Tuesday Dec 15, 2015

10 Ways To Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates

This article was written by Oracle’s VP of eCommerce and Social Bill Hobbib. It originally appeared in ForbesBrandVoice.


Every company says it wants to be “customer-centric” and deliver great “customer experience,” but only a handful are able to turn their customers into brand advocates.


Roughly defined, such advocates are not only willing but eager to say great things about a brand or defend it without any incentive. Studies show that brand advocates spend twice as much with a company as regular customers do and have five times the lifetime value. Yet 77% of customers still say they have no relationship with a brand, indicating that companies are leaving a lot of business on the table.

Companies serious about improving their customers’ experiences and boosting brand loyalty must do their own analyses to determine the root causes of the disconnect and the gaps to be filled. To assist you in mapping out a plan, here are five basic “Inside Out” steps and five “Outside In” steps to consider.


To read more, click here:

Tuesday Dec 08, 2015

Practical Tips To Conquer Content Marketing Challenges



As part of our ongoing conversation about content marketing, we reached out to Jeffrey L. Cohen (@jeffreylcohen) a marketer, strategist, author, speaker and blogger with a 20-plus year career in business to business (B2B) marketing. He is the director of content strategy at the Oracle Marketing Cloud; coauthor of The B2B Social Media Book, which has been translated into Italian, Korean and Vietnamese; and is the co-founder and managing editor of SocialMediaB2B.com, the leading online resource for social media’s impact on business to business marketing. Jeff spoke with Maggie Schneider Huston, Oracle Social Cloud’s Senior Content Manager, about overcoming content marketing challenges. 


Maggie Schneider Huston: How do you set a content marketing strategy? What factors should a business consider? Take me through it step-by-step.


Jeff Cohen: A content marketing strategy is not that different from creating a marketing strategy. It all starts with your audience. The more you understand about who you are trying to reach, the easier it is to create this strategy. Many B2B companies already have detailed personas as part of their marketing, and these come in very handy when crafting your content marketing.


The next thing to focus on is the message. Again, it sounds like marketing, but in a content marketing world this may be driven by the platforms your audience frequents or the kinds of content they consume. A consumer company with millennial customers would create a way to tell their ongoing brand story with images on Instagram, and a B2B company might provide helpful business articles on their blog or LinkedIn.


Once your prospects or customers become aware of your content, what action would you like them to take? This is where content marketing begins to stray from a traditional marketing approach. The point is to get some sort of engagement from your audience, where they take some action that shows an affinity with your brand or its ideas. In the examples above, the brand on Instagram is looking for more than likes or even comments, but shares or even their audience sharing their own images. The B2B company entices their prospects with a call-to-action on every blog post, offering a more extensive piece of content, like an ebook or white paper, in exchange for contact information.


And the last part of this simple content marketing strategy is how you measure success. These goals must align with your business, so you can talk about success in the same terms as others in your organization, especially executives. Don’t tout your ebook downloads when everyone else focuses on marketing-qualified leads. Don’t boast about likes when the business goals are about sales. These metrics should be agreed upon beforehand, so you will know if your content marketing efforts are meeting company goals.


MSH: How do you convince the C-suite that this matters? Do you ever face resistance?


JC: The main philosophy behind content marketing is that you provide something of value to your prospects and customers to build trust and ensure retention and advocacy. The C-suite understands that customers now hold the power in the relationship and this is the new way to build it. Cold-calling, product-focused marketing and pure brand-awareness advertising are no longer the means to success in business.


If you encounter resistance from executives in taking this approach, you can start by piloting something small. Pick a product, or persona, or market and create helpful content. Make sure you agree on what success looks like from the start, and you have enough time to generate those results.


And remember, it may not just be executives who resist this idea. Other marketing colleagues may also expect you to fail. Using content marketing is a cultural mindset, and not all businesses are ready for it.


MSH: Where do marketers frequently make mistakes in content marketing?


JC: One of the biggest content marketing mistakes is when marketers don’t put themselves in the minds of their prospects. This causes them to create content about their products. Prospects don’t care about your products. They care about solutions to their own business problems. If your content doesn’t address that, they will not care about it.


Another mistake is focusing on the wrong metrics. It is critical for brands to build their own audiences that are separate from their social channels, for example, an email list, but that is not a goal. That is a means to the end. The goals need to relate to leads and sales, and in the same way others in the company talk about these results.


MSH: How do you manage content across different platforms? How do you stay organized?


JC: The core of our content approach is based on the ebooks we release. We use the editorial calendar within Oracle Content Marketing to show the publication dates and the associated blog posts of these pieces, as well as content offerings from other teams. We also provide links to production schedules, PDFs and associated artwork from within the calendar for more detail. Everyone in our marketing organization has access to this calendar, so they can create their own plans for other channels based on our new content.


Thursday Dec 03, 2015

Infographic: The State of Social In The USA

What does the social media landscape look like in the United States? Pew Research just released a new report outlining the portrait of social media users. 

Tuesday Nov 24, 2015

The Secret Behind Sapporo Breweries' Social Success

Look at these numbers. 


Don’t you want them?

Here’s the secret behind Sapporo Breweries’ success on social media: 

Monday Sep 28, 2015

Ditto Integrates with Oracle Social Cloud


If a customer posts a picture of themselves with your product, but doesn’t tag you in the caption, does the post really exist?


For example, let’s say I bought my mom a pink Polaris snowmobile. (She lives in Minnesota.) My mom loves her gift so much that she posts a picture of herself with it and comments, “I love my new pink snowmobile! I have the greatest daughter ever!”


This is exactly the kind of content that marketers dream about. But if you don’t have “visual listening,” you won’t be able to capture it.


This is why we’ve integrated Ditto Labs, a leading image recognition company, into our Social Media Mixer. Ditto is capable of filtering through the muck of social media posts to find images (like your logo, or a competitor’s logo) even if there is no textual “tag” on the content. When displayed on the Social Media Mixer, a data visualization module, you can clearly see all of the social content in a single real-time view.


Using Ditto Labs and Oracle Social Cloud, my mom’s post about her new pink snowmobile would reach Polaris.


Here’s what Ditto's technology captures: 


Here's how it will look to our customers, like Polaris:

This is just our first step in image listening capabilities, so stay tuned for more visual listening and functionality in the near future. 

Thursday Aug 27, 2015

Tumblr Joins Expanding Lineup of Social Properties Supported by Oracle Social’s SRM Platform

Big news: Tumblr is joining Oracle Social’s SRM Platform! 




Tumblr is much more than your average micro-blogging site. In today's image-focused, socially driven environment, Tumblr is gaining in importance with brands. As our partner NBC Sports noted in AdWeek, "Tumblr is a visually rich, social-friendly platform" that they found a "perfect" place for SuperBowl content. According to Tumblr, there are 251.8 million blogs publishing 80 million posts in 16 different languages PER DAY on Tumblr. Unlike other social media websites, you aren’t limited by the format of your content; you can post text, photos, links, music, or videos to your blog. By integrating Tumblr into Oracle Social’s SRM, our customers have a tremendous opportunity to expand their brands into new markets and engage with customers in new ways, all through one platform.


What This Means


Publish: You will be able to add and manage Tumblr accounts from the same page as your other social media channels.

You’ll be able to create posts in the same manner as any other social network. This will make your social media manager’s life better, as it will be easier to create consistent posts across your social profiles.





Analyze: You’ll also be able to analyze your content to determine how well it is performing - not just on the Tumblr site, but compared to your other social media platforms as well.




For example, if you decided to run a “Summer Fun” social media campaign across your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Tumblr accounts, you can monitor the performance of those posts using the SRM.




This unique capability will allow you to see the entire picture of your social media campaigns - not just your performance on individual posts.


Although we have that too.




With the addition of Tumblr to the SRM lineup, Oracle Social Cloud now supports eight social platforms (with more coming soon): Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Youtube, Weibo, and Tumblr. According to eMarketer, by the end of 2015, almost 1/3 of the global population will be using a social media website regularly - and the SRM will make it easier for you to reach these people through one integrated platform.


For more information on how to add Tumblr to your account, click here.


Wednesday Apr 29, 2015

Social Media Case Study: Head Case Designs


Doug White, CMO, Ecell Global

It’s all fun and games to talk about social marketing strategy, but when push comes to shove, we learn the most from real life experience. We spoke to Douglas White, the CMO of Ecell Global (which owns and operates Head Case Designs) about what works for them in social media marketing.

Who Is Head Case Designs?



They create personalized cases for your mobile device. Founded in 2005 in England, the company has over 350 employees around the world, with a strong presence in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan. According to their website, “Head Case is the global leader in custom mobile case designs, with more than 3 million product offerings shipped to the hippest cats worldwide.”



Up until a year ago, their cases were sold exclusively on eBay and Amazon. They decided they needed to establish a direct-to-consumer selling strategy, and that’s when their social media marketing kicked into high gear.

Social Strategy - Marketing and Selling

Most importantly, Head Case Designs knows their customers. They primarily serve 18-24yr old millennials, with 75% of their customers under the age of 30. They skew female. These people are cool. They’re unique. They don’t want what everyone else has - they want to stand out. They view their phones as an extension of their brand identity.


Building off of that knowledge, Head Case Designs created a brand personality that is “someone you would want to hang out with at a party,” says White. “We’re friendly, jokey. Not too serious.”

Developing their brand identity and tone guided their hiring decisions as well, White adds. They’ve hired three new people who mirror their clientele and have experience cultivating a following in their personal life.

With these fundamentals in place, they’re creating content that is specifically tailored to their customers. White says “we used to post photos of the front and back of cases, but that was not engaging. You’ve got to make sure your products are presented in a way that consumers can relate to it. People need to be able to see themselves using it.” They started posting photos of the phone cases on desks, with jewelry and papers strewn about. This type of content created a new level of customer engagement and support.



Social Strategy - Customer Experience

There’s something special about being able to say “I made that.” Head Case customers are proud of what they have created and they want to share it. Head Case uses the Oracle Social SRM Media Mixer tool to create their “Cool Case Wall” on Facebook. White adds, “It only took 30 minutes for us to set it up. We search #headcase and #headcasedesigns, find the good photos and then add it to the wall. Then we direct message the people who posted it and say, ‘Hey, thanks for posting that great picture of your Head Case, we’ve highlighted it on our Cool Case Wall, go check it out.’ And then they feel closer to the brand.”



Customers also need to know that their concerns are being heard as well. “Social is the place where we need to engage the consumer,” says White. Head Case prioritizes responsiveness on all platforms because they know that “if one customer complains on social, you’ve lost 10,000 customers. Social has shifted the power from the brand to the consumer.”

Best Practices

The first thing White said was, “We’re learning our social strategies every day.” That’s not to say that they’re amateurs; rather, it means that Head Case maintains a “beginner’s mindset” every day. A beginner is unbiased and open to new ideas. They’re creative. They think differently. Keeping a fresh perspective allows you to create fresh and original content, which is what resonates with customers.



Of course, not everything is going to be a winner. Head Case has set up specialized analytics dashboards within Oracle Social’s SRM to analyze what content is doing well on each platform. “We would prefer to grow our fan base slowly and stay engaged,” says White. “Wouldn’t it be better to have a small number [of fans] that is engaged and sees everything you post, than a big number that never hears your message?”

White also mentioned “proactive marketing,” a relatively new strategy that utilizes Oracle’s listening capabilities to capture when a customer is having a problem with a competitor. For example, if someone posts “ugh my case just broke again!” this message would be flagged for Head Case’s team to reach out and say, “Hey, we hear you’re having a problem, how about you try us for a discount?” This strategy also has the added benefits of creating a metric that will show directly how social media drives the bottom line.

Conclusion

“Social marketing is built to break rules and operate quickly,” says White. Check them out on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Google+ to follow their social progress in real time.

Monday Mar 09, 2015

Going Beyond Big Data: A Conversation with Tara Roberts

By Rowena Toguchi and Maggie Schneider Huston


March is Influencer month on the Oracle Social Spotlight blog! Today’s influencer is data guru Tara Roberts, Vice President of Oracle Data Cloud.

Oracle Social: How would you define “big data”? Isn't it less about "big" data and more about the "small" data that provides data-driven business insights and actions?  


Tara Roberts: Big data is meaningless unless businesses have a way to 1) extract important signals from the noise and 2) have the ability to “act on” those insights to target, personalize and measure every customer interaction. The companies who win are the ones who are able to uniquely predict their customers’ desires and intentions and to personalize, plan and react before their competitors can. The answer is to “know more” with unique data insights, not just access to big data – which, as a standalone is more of a business challenge than an opportunity.


What is the greatest misconception about “big data?”


I would say one of the biggest misconceptions is to say that “big data” is only relevant to IT organizations.  The whole concept of Data as a Service is to shift that thinking to data intelligence being a competitive driver for the entire business across sales, marketing and customer intelligence. Some of the most successful companies rely on data-driven decisions and our mission is to provide the largest set of enterprise-ready data assets and services to power smarter actions everywhere. The key is to make this data accessible (without the need of IT implementation) and actionable (through direct integration with applications and platforms.) Everyone in the board room should be involved in the “big data” discussion as a way to differentiate – not just for IT.  


Data is used for a variety of business objectives - developing customer profiles, personalization, targeting, product development, product enhancements, etc. Where do you see data growing in importance the most during the next 12 to 18 months? Is it with marketing technology?  


I definitely see the use of data growing beyond just influencing the marketing interaction. Data is the unifying thread that will help companies connect every customer touchpoint and it’s critical that there is a common way to ensure consistent and meaningful interactions across the entire customer journey. One of the biggest challenges that we address is the ability to identify customers and prospects across any channel and any device. It means having the ability to stitch together IDs across offline (addresses) to known online (email), to anonymous online (cookies) to mobile (mobile ID). Creating that linkage in the form of an audience graph is a top initiative for the Oracle Data Cloud. 


Let's talk social. Social data is unique as it reveals intents - a person's likes, dislikes, desires, wants, etc.  How is Oracle leveraging its SRM and social data to help customers capitalize on understanding, targeting and engaging with their customers and prospects better?


Businesses can start to better understand their customers and prospects by knowing more about what they do, what they buy and what they say. Social data provides an uncensored view into what consumers are saying, how they are feeling, and key trends around your brand. One of the ways that we are looking to extend social listening capabilities is to link social insights with business intelligence data to delve further into how a social spike, or a positive or negative sentiment may impact positive or a dip in sales. This really takes social insights to a different level.  


As Gartner research says, “Content does not conform to a specific, pre-defined data model. It tends to be the human-generated and people-oriented content that does not fit neatly into database tables.” Unstructured data demands new analytical approaches. The value big data provides is the ability to capture the entire picture of everyday people. This can lead to a bevy of challenges:  missed signals, inaccurate conclusions, bad decisions, etc. How does Oracle’s technologies, like Oracle Data Cloud, Oracle CX Solutions, help combat this challenge? 


Gartner also predicted that enterprise data will grow by 800 percent in five years, with 80 percent of it unstructured. This definitely means that if left untapped, businesses will lose valuable insights and signals from their unstructured data assets. Oracle Data Cloud is working on combating this challenge straight on in an upcoming data as a service product release. I can't tell you much more than that – look for more details from Omar Tawakol, GVP and GM of Oracle Data Cloud, at SXSW on March 13th at the Hyatt Regency at 3.30pm in the Zilker Ballroom.   

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 ZDnet.com. 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.” 

Tuesday Jan 06, 2015

The Diversity Cure: How Startups Are The Key

By Reggie Bradford and Horace Williams

(Originally posted on Forbes.com. 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.

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