Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

Hackers, Trolls and Troublemakers

trollAs brands on the social stage, we’re going to encounter hackers, trolls and troublemakers. They aren’t pleasant, but they’re not fatal. Our philosophy: if you’re going to play in the sandbox you can expect to get some sand in your socks. You can’t immerse in the public without running into these irritants. What you can do is manage them.


Brand hacking incidents have been all too frequent and public. Naturally, your first line of defense is enterprise level technology security solutions that leave little to chance.

But as long as there’s a human that can be tricked out of info, there’ll be hacks. People trust online friends, so messages from them with malicious links get clicked. A social engineering experiment by a major manufacturing firm ended up with 17 out of 20 users with access to confidential data giving usernames and passwords to an intruder.

After putting top-notch tech security in place (don’t scrimp on that), defense #2 is due diligence. Make sure you use your moderation tools to detect suspicious characters in your community who aim to use you to victimize other fans. Educate users to increase the caution level (though most won’t exactly get excited about social safety lessons).

The social nets are doing what they can. Facebook stopped trying to play “whack-a-mole” and switched to an offensive strategy of cease & desist letters, lawsuits, and reverse engineering so the culprits can be found and arrested if warranted.

Social that works for everyone revolves around trust. For brands, it’s imperative to foster and preserve that trust to get continued engagement and for initiatives like sCommerce to flourish.


Not nearly as likable as Hobbits. They’re usually slightly anarchic, attention-starved agitators. They live to post inflammatory comments that get a rise out of you. Sure it might be a brand’s natural PR instinct to jump in with both feet, but the standard best practice is to ignore them, thus imposing the nightmare of insignificance.

Some trolls are more persistent than others. Many are willing to kick it up to bullying and abuse. Once they cross that line, you can report them and perhaps get them banned from the platform completely. Some, most notably in the UK, have even been arrested. All social networks have abuse policies. Facebook makes it especially easy to block, hide and unfriend.

The customer may always be right, but trolls are not your customers, so feel neither pain nor guilt for deleting their comments. The real art for brands is using common sense to differentiate between a troll on the attack and a genuinely dissatisfied customer.


They aren’t trolls, but they do things that make for a less than pleasant experience for others in your community. Chief among them are those who would use your brand to relentlessly self-promote. It’s tacky, desperate, and usually boring. A fan that uses your Page to solicit followers or push their link is ignoring the codes of social conduct.

So are all-out spammers. If I’m on my favorite cookie’s Page, I probably don’t want to “ask you how you lost 50 lbs. in 2 days just by chewing bamboo shoots.”

Varying language issues aside, literacy is always nice. A post that can be understood by the community adds value. We shouldn’t have to struggle to deduce what a commenter is trying to say. Nor should we have to decipher cryptic tweets filled with 8 hashtags and alien symbols.

Some comments may indeed be about your company but are a mile off-topic from the post they’re under. Yes, you should address their concern, but either answer in one quick post or take the issue offline. Don’t let people steer conversations into a ditch.

Your job as host and emcee of your brand’s Page is to create as positive an experience as you can, an environment that keeps fans coming back and leads to valuable engagement. Be firm with those who risk tainting your social turf.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Feb 22, 2013

Community Managers: What, Who, Where, Why

trophyWe recently presented VistaPrint’s Jeff Esposito with the Oracle Community Manager of the Year award. The trophy is tall and shiny so we think he liked it. We read Jeff’s CM wish list, but we thought it might also be a good time to further remove any mystery around the CM position. What is their true role? Who makes a good CM? Where do we find them? Why are they so critical?


CMs are the bridge, the conduit, the front lines, the therapists, the entertainers, the advocates, customer service, the curators, the moderators, the publishers, the ambassadors, the face, the spokesperson, the brand personality, (I could go on).

In short, this person IS your brand. Given the enormity of that, the way the CM position has traditionally been staffed and resourced has been stunningly ill advised. Businesses are realizing it’s not a role that can be squeezed in as “part” of someone’s duties.

If your brand is a show, your CM is the host. Don’t be shocked if sometime in the very near future, the CM goes from one of the lowest paid to one of the most coveted, highly recruited positions at a brand. Their innate talents of entertaining, informing and relationship building are largely intuitive and organic (I know, two words not in most corporate dictionaries).


So how do we recognize the best ones?

  • They believe in your brand and products. They see the value proposition and genuinely want to tell the world.
  • They’re autonomous. It’s 24/7, always on. Attempts to impose a punch clock environment show a lack of understanding of the job and won’t end well.
  • They’re agile. Social technologies and behaviors change fast and often.
  • They’re creative and consistent. You can’t start a social channel then vanish.
  • They know how to communicate short, clear, and visually.
  • They know their audience.
  • They’re smart enough not to use social for desperate, aggressive pitching.
  • They’re patient and have thick skins.
  • They recoil at corporate marketing-speak. They communicate as human beings.
  • They’re good listeners.
  • They cultivate go-to people internally so they can get fans the answers they need.


So with an order that tall, where do you find these amazing people? Here are some suggestions…some expected, some out-of-the-box.

  • For big brands, draft CMs at smaller brands. Dazzle them with your grasp of the importance of the position.
  • PR People - used to representing brands, used to coming up with attention-getting ideas.
  • Radio Personalities - go on the air for hours at a time daily, creating original, compelling content that attracts, builds and holds an audience. Sound familiar?
  • Your Biggest Fan - They deeply self-identify with your brand. Could there be a stronger fan-advocate?
  • Writers/Journalists – great at knowing their audience. Very little content was created without a writer first sitting down at a blank page and making it un-blank.
  • Political Managers - a CM is trying to win their brand top of mind awareness, “votes,” and serve their constituents.


Why is it more important than ever to secure the right CM? Brands now understand social is not about fan-collecting. It’s about productive engagement, which is driven by content and relationships. If you have successful connections and relationships on social, they were built by a CM not a faceless corporation.

Get the right person or people. Let them practice their art and win for you. Encourage them to be forthcoming about what fans are saying, good or bad. Resource them with tools that help maximize their time and capabilities. Then enjoy the rewards of being a brand that took the Community Manager role as seriously as it should be.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Feb 19, 2013

Has Google Plus Arrived at the Party?

discoWhen Google Plus launched in 2011, Facebook was situated as the public’s social network of choice, with Twitter 2nd on users’ minds. It was Circles instead of Groups, it was +1 instead of “Like,” there was this little thing called “Hangouts” that was fun to mess around with.

But largely, it was viewed as a competing social network, and one that frankly didn’t offer much beyond what was available on the reigning champs. Still, most insiders and analysts knew we weren’t seeing Google Plus’ endgame.

With Google’s search dominance and suite of widely adopted applications, it had a lot to eventually bring to the social party. Well, they may have arrived at that party…and at a time when the correlation between social and search is strengthening.

The renewed buzz around Google Plus arose out of the Global Web Index study showing G+ passing Twitter for the #2 spot behind Facebook. It has 343 million users, about 25% of global Internet users, although some critics claim users logging in for other Google products like YouTube or Gmail are being counted. Google denies this.

But that integration of Google Plus with sister products and the social/search connection are no doubt the platform’s big differentiators.


Google Plus can do hyper-local thanks to its merging of Google Maps and Google Local Business Pages. A widely shared Fast Company article says there’s now little preventing it from competing with services like Yelp.

It goes on to say Google’s apps, with Google Plus, can address communication and collaboration. Hangouts, already in use by no less than the White House and easily started through Gmail, are recorded and stored to yet another Google product, YouTube, for archiving, reference and search benefits. “Easy and integrated” is a likely key to any influx of Google Plus users.


Alex Hinojosa, VP of Media Operations for EMSI, lays it out. “Google favors anything posted on Google Plus.” That means if you post a link on Google Plus and a connection is logged in and searches your keyword, your post will get a great spot in their Google search results.

The BrightEdge 2013 Search Marketer Survey of brands shows marketers are well aware that social engagement, such as 5 billion Google +1’s a day (2012 Internet in numbers), affects search rankings. Over 80% of respondents say they’ll focus more on social to improve rank this year. Over 75% say optimizing for local search will be more important this year. Might Google Plus have something to contribute to those efforts?

When asked which social channels they’ll focus on in 2013, search marketers kept Facebook #1 at 86%, but Google Plus was 2nd at 68%. Your social relationship management platform should not only incorporate G+, but provide beyond-native analytics to surface the social content that drives engagement and thus, better search results.

How close is Google Plus to moving from “that other social network” to “critical component” at your organization?

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Feb 15, 2013

Oracle and Eloqua

Oracle EloquaWe’ve often written in this space about how CX is quickly becoming the focal point of enterprise strategy, fueled by the empowerment of the consumer by social.  The below is a combined post from Joe Payne, CEO of Eloqua, and Steve Miranda, EVP Application Development, Oracle.

As of last Friday, February 8, 2013, Oracle completed the acquisition of Eloqua, and Eloqua’s products will become a core component of the Oracle Marketing Cloud. The combination of our companies will accelerate the pace of the Modern Marketing revolution and enable Oracle and Eloqua customers to offer exceptional customer experiences. Read the whole press release announcing the acquisition.

This is an exciting milestone not just for our companies and employees, but more importantly, we’ll be able to deliver a variety of key benefits to our customers. By adding Eloqua’s best-in-class Modern Marketing platform to Oracle’s Customer Experience suite, marketers will be able to play a critical role in delivering an integrated and highly personalized customer experience.

Eloqua’s management and employees will join Oracle to help ensure continuity of Eloqua’s product development and customer relationships, and as we move forward, we plan to stay true to our conviction of driving successful revenue strategies for today’s leading businesses. Additionally, the open Eloqua platform will continue to support multiple CRM systems. Users will be able to maintain existing integrations without disruption, and keep business running as usual.

Oracle’s commitment to advancing its leadership in sales and marketing automation is expected to accelerate product development and an expanded Eloqua product suite. Oracle’s Big Data and Business Intelligence technology assets will deliver enhanced value to Eloqua’s product line. And by leveraging Oracle’s global footprint, this combination extends Eloqua’s reach to nearly every country in the world, all major vertical markets, and each of the Fortune 100 companies.

Oracle’s customers will benefit from having Eloqua’s leading marketing cloud solution as a part of the Oracle Cloud. By adding key modern marketing capabilities that will automate complex marketing processes across multiple channels, we expect Oracle customers will improve their business processes by more effectively targeting and nurturing prospects, yielding highly qualified sales leads at a lower cost.

The combination of Eloqua with Oracle is the beginning of a great new opportunity for prevailing businesses.

Tuesday Feb 12, 2013

Be Their Social Valentine: Go From Like to Love

RoseHappy Valentine’s Day (week)! Traditionally, it’s a time to drop lots of money on flowers and candy to express gratitude for the ones you love. If you’re fortunate, those people even love you back. For brands, this courtship plays itself out on social.

Getting a Facebook “Like” can be a heady experience for brand. You should be swept off your feet if a consumer willingly clicks that thumbs up button and publicly expresses a fondness for your product or service. But after that initial attraction, your fan is going to want the relationship to grow. Sadly, far too many brands are happy with “Like,” the cheap one-night stands of the social network world.

When a consumer Likes a brand, all they’re really saying is, “Okay, you caught my eye. I’m interested. Let’s see where this thing goes.” You, as the suitor, have to then either close the deal, or set the fan free to Like and build a satisfying relationship with someone else. Like is merely a first step.

From there, brands should be diligently focused on turning Likes into loves. Simply gathering fans and putting notches in your iPad for every conquest results in little more than empty bragging rights. It’s not going to get you what you really want out of a relationship with your customer.

To get that, you have to get engaged. Getting engaged, just as in the real world, means making an obvious, ongoing commitment to a relationship that’s going to last, that’s going to work, and that’s going to be healthy for both parties involved.

Think about what love does for us:

  • It makes us feel good about ourselves
  • We know the other person will be there for us
  • It gives us someone to do nice things for
  • It gives us someone who’ll be honest with us
  • It gives us someone to build a family with

The value proposition for brands to turn Like into love isn’t much different.

  • Fans make us feel good about our product  
  • As long as we don’t betray or neglect them, they’ll be there for us  
  • They give us someone to make happy  
  • They’ll be honest with us, even if what they’re telling us is difficult to hear  
  • They help us grow our family of fans

None of this is possible if you stop at Like. How do we move them from somewhat interested to head over heels? Easy. We love them back. As Glenn Close told us when she cooked Michael Douglas’ pet rabbit, people don’t like to be ignored.

When you love someone, you care about how they feel, you care about what they think, you spend time with them, you make them feel like they’re the most important person in the world to you. It’s human nature…we like people who like us. The minute your fans feel like they’re taken for granted and doing all the giving in the relationship, the magic is gone.

As the Dr. Phil of brands on social, we at Oracle Social are mastering the socially enabled enterprise, with technology tools that help brands and organizations listen to fans, get to know them intimately, solicit their opinion, and deepen the engagement that can create true brand love stories for the digital ages.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Feb 08, 2013

The Social Enterprise: Who's Going to Run This Thing?

Army HatFrom the primordial soup of Marketing where it nested, evolved and sprang forth, social for business has now found its legs and is expanding into new terrains such as Human Resources, Sales, Procurement, and Customer Service. So with social growing more expansive, the question arises, who in the socially enabled enterprise is going to run “social”?

A panel of experts addressed that very thing in a recent Social Media Today webinar. The impressive number of attendees illustrated how such internal relationships are on a lot of minds these days.

But while we obsess over internal structures and processes, one little fact often gets overlooked. The customer couldn’t care less. They’re defining how they want to engage, and they have no regard for your various departments. To them, the brand is the brand, and they want results when they reach out. Our job is to adapt.

Oracle VP of Product Strategy Erika Brookes says we can’t look at social as a marketing-only problem. It’s permeating every aspect of the CX, something that has to be acknowledged across the top. Leadership first has to be exposed to the problem, otherwise a shift in strategy or structure is a hard sell.

Frank Eliason, Director of Global Social Media at Citi, agrees we’re entering a more holistic, customer-first era the C-suite must recognize. Different departments have different cultures, so a great deal depends on a leader at the top instilling the customer-first culture. We have to get better at upward management so execs know the reality of the brand’s customer experience.

Customers First Culture Principal Carol Borghesi says the executive suite can’t be exempt from CX accountability. She points out that a) it’s hard to get them to admit they don’t know something, and b) they’re focused on details unrelated to customers, almost shielded from the customer’s voice. “They have to stick their noses in the dog dish.”

Brookes says marketers were the ones thinking through driving the value proposition across all channels, and we still see most budgets coming from the marketing side. But we’re also starting to see conversations between the CMO and CIO. The CMO is spending more on tech, taking advantage of disruptive consumer tech. Today we’re seeing marketing and IT working together in that effort.

Borghesi reminds us social didn’t invent customer feedback, it just cranked up the volume. Budgets must shift so the buyer’s experience matches what’s presented by marketing. You’ll get caught if it doesn’t. The dangerous gaps are in the relationships between silos. Every function in the company should understand the relationship between what they do and how it relates to customers.

Eliason says companies love to say they listen, but they don’t. We’re in a relationship-driven economy, and that should start well above Customer Service where it resides today.

Brookes suggests marketers and CX people look for base hits that tell the story about how experience affects brand loyalty. CMO tenures are getting longer thanks to platforms that show some measure of ROI. But to maximize data across the organization, marketers need IT and other enterprise functions.

The “who’s in charge” question will likely vary from company to company, but Brookes says social must connect with overall business strategy, which requires leadership across process, tech and content using external and internal collaboration.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Feb 05, 2013

The Community Manager Wish List

Jeff EspositoJeff Esposito of VistaPrint was the winner of our yearlong search for the Oracle Community Manager of the Year. Associated with Jeremiah Owyang’s Community Manager Appreciation Day, the award is intended to honor the frontline work being done by these social brand representatives and relationship-builders every day (including weekends and holidays). We asked Jeff to tell us what, from his perspective, might improve a CMs ability to hit homeruns for their brand. What follows are his thoughts:

There is no question that the role of a Community Manager is a unique one. Outside of working for Tony Soprano, I am not sure that there is a position where you need to take as much time trying to describe what you do to family and coworkers. I’ve given up trying to be eloquent and typically sum it up as, “I get paid to talk to people for a living.”

Despite the headache of trying to describe what I do, I can safely say that I have a rewarding job. Community management is something where no two days will ever be the same, you’re pushed each and every hour that you sit behind your desk, and you have responsibilities that exceed anything that might be on your business card.

For those of you in a community management role, you know that the job is not perfect. You often find yourself wanting more. It’s OK. I find myself in the same position every now and then (read often). These are the 5 things that always seem to stay at the top of my Community Manager wish list:

More Time 
There are 24 hours in any given day, and you have to sleep sometime. If you ask any Community Manager what their biggest problem is, you will more than likely hear something about wanting more time. I know that’s what I want. You’ll never have enough time in the day to keep up with all the trends or touch everyone that you want to that day. The best you can do is to manage what time you have effectively and prioritize all the things that you’re called upon to do.

Continuing Education 
We all remember school and how un-awesome it was. Sorry Mrs. Callendar. It’s not you, it’s me. While going back to school is not exactly at the top of my priority list, it is important to keep learning. This can be accomplished any number of ways, from brushing up on white papers to networking with a professional group like the Community Roundtable (you should be a member).

Much like time, we’ll likely never have all of the resources that we want. That said, it is important for Community Managers to push for tools that can make their jobs easier and help them deliver better results. If the answer is “no,” you shouldn’t throw in the towel. If there is a tool or membership that will enhance how you do your job, make a solid business case for it and show the value to the higher ups.

Good Friends 
There is a lot to be said about having a strong support network. For Community Managers, having friends who perform a similar role is vital for success. This is especially important when you hit a wall or need to bounce something off of someone. Plus they’re great to have even if you just need to vent a little bit.

Better Members 
While friends who are fellow CMs are good, a community wouldn’t be a community without great members. Maintaining the quality of those members and thus making sure the community is a pleasant, productive place to spend time is very much part of the job. So be thankful for the great community members you have, but keep coming up with ways to foster new super fans.


Friday Feb 01, 2013

Surprise! Social IS Mobile

Woman with phoneYou probably saw the headline in at least one place this past week, “Facebook is Now a Mobile Company.” Yes, in the grand tradition of the social space moving ahead at an unrelenting pace, our working concept of what “social” is must already change.

Many brands and enterprise organization still haven’t caught up to the old concept of social. Now here they are confronted with a fundamental shift in social technologies and how the public wants to use those technologies.

What does it mean that Facebook is now a mobile company?

First, it means the public is increasingly deciding they want to access social networks on mobile devices as opposed to desktop/laptop. 680 million people, 64.2% of Facebook’s users, are using it on phones. For the first time ever, more daily active users are going on Facebook via mobile than desktop.

One infographic nicely summarizes why mobile is where social networks, social marketers, and anyone invested in social data want to be. Users are researching products on mobile while they’re in a store. They’re searching for local info, then calling or visiting brick and mortars afterward. They’re buying things on tablet and smartphone.

So Facebook had/has two pressing tasks; improve the mobile experience so users stick around longer, and capitalize on the revenue growth potential mobile offers…without tainting that positive user experience.

Moving away from the one-size-fits-all HTML5, the network focused on app design for each mobile operating system to maximize speed and features. In a year, they went from fewer than 24 mobile app engineers to hundreds. On-campus classes are held on Droid and iOS mobile operating systems. Mobile traffic responded positively to the new focus.

Now for the revenue part. Mobile beats every other kind of Facebook advertising when it comes to engagement. Average CTRs on mobile News Feed ads hit 1.738% compared to 1.254% on desktop, while overall mobile CTRs went up 34% for the quarter. The power of a smooth-running app presenting relevant value to customers wherever they are helped Facebook’s mobile revenue go from 14% to 23% quarter to quarter.

Questions remain. Can Facebook pull in mobile ad network buyers and close the gap with Google, with its 57% share of the US mobile ad market according to eMarketer? Can they find the sweet spot of how many mobile News Feed ads users will tolerate? Will App Install Ads, now used by 20% of the top 100 grossing iOS apps, keep growing? And can Facebook excel at creating its own mobile-first experiences like Poke?

Let Facebook worry about that.

All you need to know is none of this would be happening if the public weren’t broadcasting their intentions to use social on mobile, where they’re more likely to reward your presence there with engagement.

Adjust your mobile strategy accordingly, and make sure you’ve got an integrated socially enabled enterprise system by your side to wow those mobile customers and maximize the data they’re offering you.

Photo: Ambro, freedigitalphotos.net


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