t change at the workplace. Millennials will demand it. Customers will require it.  And thanks to the cloud enterprise software providers we will finally be able deliver modern, innovative and elegant user experiences. No longer will long enterprise software upgrades get in the way of investment in user experience. The cloud allows vendors to deliver at the pace of change that we all have grown to expect.

People Centric Business: As businesses grow more customer centric, organizations will begin to expand relationships across the entire value chain to include their employees and partners. Engaged, valued and empowered employees will help drive customer-centric objectives and overall better business outcomes. As IDC’s Mary Wardley stated in a recent report on Customer Experience, “Customers are obviously at the center of CX. But the company’s employees are just as important, if not more so, as they are in the direct flow of delivering the customer experience. Employees are the advocates and evangelists for the company.”  The rising millennial generation is all about engagement, interaction and collaboration. They expect it. Listening, understanding and engaging all your people collectively is the future. People centric business is modern business.

Wednesday Feb 18, 2015

Oracle Social Joins Facebook Marketer Partner Program

Oracle Social Cloud is proud to announce it has joined the Facebook Marketing Partner program. We are committed to making your social marketing easier, simpler, and more complete through constant innovation and responsive customer service. Put simply, your success is our success.

Working with major platforms like Facebook allow us to stay ahead of the digital marketing game through innovation and real time analytics. For example, General Motors uses Oracle Social Cloud to improve their customer’s experience and in turn, increase revenue. Rebecca Harris, GM’s Global Social Media Strategist, said, “from an engagement and sentiment perspective... we can help with the corporate reputation. If we scale this globally, we can sell more cars.” Watch the whole interview here.

The Facebook Marketing Partner program redesign will make it easier for companies to find partners that align with their goals. Instead of four separate badges for “pages,” “apps,” “ads,” and “insights,” businesses will be granted one badge that signifies they have demonstrated excellence in one or more specialty areas. To read more about the new Facebook Marketer Partner program, click here. We look forward to being a part of Facebook’s growing partner ecosystem. 

We’re also innovating behind the scenes, as well. The recent acquisitions of Datalogix and Blue Kai allow our customers to have access to comprehensive, global and integrated digital marketing and business solutions. Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Customer Experience (CX) solutions have been beefed up significantly with the addition of these data powerhouses.

Last month, Oracle Social Cloud was rated the highest in SiriusDecisions’ latest social media intelligence report. “The solution [Oracle Social Cloud] is robust and capable of operating in globally dispersed organizations that require monitoring in multiple languages.” You can view the full report here.

Oracle Social Cloud was also ranked #12 on the CRM 2015 Watchlist. In a year that had 153 submissions and was “tougher than ever to win,” Oracle Social Cloud has a “social presence [that] is by far greater than any other company I tracked,” said Paul Greenberg of Companies are ranked by market “impact,” which is loosely defined as the size of your corporate footprint. Do other companies see you as competition? Do customers think of you a solution to their problem? Is the press talking about you? If so, you’ve got “impact.”

Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc.

Tuesday Feb 17, 2015

Converting Likes to Profits: How Polaris Harnesses the Power of Social

[UPDATE: You can hear more from Polaris and Holly Spaeth at the annual SXSW Conference in Austin. Holly will be speaking on the panel, "When Quickies Aren't Satisfying: Loyalty on Social," taking place Friday, March 13 from 5-6pm at the Radisson Hotel (111 Cesar Chavez and Congress) in the Riverside Ballroom.  In fact, you can join Oracle, Polaris, General Motors and many more brands and thought leaders during Oracle's SXSW event all day Friday at the Radisson.] 

How does a company convert "likes" into dollars? Most businesses are acutely aware of the importance of social marketing for customer service and brand awareness. As this recent McKinsey report shows, businesses understand the importance of social tools but are still struggling to maximize their potential. A recent Forrester report showed that a majority of businesses aren’t leveraging social listening to uncover actionable business insights.

There are, however, some companies that are ahead of the curve and using social to enable key parts of their business from marketing to service to commerce to research and development. Minnesota-based Polaris, maker of riding machines like snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles, and an Oracle Social customer, is one such innovative company.  

The winning design for the Pink Ribbon Riders Campaign

“Polaris is a customer-centric organization—we believe deeply in putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” said Holly Spaeth, Manager of Interactive Media and Content at Polaris Industries. “Social is a central part to customer centricity, as it’s an arena where we can listen, learn and engage directly with our passionate fan base to make customer- and data-driven business decisions.”

At Polaris, social listening and engagement got into full swing in early 2012.  In fact, it was a simple t-shirt campaign that showed the Polaris executives how listening and learning from social communities could benefit their business.

The company had launched a brand-new Victory logo and wanted to generate awareness during the annual Sturgis Rally, including creating a new t-shirt design campaign. They had an agency design three concepts and asked their Facebook fans to vote on their favorite. Surprisingly, instead of a focus on voting, the fans overwhelming disapproved of the t-shirt designs. Consumers said the t-shirts didn’t “feel” like the Victory brand. They offered suggestions, including how to better showcase the Victory logo.  Polaris took the feedback and redesigned a new t-shirt that garnered fan praise, as well as strong awareness at the Sturgis event.

“It was just feedback on a t-shirt but it showed us the power of engaging and learning from our customers. We now apply that simple concept to marketing campaigns, product colors, accessories and even new product design. Social insights are being shared across the company and making a positive business impact regularly.” 

In early 2014, when Polaris was developing a color scheme for the new Victory Gunner motorcycle, they went straight to social and let the fans decide.

“We are quite literally co-creating with our customers, seeking their input and knowledge around likes, dislikes, wants and desires,” said Spaeth. “And they get inspired and passionate about being heard—especially around product and accessory colors. Color plays a big role and is an ongoing and important theme across our social channels.”

In late 2012, Polaris started seeing social conversations and themes around the term “pink.”  The conversations were correlating around breast cancer, Pink Ribbon Riders, and an interest in pink-styled designed snowmobiles.

“When the pink themes and conversations started across social we began to take notice. We continued to listen and monitor the increasing volume and positive sentiment and realized there was something there.”

But before actually executing on an idea, Polaris tested “pink” during the annual “snowcheck period,” a six-week period where consumers could pre-order custom sleds in select colors, and this time pink was offered. “Pink correlated and resulted in strong sales. So although ‘pink’ went against the traditional grain, we followed the data and connected with our R&D team to create something bigger around this idea of pink,” said Spaeth.

What Polaris created was more than a new product idea; they tied the “pink” theme around a charity campaign and sponsorship with the Pink Ribbon Riders, an organization dedicated to help women and men with breast cancer. 

“We executed a consumer-generated snowmobile custom design to support the Pink Ribbon Riders. Social insights were helping make decisions on a new charity partner, as well as a consumer-focused and engaging campaign.”

In the spring of 2014, Polaris launched its Pink Ribbon Rider Wrap campaign on Facebook, where consumers generated the designs and voted on the winner. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the Pink Ribbon Riders. Thousands of social fans participated but it was Cassandra from St. Paul, MN that had the winning design.

“The reaction to the entire Pink Ribbon Riders Wrap campaign was tremendous, including a strong interest with our dealers and partners,” Spaeth added. 

“We recap our social and digital insights weekly across departments and, together with other customer data, use it as a guide to make better business decisions for marketing to services to sales to product development. And Product Development is always interested in what our social fans are saying to help with everything from product naming, design, color, accessories and more.” 

Wednesday Feb 11, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on Marketing & CX

Perhaps no other business role has more to gain – and lose – in the ever-important world of customer experience (CX) than today’s marketer. Customer centricity and CX have become the leading strategic focus across almost every business around the globe. And yet there’s still no clear-cut winner on who owns customer experience. What is clear, however, is that marketing and its numerous customer touch points has the greatest opportunity to take the strategic wheel with today’s empowered, digital, social and mobile consumer.

Gartner analyst Laura McLellan cited 10 “proof points” on why customer experience is the next big thing. The proof points include compelling statistics including Gartner research showing that last year the top marketing technology investment was customer experience; and the No. 1 innovation project for 2015 will be CX.  McLellan also references Oracle research that reveals 93% of business executives say that improving CX is one of the top three priorities for the next two years, with 97% stating, “CX is critical to success.”

With all this CX imperative talk you’d think businesses and marketers would be feeling confident in their CX development. You’d be wrong.  According to a recent Advertising Age article, many CEOs and CMOs feel their progress is lacking. Why? It’s not an easy process. It requires transforming your business models to put the customer at the center of every single thing you do, understanding and engaging them at all touch points, across both their offline and online worlds. As McLellan says, “It’s a huge change-management process.” And one she believes the CMO has the prime opportunity to seize and lead.

Oracle’s Thomas Kurian understands the CX imperative and the heavy weight on marketers to lead it. Having a consistent cross-channel view of customers with the ability to reach, engage, understand, segment, target and automate in an effective way is a major undertaking. But it is one Oracle has dedicated years of resources and time towards.   “We are the only ones in the industry that can actually solve these problems.” He goes on to say how Oracle is helping the marketer develop a “cross-channel identity graph” so marketers can know their users across all their channels and touch points. “The fact that we have this unified view of people, across all these channels, fundamentally transforms the power of marketing tools.” You can hear more from Kurian in this video.

“The core of CX, and what we are building it for, is to enable our customers to successfully disrupt business models and become leaders in their industries,” said Kurian.

In a business environment where the majority of CEOs and CMOs put CX at the top of their priorities, that’s a good thing for Oracle and its partners. 

This is just one entry in a series of blog videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers.  

Wednesday Feb 04, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on the Importance of User Experience in Enterprise Software

When is the last time you read documentation about your iPhone?” That’s the rhetorical question asked by Oracle President Thomas Kurian in this latest video emphasizing the importance of user experience in today’s enterprise software. His quick answer of course: “Never.” Usability and user experience isn’t new for enterprise software providers; it’s just increasingly becoming a requirement and a differentiator. The proverbial bar has been raised.

Consumers today have high expectations from their personal technologies, as they are accustomed to modern, personalized and intuitive experiences. Those expectations don’t change at the workplace. And with the rise of millennials entering the workforce, user experience becomes even more critical.  The Hartford Financial Services Group estimates that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Accounting firm PwC sees it much higher, pegging it at close to 80% by end of 2016.

As Kurian states, Oracle has undergone years of extensive usability testing to create a reimagined and redesigned experience with the user in mind. It’s a transformation that focuses on applications that are simple, easy, intuitive, and optimized for the different devices people use today. It’s a fundamental change across the portfolio of Oracle applications.

The Company’s #UX imperative can be seen on display with Oracle Social Cloud’s SRM workstation called “Social Station,” launched last year. The news of Social Station was covered by several outlets, including ZDNet and The Hub, and the overall tone applauded the development and focus on user experiences and interfaces that are simple, easy to use and deliver value. In fact, Omar Akhthar, senior editor at The Hub, stated the following: “Oracle has an opportunity to prove its value by making sure it keeps its user-interface simple and highlighting its ease-of-use compared to other social media management tools.”

The focus of simplicity brings to mind a quote by Albert Einstein that certainly rings true on this subject:  “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” Design and development of UX/UI isn't easy; but it's an absolute priority. 

Enterprise software will need to catch up with the consumer-grade level of #UX… starting now.  

Wednesday Jan 28, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on the Role of Today’s CIO in Cloud & Business Transformation

Expectations of business-driven IT are higher than ever and changing rapidly.  Words like agility, mobility, digital, data, cloud and customer centricity are common and constant from Line of Business (LOBs) executives like CMOs. Today’s business must move at the pace of – scratch that – ahead of the pace of today’s consumer. Businesses must anticipate customers’ needs to be truly customer-centric organizations.  Innovation through the cloud is a big force driving customer experience and customer centricity.

Here’s another word of importance: collaboration.  And collaboration is essential to make a successful business-led technology transformation. Today’s CIO will play a pivotal role in crafting that collaboration between IT and business leaders. Unfortunately, the process hasn’t taken root just yet.

According to a recent ZDNet article, research shows that confidence and collaboration between LOBs and IT is not strong. The article cites a new CIO Magazine survey showing that 54% of business leaders view IT “as an obstacle to their mission.” Forrester research shows that less than half of marketing managers collaborate with IT when developing a technology strategy. And our Oracle study revealed that less than 1/3 of marketing and IT executives surveyed reported collaborating “frequently,” while at the same time noting greater success when they do collaborate.

Kurian believes the CIO will play a pivotal role with collaboration, cloud and business transformation. In this video he states “cloud actually empowers CIOs to take the lead with innovation.” He goes on to say that today’s CIO role is not diminished just different, requiring a new business mindset. The CIO is very much essential to this new digital, customer-centric business revolution.

ZDNet reporter Dion Hinchcliffe had some great insights on the future role of CIOs: “The CIO should have – or should quickly ascertain – a better sense of how to translate the current business into today’s emerging digital marketplaces and channels. And yes, that means knowing more about how to apply digital to various parts of the enterprise than line of business executives. Relentless education and experimentation is required here to be successful. The CIO should be the visionary and evangelist that can get business – from the management team to the workforce – fully on board with digital business.”

Cloud is the future of business transformation; CIOs will play a key role. As Kurian says, CIOs are extremely important to their executives and businesses, and the cloud empowers them to take the lead.  The best CIOs in the industry are beginning to grasp that and train their staff to become experts in cloud technologies. For more on cloud innovation, read Oracle CEO Mark Hurd's recent piece on how cloud is revolutionizing business in four key areas.

This is just one entry in a series of blog videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers.

Tuesday Jan 20, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on CX, Data & Innovation

Keys to any successful customer engagement and customer experience (CX) program are strategy, integration and data. In our video blog series with Oracle President Thomas Kurian we continue with his insights on Oracle’s commitment to CX and how developing a strategic and innovative CX portfolio that is enriched with data will be Oracle’s differentiator.

Recently noted in an AdExchanger article, Oracle’s focus on data and data integration is no secret, especially with its acquisition of BlueKai in February of 2014 and the more recently announced acquisition of Datalogix. The holy grail of any marketer and business is a complete understanding of your customers and prospects across their online and offline worlds for better engagement and targeting. Oracle’s CX strategy includes integration across CX applications like marketing, service, sales, commerce and social; and enriching those applications with data so businesses have a unified view of people across all the many channels and platforms they access daily.

“Data is a fundamental differentiator… All applications, over time, can become vastly better if they are enriched with data,” noted Kurian in the video.

He also talks about the transition that cloud and CX innovation has had within Oracle. Today, Oracle is leading by partnering with customers to develop modern software that is innovative, integrated and delivers great user experiences. “Look at Oracle in 2007 and look at it in 2014, night and day different as a company.”

This is just one video in a series of videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers. 

Wednesday Jan 14, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on Customer Experience

We recently sat down with Oracle’s newly appointed president of product development, Thomas Kurian, for a discussion on technology, today’s empowered consumer and how a modern customer experience is transforming the way businesses must interact and engage with their customers.

 “Customer Experience” or #CX has become a highly cited industry buzzword for good reason—it’s the major competitive battleground for most every company. Digital, social, mobile and cloud has empowered consumers and completely turned the traditional business to consumer relationship on its head. In fact, Gartner researcher Laura McLellan predicts that in only two short years 90% of companies expect to compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience. Not price. Not product. Customer experience. That is causing business disruption globally.

But with every major disruption comes incredible opportunities to reimagine business operations, customer engagements and relationships. In this short video, Kurian explains today’s changes and how Oracle’s commitment to CX is helping businesses transform to succeed.

This is just one video in a series of videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience in today’s enterprise software. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers.

Tuesday Jan 06, 2015

The Diversity Cure: How Startups Are The Key

By Reggie Bradford and Horace Williams

(Originally posted on Reggie Bradford is senior vice president, product development, Oracle; and Horace Williams is director, user experience design at Oracle Social Cloud.)                                                                         

It’s clear that diversity in the workplace is more important than ever—crucial, perhaps. Workplace diversity reinforces how people from different backgrounds can communicate and cooperate, with common purpose and good will.

We wanted to craft a column, based on personal experience, about an effective way to create a diverse workplace. In particular, we’d like to show how startups benefit from a proactive strategy to enlist a wide variety of talent and experience.

We’ve been colleagues and friends for several years. The startup company where we first worked together, Vitrue, was acquired in 2012 by Oracle, where we now work together.

At Vitrue, we created a successful—and much-needed—workforce diversity program. A poll we took before we embarked on our effort established the extent of the problem: less than 20% of the workforce was non-white-male (including senior management, which was all white male). Right before the company was acquired, an eyeball scan of Vitrue’s open floor plan would have put that number closer to 50%, with minorities and women represented on the senior management team.

Here are several important lessons learned, and key takeaways, from our experience.

**There is a strong comfort level when different people work together.

This may seem counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom that people are more comfortable with their peers. But, in fact, a kinship develops within a diverse workforce, a feeling of family. It’s inviting. It’s energizing. It fosters an atmosphere of social responsibility and higher purpose. And it contributes to job satisfaction and company loyalty.

** The key to prioritizing diversity is awareness (also humility).

Vitrue was headquartered in Atlanta, which bills itself as “the city too busy to hate.” African Americans represent about a third of the population of the city, yet were under-represented at Vitrue, particularly in management.  A literal “awakening” on the part of the founder and CEO (Reggie) to the “sameness” of his executive staff set off the diversity imperative in his head. Then, it took humility for the CEO to approach a colleague representing a minority (Horace) to ask for advice and help.

** The natural byproduct of hiring diverse managers is diverse staff.

This may be the most important takeaway, and it encapsulates the approach we took to fostering diversity. It wasn’t a mandated, hard-structured program, deliberately so. Such a forced-march strategy might work for some companies, particularly in the short-term, but there’s a big potential downside to it: resentment.

Instead, we decided to build out our workforce organically, by approaching managers representing minority groups for their recommendations on new hires. It’s a matter of propinquity. Minorities, racial, sexual or otherwise, have access to the communities they associate with, and are the best ambassadors to them. That “trusted network” approach then builds on itself, literally “growing” a diverse workforce.

Let’s be clear: We’re not recommending that poor performers be approached to help in hiring just because they represent minority groups—quite the opposite. The “trusted network” applies in terms of performance, in the sense that high-performing managers will seek out the highest performing candidates from their communities.

** If you don’t put this into practice early, it’s hard to fix later.

And this is why a startup, short on history but long on seeking the best talent, provides a good platform for establishing an inclusive organization and work environment.

Diversity is not just a “soft” culture sell. Entrepreneurs should take note of the “hard” ROI diversity can provide.

1) The earth is flat. If you plan to go global with your startup, you need a workforce who will embrace and exploit that geographic, multi-cultural challenge. And you have to go global with your startup.

2) Diversity opens new markets you might never have heard of otherwise. At Vitrue, which offered cloud-based social marketing tools (now a part of Oracle’s Social Cloud), we were tipped to a potential client that was marketing to a minority group on Facebook—by a minority manager who was being marketed to.

3) Ensuring diversity means that you’re committed to the best talent. Take a simple example: language. Native speakers can help broaden your company’s reach in all areas of business: sales, marketing, support, development, strategy, etc.

It’s not hard to calculate that the advantages diversity offers—talent, vision, and opportunity—extend all the way up the workforce ladder. Indeed, the insight and experiences women and minorities bring to the table are must-haves at the executive table.

As well it suggests, for those individuals and organizations that provide support for entrepreneurs, diversity should be a strong factor in their decision-making. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case. A new study concludes that female- and minority-run startups “are significantly less likely to raise venture capital or private equity funding than their white male counterparts.”

It’s worth noting that an industry group, the National Venture Capital Association, announced it was establishing a “Diversity Task Force” to explore ways to increase opportunities for women and minorities as entrepreneurs and in venture capital.

It remains to be seen what impact a task force will have on such an insular society. But the effort does point out one important element of a diversity strategy: You have to want it. If you treat diversity as a novelty, you won’t prioritize it and do what needs to be done to make it succeed.

Which is another reason why entrepreneurs might be our best hope here: the good ones are smart enough to know how to make things happen. Diversity is a goal that rewards—and deserves—that kind of effort.

Tuesday Dec 23, 2014

Oracle Social Cloud Ranks Highest in SiriusDecisions’ Latest Industry Report

It is widely known that third-party validation is the most influential and important. We couldn’t agree more. So we are thrilled that Oracle Social Cloud has come out on top in SiriusDecisions’ latest report on social media intelligence, “SiriusView: Social Media Intelligence 2015”.

SiriusDecisions, the leading global B2B research and advisory firm, examined many social media intelligence (SMI) platforms and ranked each according to key areas like Functionality, Features, User Experience, Vision and more. Oracle Social Cloud scored highest with an overall 11.2 score, highlighting specific strengths and differentiators in the areas of Global Focus, Functionality, Vision and Vendor Strength. You can access the full report here.

Social media is an essential part of an organization’s operations today. And it’s not just marketing, as social insights and engagement opportunities extend to sales, service, product development and even HR. With the vast and growing social web, and explosion of social and digital conversations, organizations today need social media listening and monitoring solutions that can automate and scale the social data and intelligence process.

Below are some highlights from the report about the Oracle Social Cloud offering.

  • “Oracle Social provides users with robust functionality, including monitoring more than 40 million social media channels, blogs and web sites, and its semantic API allows users to analyze unstructured data.”
  • “Oracle is moving aggressively to expand the [global] functionality and footprint of SRM and SE&M. A large part of this strategy is making both monitoring and user interface in a growing number of languages.”
  • “[Vision] Oracle continues to pursue an active acquisition strategy to enhance its Marketing and Social Cloud offerings.”
  • “[Vendor Strength] With enhanced capabilities and integrations planed for SE&M and an increased focus on Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle’s market standing, experience and strong partnerships reinforce its standing in the SMI space.”
  • “Large enterprises that are currently Oracle customers can benefit from the native integration with Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Commerce Cloud and future integrations with Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Sales Cloud.”
  • “Oracle has a feature-rich tool suite targeted at large, international companies with complex SMI needs, including a need for localization.”

Friday Dec 19, 2014

3 Ways Social Media Can Grow Your B2B Business

By Pat Ma, Product Marketing Director, Oracle Social Cloud

Did you know that 83% of B2B marketers invest in social media to increase brand awareness? And 69% use social to increase web traffic while 65% use it to gain industry insights? Additionally, a whopping 91% use social media for promotion and awareness during events. Social is definitely a B2B thing.

Traditionally a B2C play, B2B businesses are increasingly seeing the value in social for business, particularly with the rise of B2B-specific social networks like LinkedIn, Slideshare, and Glassdoor. Furthermore, B2B companies understand that their buyers are using consumer social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These buyers are influenced by the content they see on these sites. 78% of B2B buyers and 84% of VPs and C-level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions.[1] B2B companies must incorporate social media into their business strategy in order to stay relevant with their customers and grow their businesses.

In working with B2B customers on their social media strategy and execution, we see three prominent use cases for using social media. B2B companies use social media to increase thought leadership, drive brand awareness, and discover competitive insights.

Increase Thought Leadership

B2B companies want to be perceived as thought leaders in their industries. They do this by producing and publishing content that helps establish their expertise in a particular field. This content can come in many forms, including white papers, webinars, executive bylines, infographics and much more. Companies create thought leadership content and use social media to distribute it.

For example, an identity management company uses social media as a vehicle to publish thought leadership content, leveraging Oracle Social Cloud capabilities. They publish engaging articles about their industry, offer tips about corporate identity management, promote their presence at industry events, and showcase industry awards they have won. They do all this to show their thought leadership in the identity management industry.

Drive Brand Awareness

B2B companies use social media channels to increase and drive their brand awareness. B2B companies are already using web, email, and mobile to communicate their message to customers. Now companies are adding social media channels to help distribute their content and drive brand awareness.

For example, a document processing company uses social media to plan and launch multichannel campaigns across the web, email, mobile, and social using Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Social Cloud. Their content consists of thought leadership pieces, job postings, company awards, event promotions, employee recognition, and photos from company events. The goal of these activities is to generate brand awareness, which aids sales of their services. Social media helps this company get additional reach for content they have already created.

Discover Competitive Insights

B2B companies use social media to conduct competitive research. Specifically, companies use social listening software tools to monitor conversations on social networks, spot potential threats, see industry trends, get brand and industry insights, and use those insights to optimize their marketing and business growth strategies.

For example, an enterprise software company uses social listening to monitor industry buzz. They track competitors, when those competitors launch products, and press sentiment on competitive product reviews. When the company is ready to launch new products, they use social listening and analytics to get insights on market conditions and whether the new product will sell or not. When executives join or leave the company, they want to know where the story breaks, how fast the story is spreading, and if the story is affecting their stock price. B2B companies should harvest and analyze public social conversations for competitive research that fuels data-driven business decisions.

Although there are many more, these are the three most popular use cases we see for B2B companies using social media to grow their business. Through strategic use of social media, B2B companies are increasing their thought leadership, driving brand awareness, and discovering competitive insights.

How are you using social media to grow your B2B business? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. And check out our latest
Oracle Social Cloud video on B2B social media.

[1] DC, “Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience,” 2014.

Friday Dec 12, 2014

Five Big Ideas for Becoming a Customer Centric Organization

Customers have changed

The reality is that life on this planet is changing. It’s more connected, more empowered and more impatient. We are all part of this change and the pace of acceleration is giving Moore’s law a run for its money. Rights and privileges once taken are never returned. While digital music might have been a disappointment for Neil Young, it still disrupted analog distribution because the consumer wanted music to be more portable and more readily available. We might long with nostalgia for turn tables and record stores, but we are not giving up our iPhone/iPod any time soon. Time to face the music, the nature of being a customer has changed, and by extension, business has changed.

What it means to serve a customer, who is changing out from under you, becomes an exercise in business model agility. The most critical success criterion for business agility is clarity of vision. When you understand how your customer shapes your market, the business tactics become very clear and the organizational complexities become less confused (note: I never said easy). Customer centricity is a CEO and Board level discussion because it is directly tied to business strategy.

Here are five best practices I’ve seen with companies taking a more modern approach to their business.

1) Listen more than you talk – What is true in life, is even more so with customer relationships. You are way more likeable if you listen first and talk second. You have more useful things to say and you are [generally] less annoying. In the era of 24-hour news cycles and social media, this is hard. Technology can help but only if you let it. It is possible to get big and small insights but you need a structural way to leverage them. Too often I see customers listening and only leveraging a subset of the insights, because the group in charge of technology is tied to a single business function. Building an organization that is intellectually curious, that seeks understanding, and respects the wisdom of the crowds, even when [especially when] it is unpleasant, unclear and unvarnished.

2) Employee Engagement matters – Customer centricity requires every part of the organization to participate as it’s the mission critical. Organizations that don’t invest in their employees are going to experience breakdowns. Engaging the employees first, so that they can reflect your brand vision, is the most critical investment you can make. Sharing with your employees your vision, your plans and how you are listening to your customers, makes them better equipped to support your mission.

3) A dose of humility is a good thing – This bit is probably the most controversial but also the most powerful. As power shifts so does the value of humility. Instead of shouting out what’s so great about your product or your company, how about talking about your customers and what is great about them? How about making the customer the hero of your product story, not the product itself. This kind of thinking opens up whole new opportunities on how you service, promote and build products. How you think about the sales lead funnel and how you see market opportunity. Humility. It’s really a big idea. What this does is open up opportunities for vulnerability and transparency. It allows you to share things that didn’t work so great and show how you are trying to improve. It suggests you could be imperfect and it leaves room for the customer to step up and advise and support your company. Hint: They already are pretty clear on where you need to improve anyway.

4) Trade control for co-creation – Since we already have acknowledged that control is no longer an option for business, how about opening up to the idea of Co-creation. Modern companies are leveraging customer feedback at the large and small scale, to help prevent problems, improve outcomes and even take new products to market. The opportunity to leverage the community to help you serve them better, is a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone. Today the best examples of this are often based on serendipity, but I am hopeful for a day where this becomes the norm and not the exception. As an innovator, I see this as very exciting to create better products more quickly, leveraging the value of the network.

5) Review your KPIs – Now that you know there are new business opportunities available to you in this era of Customer Centricity – you need to think about how to drive this strategy to operational effect. Examine your key performance indicators (KPIs). Are they optimized for alignment to your business objective of customer centricity? Are you able to measure the real top and bottom line impact of putting the customer first? Are you capturing the evidence that helps you build lasting value for your business? It’s time to make sure you’re investing in the right things to make your business grow, and we all know we can’t manage what we don’t measure.

The business of business is getting more complex every day, but so are the innovations. Letting your customers become part of your competitive advantage is how you will win.

Tuesday Dec 09, 2014

Celebrating Social Campaigns with Michelle Lapierre of Marriott Rewards

Have you checked out the best and brightest in marketing? The recent Global Markie Awards honored excellence in marketing across a whole range of marketing categories. We are so happy that Marriott Rewards, an Oracle Social Cloud customer, won the Markie award for Best Social Campaign. The category was based on: 1) Effective use of social marketing as a strategy to build brand awareness or turn customers and prospects into advocates; 2) Social media used in new and interesting ways or as the centerpiece of a successful new program; and 3) Seized social media opportunities and generated proven results.

So we connected with Michelle Lapierre, Senior Director, Customer Experience and Social Media at Marriott Rewards, to hear about this award-winning campaign and what Marriott Rewards is doing next on social.

Oracle Social: Congratulations on recently winning a Markie Award for Best Social Campaign! Before we dive into the campaign specifics, can you describe your organization’s overall social media strategy? How has that strategy evolved?

Michelle: Marriott Rewards joined Facebook in December 2011 and quickly grew to be the largest and most engaged hotel loyalty brand on Facebook ( The continuing mission of Marriott Rewards is to engage target audiences around the world through social media channels in a consistent, authentic and meaningful way. The Marriott Rewards social media philosophy is to keep life at the center of the story, not hotels or programs or deals. We believe that our Facebook fans are not only our fans, but they are a diverse community of travelers, dreamers and storytellers. We see our social media channels as an outlet for their stories, not just our own.

Through an emphasis on compassionate and authentic community management and content development, we seek to engage, inspire and keep our Facebook friends coming back to the page on a regular basis. As such, we engage in extended conversations with our Facebook friends and listen to what they have to say, not just when they’re angry with us, but for all the reasons friends speak with each other.

Oracle Social: Can you tell us more about your award-winning campaign?

Michelle: The “30 Beds In 30 Days” sweepstakes was the second Facebook promotion in which Marriott Rewards gave away 30 Marriott Beds to 30 Facebook fans in 30 days. It’s great how much people love these beds! The sweepstakes was hosted on a Facebook enabled microsite, which was responsively designed for desktop, mobile and tablet users. It also lived on the Marriott Rewards Facebook page as a tab. As with the 2012 sweepstakes, it was co-sponsored by partners and the Marriott Rewards Credit Card by Chase.

Oracle Social: What were your goals for this campaign?

Michelle: Our primary goal was to increase fan acquisition and engagement on Facebook and also to drive traffic to partner sites like Chase Marriott Rewards Credit Card and Secondarily, we hoped to drive enrollments into the Marriott Rewards program.

Oracle Social: Clearly, this campaign was successful – not just for the award you won, but for the connections you strengthened with your Fans and Rewards numbers. Can you tell us about the results of this campaign?

Michelle: The 2013 “30 Beds in 30 Days” sweepstakes surpassed the results of the 2012 campaign in virtually every way, including Facebook fan acquisition, Rewards program enrollments, and traffic to our partners websites ( and the Marriott Rewards Credit Card by Chase).

The “30 Beds in 30 Days” sweepstakes increased our Share of Voice compared to our competitors during the campaign. It also generated more positive sentiment around the program in general outside of the contest. According to Oracle Social Cloud’s sentiment analysis, mentions of the Marriott Rewards program and the campaign outside of Marriott channels with a clearly defined sentiment ran 90% positive during the 30 Beds campaign.

Oracle Social: It was great to follow along with this campaign on your Marriott Rewards Facebook page. How did the campaign get started?

Michelle: The original idea actually came from a fan raving about our beds on the Marriott Rewards Facebook page. Our Marriott Rewards Facebook community is an extremely engaged group of fans. Since the idea for the “30 Beds in 30 Days” sweepstakes came from a Facebook fan, we decided to host the sweepstakes through Facebook. It was a perfect opportunity to thank the fans for their engagement, and give them the opportunity to engage with the brand every day on Facebook during the promotion, since fans could enter every day.

Oracle Social: That campaign was a great success. We’re happy for everyone who won a bed, and everyone who was more exposed to Marriott Rewards through this campaign. So what’s next for Marriott Rewards on social? We are followers of Marriott Rewards’ new Twitter handle: @MarriottRewards. What are your plans for that?

Michelle: It’s true – we are on Twitter now! We hope everyone reading this starts following us on Twitter, too. We know that Twitter is another great way for us to connect with our customers and hear their stories. We have also used it as a great way to get out news – like did you check out #SayHiToWifi? One of our first tweets from the new handle announced the news that Marriott Rewards members will receive free in-room WiFi. And, my best advice is to stay connected – something very fun is coming soon! 

Michelle Lapierre

Senior Director, Customer Experience and Social Media

Marriott Rewards, Marriott International 


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