Tuesday Mar 12, 2013

The Social Enterprise at SXSW: Why Community Managers Need Data and Marketing Integration

Guest post from Roland Smart, Oracle VP of Social and Community Marketing:

AustinSouth by Southwest has evolved considerably over the last few years. As a hotbed of innovation, it’s still a premier showcase for confirmed and would-be futurists: earlier this week, attendees were treated to demos of new 3D printers, which will supposedly one day mass-produce electric vehicles, homes, and — according to some hopeful people we met — spaceships.

On a more terrestrial note, it’s been exciting to witness the increasing enterprise participation at SXSW. The programming certainly reflects this: this year’s schedule was packed with panels and workshops on social business design and social media measurement.

It goes without saying, but the best thing about SXSW is the people. Our time in Texas has included wonderful conversations with hundreds of community managers, developers, and marketing executives who are all dedicated to innovating on behalf of the social enterprise.

SXSW has given us a great opportunity to share Oracle's newest technologies and integrations, and we’ve been thrilled by the response so far to our vision for Social Relationship Management. Just as important, we’ve been fortunate to learn so much from our fellow SXSW attendees, many of whom are leaders in the brand, agency, vendor, and enterprise worlds.

While I don't have the space to list all of my SXSW findings, let me share one crucial social enterprise lesson that has popped up again and again here in Austin:

The power of your community manager is directly related to the power of your social analytics tools. Let me explain by way of some industry background:

Even just a few years ago, it was common to come across large enterprises that saw their community managers as the functional equivalents of customer service representatives. Now, though, the community manager often assumes a number of roles as needed.

For example, the community manager might aggregate customers' qualitative feedback in order to validate research done by product marketing teams. Or, in light of the relentless growth of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, they might serve as a kind of social data translator — someone who determines customer attitudes and preferences from a giant pile of status updates, tweets, and clicks.

For the social enterprise, defining such responsibilities for your community manager is only one part of the puzzle; the second part is actually equipping this person with the tools they need to carry out their job.

One case in point — earlier this week, I attended a great SXSW workshop entitled "The Community Manager: Enter the C-Suite." In this session, a number of community managers discussed how they had been charged with providing reports on brand sentiment as it was instantiated on social networks. However, in the absence of dependable tools, these community mangers struggled to distinguish real brand sentiment from social chaff. One attendee even related how they were once asked to painstakingly and manually calculate (really, invent) a random “sentiment score” for every tweet produced by their brand's followers.

The workshop also allowed me to hear more about the challenges that community managers face in valuing different activities across multiple social networks. I had an enlightening conversation with another attendee whose social marketing efforts are centered on a thriving Facebook Page and a growing collection of YouTube product how-to videos. For this community manager, top-line statistics included likes, organic shares of stories and status updates, clicks on Facebook Sponsored Stories, and unique video views.

Now, notice the many types of social metrics that this community manager must learn how to evaluate and compare:

  • Organic content versus paid advertising
  • Views and impressions versus person-to-person sharing
  • Short engagement paths (e.g., a click on a Sponsored Story leads immediately to an external landing page) versus longer engagement paths (e.g., repeat video views over an extended period of time ultimately lead to sign-ups and sales conversions).

Here's the upshot: For a community manager — for someone who often creates and/or delivers customer-facing content and is often responsible for assessing the efficacy of this content — it would be difficult if not impossible for them to measure, learn from, see the relationships between, and iterate against these social data if these data remain trapped within disparate platforms.

If one person likes your Facebook Page some time this month in order to gain access to your newest white paper; and then retweets one of your messages a week later; and then signs up for your email list three months later; and then buys your product or service after attending your webinar six months later…given that we know such enterprise conversion paths are common, the key question for you is this: Does your social enterprise solution allow you to track such critical activity — and on an end-to-end basis?

The people we've met and the conversations we've had at SXSW have inspired us to continue innovating across the entire universe of our social solutions. As my colleague John Nolt wrote on this blog last week, Oracle is already leading the way in offering the industry's first unified end-to-end social management solution for the enterprise through Oracle Social Relationship Management. That said, you should know we’re just getting started.


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