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

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.

Friday Nov 21, 2014

Insights Straight From #WOMMASummit

Author: Erika Brookes, VP, Oracle Social Cloud 

I attended this week the annual #WOMMASummit in Hollywood, California. As usual, it was a lively event full of industry thought leaders, informative sessions, engaging conversations, quotable tweets and more than a few innovative ideas.  I had the pleasure of speaking with LinkedIn executive Deanna Lazzaroni on the topic of B2B social marketing. Only we took a different stance on traditional “B2B” marketing with the session titled “B2B Social Media Made Simple: Hint, it’s All About P2P”. Meaning it’s all about people connecting to people.


By now, I hope you understand you aren’t “marketing” to broad-brushed, generic audiences anymore. You are trying to develop relationships with people. And that takes understanding those people—their likes, dislikes, desires and needs—accomplished through active listening. Once you understand someone better, you can engage and respond to that person in a more relevant and authentic manner. You’ll understand how to develop better content for them; interact at the appropriate time; educate and provide information; and ultimately help meet their needs.

Your business today must operate as a people-centric organization. It must be the guiding principle to your strategy and ultimately how your strategy is executed via your culture, people, processes and technology. It’s the right strategy that will help businesses succeed with today’s ever-changing world driven by empowered people.  

  1. Be People-Centric: Put people at the center of everything you do. This goes beyond being customer-centric. This includes your employees and partners – groups of people that are equally important in creating a customer-centric organization. Learn, engage and empower your employees and you can create an army of walking brand ambassadors. This is also true for your partners. It’s like amplifying your brand marketing power threefold. Drill into your organization the importance of being people-centric—across customers, employees and partners.
  2. Listen to Learn: The old adage that “we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak” has never been more applicable than in today’s socially enabled digital world. The greatest “focus group” we’ve ever imagined exists today with our social web, if only we leverage its incredibly insightful data. Customers and prospects—people—are out there having conversations that could yield you real business value. But you have to be listening. This listening extends to all of your employees and even your business partners. Make listening your organization’s new best practice. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn that can be put into action to drive real business objectives.
  3. Get a Handle on Your Data: Chances are you have incredibly valuable data on your customers… in incredibly siloed systems accessed by different departments for finite reasons. Data is the lifeblood of your organization: CRM data is essential. Social is insightful. Marketing transactional data is vital. Service activity is critical. And all those other owned sources—call center transcripts, customer reviews, forums and more—offer you a 360 view of the customer, but all too often is lying untapped or limited in its accessibility. Imagine if you can get a handle on it all; aggregate it, analyze it, and find actionable insights. That’s power. That is bottom line. It’s doable, but it requires next-generation technology systems that communicate and share. Your cloud technology solutions like CRM, marketing, commerce, service and social should be integrated and interoperable to tie together all of your customer data to power your customer engagements.
  4. Think Mobile First: This is best captured in the form of a Tweet from BuzzFeed executive Terry City during his WOMMA session: “If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work.” And that about sums up where we are headed. Smartphones are changing our daily behaviors making activities like social networking, shopping and search increasingly mobile. Smartphones aren’t just lighter computers with smaller screens. They require a different approach than traditional laptops/desktops. You are dealing with a different mindset when someone is mobile… and yes, less real estate in which to engage. So you have to approach timing, content type and delivery, and the value prop differently. Smartphones also offer untapped and transformational potential—think sensors, beacons, location-based recognition. These powerful little computers can bring hyper-local targeting, personalization and contextual marketing to life.
  5. Be Human, Be Authentic: It’s amazing we still have to reinforce this one because it’s the most obvious, no-brainer advice of all. But everyday we see examples of organizations failing here. Want to see what a win looks like? Check out how General Motors handled the #ChevyGuy #technologyandstuff situation. A potentially damaging situation turned into gold simply by swiftly reacting at the right time and in an authentic, human and brilliant manner. Today it is about right time and real time content. And given that it is a person-to-person world, it should also be uniquely human, real and authentic.

Of course, this lists only five ways to succeed in today’s rapidly changing digital world, and it could easily be expanded to 10, 15 and 20 + advice points. As you think about your customers, employees and partners, try to keep this in mind: Our digital world might make it harder to remember there’s a person behind that email, Tweet, post, comment, or text. But your connections are being made with people. People with valuable information and insights; People wanting to be engaged and empowered; People wanting to interact with people. Welcome to the new world of P2P business—people connecting with people.  

Tuesday Nov 18, 2014

And Two Become One: The Convergence of Social & Mobile

Author: Amy Sorrells, Oracle Social Cloud

By now everyone should understand the importance of all things mobile. Yesterday at the annual WOMMA Summit, Terry City from BuzzFeed said the following that quickly garnered lots of Twitter love: “If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t work.”  And with every new smartphone sold this becomes increasingly right on.

(Image courtesy of WOMMA Summit)

The shift to social media being consumed on mobile devices is very real. But many brands’ existing strategies are based on the wrong assumption that social is still a desktop/laptop thing.  Do people still use desktops and laptops for social networking? Of course they do. It’s just that social media usage is rising and it’s being driven by the proliferation of smartphone adoption.

And it is not just social activities; mobile is driving changes across many behaviors from shopping to service to search.

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

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

Brands and advertisers start doing damage to their company when they don’t stay in step with real changes in consumer behavior.

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

Smartphones aren’t just lighter laptops. They are enabled with innovative and valuable opportunities—think sensors, beacons, location-based recognition. They can bring hyper-local targeting, personalization and context marketing to life.

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

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

Today businesses need a strategic social paid, owned and earned strategy – and it needs to be a mobile-first strategy. Do you forget about desktop/laptop usage? Of course not, you are still reaching and engaging there, but it’s dwindling. Mobile must take priority. The relationships you’re building with your customers on social, using the data they’re handing you via social + other enterprise data, with content served up at a time and place of convenience and high relevance, targeted and amplified with mobile ad options, is the increasingly obvious path to pursue. 

Tuesday Nov 04, 2014

Social Enabling Child Welfare Agencies to Engage Community to Strengthen Families

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

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

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

Focus on Campaigns that Work Best:

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

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

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

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

The Future of Connecting and Strengthening the Community:

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

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

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

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

Friday Oct 31, 2014

13 Un-scary Tips to Get You More Twitter Retweets

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Aug 12, 2014

5 Things Brands Should Learn From the Rise of YouTube Celebrities

YouTube social media contentTV actors used to worry about reality show stars stealing their thunder and opportunities.  Ah what quaint days those were. Turns out the no-names doing seemingly brainless stuff as YouTube “celebrities” loomed as the larger dinosaur-killing catastrophic threat.


We present as evidence a recent survey commissioned by Variety, the traditional film/TV industry’s legendary trade publication. It showed that as far as US teens 13-18 are concerned, the faces they watch on YouTube are more important and influential to them than Sheldon, Leonard & Penny.


No, those actors aren’t hurting (just renegotiated huge new per episode deals). But much of a star’s value is in their ability to sell stuff. And that’s where YouTube celebrities are shining, ranking sky high on traits like engaging, approachable, authentic, and relatable. They even hold their own in sex appeal vs. the glitterati. Their fans love that they aren’t handled by slick PR machines or marketing operatives. There’s realness and intimacy.


It used to be that YouTubers put out content hoping to get discovered by the networks & studios. Now, that could be the worst thing that could happen to them as it risks damaging the profitable relationships they’ve built with fans. The top earner, a Swedish gamer known as PewDiePie, has 23.9 million subscribers and 3.69 billion total views, earning him up to an estimated $8.47 million per year after Google’s 45% cut. Who needs Hollywood?


So what should we as brands tasked with using content to build audiences and relationships take from this seismic shift in entertainment sources?


1. Your brand is legendary? So what? Nobody owes you a thing. The Variety article points out it’s not that teens don’t know the big TV, movie and music stars, it’s that they fail to appeal to them like YouTube stars do. You’re building your audience from scratch, and on even footing. Act like it.


2. You’ve got to be a consistent, reliable presence. If your brand doesn’t have a “show,” you’re in trouble. Your one-off attempt at a viral video or your twice a year Prezi about your white papers is a neglectful, non-serious effort that will be rewarded as such.


3. You must be real. This runs counter to everything corporate communications was built to be. “Who can be the best fraud” is no longer the game. Nobody really believed you were perfect and flawless anyway.


4. You must be approachable/accessible. Again, corporate customer service and interaction has been historically constructed for one purpose, to avoid actual contact with customers. You can’t build intimacy and hide at the same time.


5. Communities get built around great content. Following a YouTube star alone isn’t nearly as much fun as having a tribe to discuss the star and their content with. If the content strikes a chord, fan bases coalesce and spread quickly. Think less about creating fans of your brand, and more (much, much more) about creating fans of your content.


Modern marketing and the technology to optimize social distribution & promotion are falling into place. But those capabilities will go completely wasted if brands can’t stop self-obsessing long enough to care about what kind of content will make them a star with their customers.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday May 06, 2014

Video on Social: Are We Too Dumb or Too Busy to Read?

social videoWe keep hearing how important video is to social marketing and content marketing. We hear it…but hearing it doesn’t magically build studios in corporate offices or fund brand video teams to actually make this type of content. Most brands are lagging behind the video necessity.


So let’s talk about that necessity.


Entrepreneur.com’s Jayson DeMers declared online video’s role in marketing will only get bigger this year. I think Jayson would be the first to tell you he’s hardly alone in this belief. Cisco says video will account for 69% of global consumer Internet traffic by 2017. The GB equivalent of all movies ever made will cross IP networks every 3 minutes. Shutterstock found 61% of Americans watched about 397 online videos in January. And oh yeah, 36% of those were ads.


Much of what we heard about video’s shortcomings has lost validity. Videos aren’t good for traffic referral? YouTube grew 52.86% in referrals from 9/12 to 9/13. People won’t watch long videos, especially on little mobile screens, right? Yes, short might be better for your strategy, but the truth is that 53% of mobile viewers spend over half their time on videos over 30 minutes.


Why the video domination? Are we just too dumb to read anymore? Quite the contrary. Nearly two-thirds of us learn more effectively visually, and our brains process visual data faster. Not only are we not dumb, we’re smart enough to move to the most efficient means of information assimilation available.


Nor are we too busy to read. We have time to read, but because we are indeed busy, we’re going to allocate that slower-moving reading time more selectively. We’re doing a lot of skimming, setting aside a few top contenders to read later…if we get around to it.


So if you’re going to rely on written word only (and hey, nobody loves written word more than me), what you write must have enough value or be entertaining enough to survive this ruthless skimming & eliminating process.


Increasingly, the same is true even of video. It’s hardly “special” anymore. 6 billion hours of YouTube watched per month, 100 hours of video uploaded per minute, 1 billion mobile video views per day; that’s the environment in which your little ol’ video has to somehow get noticed and start getting shared.


Here’s your tweet for the day: Video is becoming so dominant that soon, scanning social channels will be almost the same experience as channel surfing.


Include videos in your strategy. Craft them to appeal to your fans. Don’t patronize. Don’t manipulate. Make sharing super easy. Optimize your videos for YouTube (the 2nd largest search engine). Use an analytics platform to monitor performance. Be consistent. And know that even if you do everything right, your video still may bomb. Major feature films do, despite stars, money and formulas, so why should you be any different?


And if you’re stuck in “but I don’t know what kind of videos to make” mode, watch for Friday’s Social Spotlight, in which I’ll pour forth multiple ideas.


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Friday Apr 11, 2014

Twitter Advertising: 15 New Ways to Bet on Your Content

Reality check: like Facebook, Twitter has to make money.  And in the absence of charging users a subscription fee to use it, that money has to come from Twitter advertising.


The profitless Twitter makes most of its revenue from advertising, $219.6 million in Q4, which doubles the previous year’s numbers. So it occurred to them that if they offered you marketers more advertising products and options, that number would only go higher.


Enter 15, count ‘em, 15 new ad plays that will be coming your way from Twitter over the next 6 months. And from the reports so far, if your goals are downloads, subscriptions, or purchases, these products will speak more to your needs than existing offerings.


Expect most of these products to be fueled by the Twitter Card technology, which allows functionality to be programmed into tweets. This allows for a world of one-click calls-to-action not possible in regular tweets, which, given the speed and immediacy with which people use the platform, is almost a must to capture desired engagement. Users can download an app, get someone on the phone, make a purchase, sign up for a contest, etc.


But the big question: will Twitter users think these are cool opportunities? Or will they see them as highly intrusive, annoying ads? That depends a great deal on what you do.


Twitter hasn’t really upped the ad content since their first product in 2010, and that’s because they’ve been pretty diligent about the user experience. So far their ad products have not done damage, but these new 15 do represent risk. As it is, a Deutsche Bank Securities report showed 85% of users said the ads they get aren’t relevant.


So Twitter and you marketers are about to jump into the unknown together. These ads must be targeted and relevant. They must be served up at just the right rate. And they must be of quality; meaning what it always means for content - it entertains, it informs, or it offers something of real value. Put out flops and you inflict damage to both Twitter and your brand.


In short, when it comes to Twitter advertising you’re about to pay to get your content in front of more user eyeballs, and in so doing you’re placing a bet that said content is going to be appreciated and welcomed, not a user experience downer.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 03, 2014

Is Brand Affinity Completely Worthless?

Social media is largely thought of as a brand affinity play, and far too few brand leaders know why that’s valuable.


empty pocketBe honest. Does it bother you when someone doesn’t like you? Even if you have plenty of other friends, when you encounter someone that openly doesn’t want to be around you, do you find yourself frequently wondering why not?


That’s how it often works in real life. But as brands, we not only are stunningly uncurious as to why people don’t like us or use us, we don’t even care how much our existing customers like us. It’s an unnatural way to behave, and at a time when we’re tasked with connecting naturally with consumers.


There seems to be doubt around the value of building those relationships. Either that, or because the fruits of those relationships won’t show up on the ledger this quarter, building them is deprioritized. And because social is the stage on which relationship building is performed, it too isn’t given the resourcing and executive support to max out the winning of hearts and minds.


Like the buying journey itself, brand affinity is the result of variable multiple brand encounters that combine toward a result unique to each customer. No magic ROI equation. But if there can be agreement that repeat customers, existing customers increasing their spending with the brand, loyal customers who look at our brand first or only, and customers who market for us for free, all have a positive effect on revenue…then we’re getting somewhere.


Seriously? You’re telling me you see no dollar value in your customers being as cult-like about your brand as Apple’s? Others sell similar products, but Apple markets a brand experience customers are emotionally invested in. It’s part of their customers’ very identity. So yes, they’ll buy every new product sight unseen and passionately praise and defend the brand. Apple doesn’t need gimmicks…they need crowd control.


Why aren’t we all Apples? Because we haven’t been investing in the combo of product, service and culture that generates the kind of core customers that drive 80% of profits. Fame is a group activity, but you’ve got to assemble the group. Perhaps brands that see no or only passing value in brand affinity have no sales or marketing system in place to even capitalize on being loved.


You view your product as the bee’s knees (you don’t literally sell bee knees do you?), but many brands have no significant value prop differences vs. competitors. Given that, the ability to bond the public to you is make or break. So how do you do it?


The USC Marshall School of Business determined brand affinity is achieved by enticing, enabling and enriching; meaning what you offer must be appealing, it must help the customer, and it must make the customer feel empowered and “better.” With tech listening tools, the public will show you how to do those three things for them.


Will that produce returns? A survey sought to learn which airline people thought was best. Alaska Airlines won. However…a very high percentage of respondents who voted for it had NEVER flown Alaska Airlines. They thought it was best just because enthused customers said it was.


Brand affinity is among the highest-return marketing you can do.


@mikestiles
Photo: David Playford, stock.xchng

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