Tuesday Oct 07, 2014

9 Starting Points for B2B Social Marketing

Are businesses still debating whether or not there’s a role for social in B2B?  Sure you’ll still find pockets of resistance (and nostalgia), but the marketing dollars being moved to social say the debate is all but over.  It says at the very least, serious businesses do not intend to get left in the dust as their competitors build relationships and start ongoing dialogues with buyers via social.

Better that you be the one to beat your competitor to the punch in establishing a comprehensive, integrated social marketing strategy.  And if you’re going to do it, you may as well get started on the right foot with 9 foundational principles.

1. Know whom you want to talk to.  If your answer is “Golly gee, anybody and everybody who might even remotely be interested in what I have,” you’re going out there untargeted and smelling desperate.  Know who the likely prospects are and act on where they live digitally.

2. Use social to offer your prospects something they genuinely want or need.  They don’t owe you anything and they don’t care if your company does well.  They only care about solving a problem they currently have and making their jobs & lives easier.  Speak to that.

3. Track how the content you’re giving your prospects does with them.  Did they consume it?  Did they visibly react to it (engagement)?  Or did they find it immediately skip-able?  Don’t keep giving them stuff that fails, you’ll start looking tone-deaf.

4. Hire the most exceptionally gifted channel managers to run your social efforts and empower them with the social technology to maximize their greatness.  If your brand were a person, your channel manager is that person.  So it’s critical to get this right.

5. You should listen for signals from your prospects as intently as SETI listens for alien signals from space.  And you should get just as excited if you get something.  Respond in a rapid, constructive manner…even if the signal you got back was negative.

6. Be a thought leader in your industry or sector.  If you’re tired of the term “thought leader,” be a professor, an educator, or a researcher.  If you can teach a prospect something they didn’t previously know, you’ll achieve an elevated status in their minds.

7. Be consistent.  If you start posting on social then disappear, what good did that do you?  If your blogs are published randomly, or only come out when you can serve the brand’s interests, you’re sending some very bad messages.  I’m selfish and I can’t be counted on.

8. Use social to supplement your overall marketing efforts.  Integration is a big topic in the marketing world.  It’s what everyone is racing toward even though frankly, it’s not that easy.  Go with a tech partner that’s most likely to get you to true modern marketing.

9. Somehow, some way, acquire patience.  B2B selling is a process, and one that will never move as fast as you need it to.  Social will not get you to the quick B2B close.  So you not only have to be consistent, you have to be persistent and keep the steady social drumbeat going.

Those B2B prospects are a tough bunch, much less likely to give you quick trust or the benefit of the doubt like consumers.  But B2B is made up of real people (people immersed in a labyrinth of proposals and approval processes, but people nonetheless), so value can be given, relationships can be built, and coffee can go to closers thanks to social B2B marketing.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Sep 30, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Monday

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd

Day 2 of Oracle OpenWorld 2014, and there were so many takeaways for social practitioners that there’s not even room for a long opening paragraph.

The day began with a Keynote and a “wheel of customers” hosted by CEO Mark Hurd. Mark pointed out 87% of orgs are using a public cloud, and it’s projected by 2020, 1/3 of all data will reside in clouds. Yet most enterprises are still working off 20-year old legacy applications with over 80% of IT being spent on maintenance. The message: you must modernize to survive.

Walgreens CIO Tim Theriault said seamless integration from Oracle should help them leverage technology, even as IT budgets go down (falling IT budgets was a common theme today). Jamie Miller of GE said Oracle will solve the hard problems in ways we can’t even imagine today. Procter & Gamble uses Oracle to service 4 billion customers per day! Steve Little of Xerox said they have 145,000 employees and about 10,000 contractors, with no single visibility into all that because they’re on 150 HR systems worldwide! Naturally they’re moving toward one global platform. Intel’s Kim Stevenson spoke much truth when she said every industry is in a disruptive state, and she doesn’t know a business leader that thinks IT moves too fast. She asked Mark to make sure Oracle keeps innovating and driving these business transformations.

Oracle OpenWorldOracle Social’s Phil Sykes moderated a session on social for retail. IDC’s Miya Knights said their research shows consumers with 5+ devices are more willing to share data with retailers, but brands must treat that data with respect. Customers are learning how valuable it is. She reminded us many use social for info on how to better use products they already have. Kristina Console of Method says they need social sites to function as commerce sites, which is why they have great interest in Twitter’s “buy now” button. They’re big on Pinterest, offering incentives there, using it to remind customers the company is green, and wrapping products in imagery that conveys feelings, thus yielding amazing engagement.

But…ROI and measurement is still the tough nut that needs cracking. Miya said social listening is an absolute prerequisite for ROI, while Kristina said even if you get huge engagement, proving what happens after it is the hard part. Oracle’s Gary Kirschner aimed for the endgame: every aspect of the customer experience being variable in real time based on customer data.

Our own Angela Wells joined Tom Cernaik of Command Post and Katie Gulas of BBVA Compass Bank to discuss social for financial services. Angela kicked things off by saying the customer journey is no funnel. It’s a figure-8 loop including brand interactions during both purchases and ownership. Katie said social touches several parts of her bank; HR, Corporate Communications, Marketing, Web, and Service. And don’t think banks can’t do social contests. BBVA did one that generated valuable one-on-one interactions with small business leads. She does suggest using a contest vendor, keeping it simple, and anticipating questions though. Tom’s advice was around those fun-filled regulations. For instance you can share 3rd party content via a disclosure banner or an interstitial disclosure. Social is subject to the same rules that apply to traditional media. You should establish documented policies and procedures, train reps on their responsibilities, and disclose & disclaim. And you should have governance based on clear signals from the C-Suite, which must be involved in social processes and policies.

Social Media Customer Journey

Then manufacturers got their social advice from the likes of Oracle’s Bill Hobbib, Marshall Powell, and Polaris Industries’ Holly Spaeth. Bill conveyed that if a loyal customer engages, they’d like some recognition for it. Giving them dynamically personalized content will lead to more conversions. Holly actually did tell a good social ROI story. Their existing social listening tool wasn’t cutting it, so what Oracle Social Cloud offered was a way to eliminate irrelevant signals. Sounds simple, but it saved them 20-30 hours a week at $70 an hour. Money in the bank.

And of course, Oracle OpenWorld attendees continue to fill the Social Intelligence Center, where they’ve been able to see for themselves how we’re applying social listening to OpenWorld itself. Much more tomorrow!

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday Sep 26, 2014

Why Oracle OpenWorld is for CMO’s and Marketers

social media marketing at OpenWorldThis year, as we head into Oracle’s biggest event of the year, Oracle OpenWorld 2014, social is a more prominent theme and topic of discussion then ever before. It’s been awhile now since the dawn of the consumer empowering social media revolution. The focus now is on developing and applying the power of technology to meet the new customer expectations in order to win and keep their business.

When social first entered the corporate picture, it was regarded largely as a novelty. Arms were folded across the C-Suite as businesses went into wait-and-see mode. Rebels and pioneers launched a brand presence on social. Interns and believers went about posting and building communities. It grew apparent that consumers actually wanted to be connected to brands as well as their friends and family.

But what did this mean? Was this a new way to get the brand’s ads in front of customers and prospects? The great “misunderstanding of social” movement began. Over time, we learned how consumers used social, why they used social, and what they wanted from the brands they voluntarily connected with on social. It wasn’t to be the recipient of a marketing megaphone. It was to build one-on-one relationships with brands that would lead to higher satisfaction. They wanted to feel special and valuable to their brands.

The tools (on top of the social networks themselves) and processes to actually facilitate such attentive, satisfying, one-on-one relationships have become the concern of a now fully invested C-suite; CMO’s with broader responsibilities, new creatures like Chief Digital Officers, Chief Experience Officers, and Chief Content Officers. Social has steered the dialogue to customer experiences and customer-centricity, which is what you’ll hear a great deal about at this year’s OpenWorld.

Frankly, from a tech perspective, not just anybody can pull this off. When you think of the integrated systems and platforms needed to:

  • Know the customer
  • Know their purchase & service history
  • Listen to what they’re experiencing in real time
  • Anticipate their needs
  • Reply to and resolve their problems in short order
  • Offer up relevant/usable content in exactly the right place at exactly the right time
  • Communicate on the right channel and the right device
  • Leverage satisfaction for customer advocacy & added marketing amplification

…you realize small players offering point solutions is a non-starter. That’s why CMO’s and marketers are finding Oracle OpenWorld more relevant to them than ever as they join their CIO and IT partners in attending. If customer experience and customer-centricity are indeed the name of the game today, such things as social marketing platforms, CRM, data, and the cloud must now be in the marketer’s curriculum.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Tuesday Sep 23, 2014

Why Isn’t Your Social Strategy Based on Mobile Users?

social media on mobileNo one is asking social marketers to make safe assumptions.  The shift to social media being consumed on mobile devices is here TODAY, and very real. But with many brands still in “catch-up” or “wait-and-see” mode regarding social, many existing strategies are based on the unsafe assumption social is still a desktop/laptop thing.

Comscore says we in the US spend 52% of our “digital time” on mobile apps. Mobile comprises 60% of digital media usage…a percentage that’s rising at a pretty 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 US 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 comfortably jog far behind 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. 4 out of 5 consumers use them 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. Mobile offers the best use of hyper-local targeting and context marketing. Those using mobile are out and about, living their lives and ready to socially engage.

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.

The conclusion this brings us to is that here in September of 2014, a strategy centered on paid social mobile looks like the smartest play. 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 high relevance, targeted and amplified with mobile ad options, is the increasingly obvious path to pursue.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday Sep 16, 2014

People Shopping: Social HR and Recruiting

social media for recruiting“We have an opening.  I’d better start looking for somebody.” If those words ever ran through your head, you confirmed you’re already behind the 8-ball when it comes to social HR and social recruiting.

Today, you should ALWAYS be scouting and courting talent. It’s a perpetual process, and because it is, social is at the forefront of it. Social is the means for pretty much everything involved; referral, discovery, connecting, research, vetting, selling the virtues of the employer, reading recommendations, answering questions, gauging cultural fit, etc.

Just as transformative social technologies are being used for marketing, so too can those same powers be turned on recruitment. We’re talking about targeting, amplification, listening, moderation & engagement, and social data analysis. These are the things that will keep a flow of quality choices in the hiring funnel.

Of course, a solid argument can be made that if you’re in recruiting, you’re in marketing. Spherion Staffing’s study says 47% of Millennials think an employer’s online rep matters as much as the job itself. The truly qualified have more than enough choices, and they don’t want to be embarrassed to say whom they work for. The worst circumstance, of course, is that your competition has been connected to and engaging with all the real winners for months.

The sooner you determine the skillset you’re most in need of, target the online locales most frequented by such workers, and start monitoring the signals their activity is sending, the sooner you can connect and engage in relevant ways…whether the person is currently actively looking for a job change or not. And while you’re at it, do that with visual content that’s mobile optimized. Only 20% of F500 companies even have a mobile-optimized career site. Bad plan.

To get social HR and social recruiting right, you not only need the tech infrastructure and strategy, you need HR staffers that “get it” and are social themselves. The number of HR jobs requiring social skills is up 43% year to year. But a CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning survey shows over a third of HR respondents said that while they do use social, they aren’t really sure how to maximize it.

Now that puts you in a pickle. Who in HR is going to teach employees how to help recruiting efforts via social contact referrals? Who’s going to lead the drive to implement social for internal communication and collaboration? Who’s listening across social and the web to what’s being said about the company by employees and non-employees alike? Who’s being consistently active on the professional communities, forums and groups where quality prospects can be found?

And those are just the basics. Social can have profound implications in HR in areas beyond recruitment and hiring such as employee reviews, goal setting & tracking, and training/certification. But just as the often-difficult revolution we’ve seen take place in marketing called for team members in that department to rise to the occasion and assume new disciplines and broader responsibilities, so too must HR firmly plant their feet and execute its role in fostering the social-enabled enterprise.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: Alexander Wallnfer, freeimages.com

Friday Sep 12, 2014

Essentials of an Employee Social Media Policy

social media employee policyThere’s still a lot of fear out there around employees’ use of social media related to their company of employment. Employees are scared to mention the company for fear of doing something wrong. That’s not good. Brands want and need employees to be the first wave of social message amplifiers and engagers.

Companies are afraid an employee post referencing the company will lead to a humiliating PR nightmare. That’s not good either. With the content fire hose wide open and as hard as it is to get your brand noticed on social, restrained marketing rooted in fear is a sure path to #fail.

So below are some terms you may want to include in your company’s social “rules of the road.” Having such guideposts in place helps the company and its employees understand each other’s wants and concerns so that mutually beneficial activity can comfortably proceed.

  • We encourage all employees to follow company social channels and actively engage on those channels. Additionally, we ask that you set the preferences on your social channels and devices to receive notifications when a post goes out from the company’s social channels.

  • We encourage all employees to share official company social posts and content on their own social channels. When adding comments to such content, employees are expected to use sound judgment in not criticizing or being counter productive to the messaging the company is trying to communicate. If you have questions or criticisms of the messaging, please address with your immediate supervisor FIRST.

  • The more you use your personal social channels to mention the company and share its content, the more guarded you are requested to be in how you present yourself overall on your social channels. Please respect and be aware of the fact that during the time of your employment, you are a representative of the company. This is actually a sound practice that should help you professionally, regardless of your employment with our company.

  • Please always use proper, widely acceptable, non-offensive language and terminology in any posts you make on your personal social channels that also mention the company.

  • Please refrain from posting any news or imagery from or about the company on your personal social channels if you have any doubts whatsoever such material is not cleared for public release. This includes product rollouts, product improvements, policy changes, etc. Immediacy of posting is not required such that there isn’t time to check with a supervisor first and make sure employees are clear to talk about the subject in question.

  • Please refrain from engaging in any discussion with or about a company competitor on your personal social channels. Simply direct such conversations exclusively to our company’s products, solutions and benefits.

  • We ask that you take with the highest level of seriousness and consideration any request by the company to immediately remove a post on your personal social channels that inappropriately mentions the company, runs counter to privacy policies or embargoes, or is factually incorrect.

  • We want you to be a sincere, transparent, enthused ambassador for our brand. If there are reasons you are reluctant to be publicly associated with the company or product, and if you feel comfortable doing so, please discuss the origins of this reluctance with a supervisor. We see this as a learning opportunity for us in how the workplace or product can be significantly improved.

  • We encourage you to report conversations of note about the company that you encounter on your personal social channels to the brand’s social manager. While we do have a social monitoring and engagement platform in place, it’s always helpful to have such conversations called to our attention to insure proper engagement.

  • As active social channel users in your personal lives, you are particularly experienced in what type of content, especially from brands, captures your attention and wins your engagement. We encourage you to submit content to the brand’s social manager for possible posting on the company’s channels, be it a tweet, image, video, poll, curated content, or original blog post.

  • The company allows access to social network sites, including personal social network sites, onsite during the workday so employees can remain connected and in communication. We ask that you honor this policy by consistently and regularly using that access to help amplify the company’s messaging and stimulate engagement with the brand’s posts.

  • If you have any questions regarding proper usage of your personal social channels when referencing the company, please consult your supervisor or the brand’s social manager before publicly posting.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: Krzysztof Szkurlatowski, freeimages.com

Tuesday Sep 09, 2014

8 Steps to Become a Social Enterprise – Even With Silos

steps to social media managementA social enabled enterprise is one that activates social media across every department to the effect of optimizing internal communication and improving customer experiences. Despite those clearly positive benefits, it calls for root changes in how organizations are structured. That’s why even today, the struggle to infuse social rages on.

An easier blog to write would be to call for corporate silos to come down. We’ve done that…a few times. But the reality is many of those silos have the permanence of Stonehenge. Silos work for somebody, and those somebodies are defending them to the death.

Does that mean social at such enterprises is a lost cause? Nope. Let’s say the silo walls stay up. Here are 8 steps to becoming a social enabled enterprise anyway.

1. Accept What’s Going On

Adopt a birds-eye view of what’s happening in marketing and what customers now expect from businesses. They don’t see your departments, nor do they care. In every interaction, it’s just you, and them. If one hub falls short, the WHOLE brand gets blamed.

2. Name Your Change Agent

A mighty leader needs to take the reins of this effort. Preferably someone charismatic, highly respected, and passionate about the benefits social integration will bring to the customer.

3. Task Force Time

This leader must organize a social task force, pulling in representatives from every silo that will be affected. Each member must be an ambassador to their silo, represent their department, and reach authentic buy-in.

4. Endgame

Where are you headed? What does it look like when completed? How will it affect MY department? What does MY department have to gain from this? Each task force member should have a clear vision of the promised land.

5. What Can Your Tech Do?

Assess the tech tools and platforms each silo is using to achieve their goals. Knowing that people like to stay with what they’re used to, what social management platform has the ability to ramp up and integrate with most existing enterprise systems?

6. Re-Onboarding

Even if they’ve worked there for 15 years (in fact especially if they’ve been there that long) re-onboard all staff around the organization’s new priority to customer interaction and relationship building via social.

7. Nurture & Protect

You know all the great work that’s been done to nurture and protect the silos? That same fervor must now also go toward maintaining social as the lifeblood of how information courses throughout the enterprise; how it’s distributed and tapped into. Social data + enterprise data = the heart.

8. Post a Lookout

At this stage, your change agent’s focus should shift toward monitoring and assessing oncoming trends and developments in social, content, and marketing so, as to keep the org from having to play catch-up.

If you can’t tear down corporate silos, you can at least lay social across the tops of those silos so improved connections result. Given how orgs are still struggling, even this cursory approach will likely place you in the upper percentile of enterprises best positioned to deliver on the promise of social business.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Sep 02, 2014

Why GM Changed Lanes in Social Customer Service Staffing

social media managementWhat are the ingredients of social customer service that actually services, and satisfies, customers? Like many brands, General Motors found itself faced with that question after taking a second look at how current practices would (or wouldn’t) hold up post-social revolution.

And it’s an increasingly important thing to get right. A BI Intelligence report says social customer management doubles the percentage of sales leads that result in actual sales, relative to traditional CRM approaches. McKinsey says 71% of consumers who received good social service are likely to recommend the brand to others.

In a newly released Oracle Social video, Reggie Bradford chatted with GM’s Rebecca Harris about the challenges that were seen, what needed fixing, and what kind of people and processes were brought in to fix it. Among Rebecca’s points:

  • A typical call center, like the one they had in Saginaw, does not lend itself to direct management. There are multiple players between you and the customer, and little control of interactions.
  • With social having changed public expectations, direct oversight of the personnel hired to engage with customers became a must.
  • Such personnel have 4-year educations, are proficient in reading and writing, and have some sort of customer service background or experience.
  • Rebecca says, “We can teach them social. We can't teach them to be nice. They have to have that core first.”
  • You want to be as close to your customer as you can be, with the fewest possible layers required to get issues resolved.
  • A key goal is getting everyone to know we care and we're trying to help customers.
  • You won’t solve every problem. But we get our field team involved, our dealer team involved, whoever and whatever it takes in trying to solve that problem.
  • Hire the right people, train them, then let them do their jobs.
  • When you have a misstep, talk about it, adjust & correct, and keep moving forward.

How close are you getting to your customers? How much control over the individual interactions does your brand have? In the age of relationship marketing, the person you have representing you on the front lines of customer service is a make-or-break player.

We invite you to watch the full video, as Reggie covers several social topics with Rebecca and GM’s North American Customer Experience Executive Director David Mingle.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Aug 26, 2014

An Engaging Experience at CRM Evolution 2014

Our guest post today is from Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear, fresh off presenting at the CRM Evolution event. With seismic technology shifts taking place in CRM, we wanted to get her take on what she heard and saw.

What a fun week! CRM Evolution wasn’t just a great experience; it was a truly engaging event. The reason I say that is many of the conversations at the event were around best practices for customer experience and customer engagement. Thanks to the amazing Ray Wang for summarizing the discussion so concisely!

Buzzwords aside, I was happy to see the focus on engagement and I believe there are two key distinctions between the concepts. Firstly, engagement suggests an ongoing relationship, versus a one-time experience. Importantly, engagement makes it clear that the customer is in control and the actions taken by an organization, only impact the outcome.

CRM EvolutionWhat made CRM Evolution 2014 such a great experience and so engaging, you may ask? Well, it wasn’t the view from the windowless press/analyst room I spent most of my day in that’s for sure. The amazing conversations I was lucky enough to join (and of course the hugs!) make this “THE” event for those who care deeply about this industry.

I shared fascinating discussions with the delightful Paul Greenberg. Paul has an amazing ability to bring people together (as he clearly showed in his role as CRM Evolution Conference chair) and hosted a panel on the growing importance of customer engagement that I joined. Not content with lifting the curtain on the increasingly small distinction between “social CRM” and traditional CRM systems, Paul asked complex and insightful questions about business, social and customer engagement. I was honored to participate.

And it wasn’t just Paul. My visit was enriched by a large number of industry veterans sharing their experiences. Denis Pombriant kindly took the time to share his presentation with me even though I was double booked during his session; Brian Vellmure and I talked for so long that I made him late for a Yankees game (sorry, Brian!); and I waited for but did not get coffee (to say the “experience” at the hotel Café could have used a little investment would be an understatement) with the one and only Brent Leary. Any minute spent getting Michael Krigsman’s take on the state of things is always a minute well spent. And that’s not to mention the countless other conversations I had with some of the best people in the industry including Marshall Lager.

One of the things I was talking about was how the right user experience can increase customer engagement. As with the introduction of Social Station, a cool new workstation within Oracle Social Cloud, we now provide a next-gen user experience that drives productivity and social business results. It was great to see some of the initial reaction and read what Maria Minsker (CRM Magazine), Natalie Gagliordi (ZDNet), Tom Murphy (CMSWire), Omar Akhtar (The Hub) and others had to say about the latest enhancements.

By making it easier than ever to understand, report and share social insights across the enterprise, Social Station helps our customers move at the speed of social. And that’s not just a nice to have. That type of agility is a must-have if organizations are to engage customers in a way that has a positive and tangible impact on business results.

So thanks to Paul, the rest of CRM Evolution team and everyone that took the time to meet and speak with me. I hope to see many of you at Oracle OpenWorld next month and perhaps while I am there, I will get my very own selfie with Ray Wang.


Friday Aug 22, 2014

Customization: It’s Wanted in Enterprise Tech Platforms Too

social media managementDid you know that every customer service person does their job the exact same way in every business organization?  And did you know that every business organization cares about the exact same metrics? I hope not, because both those things couldn’t be farther from the truth. And if there are different needs and approaches in different enterprises, it stands to reason technology platforms must become increasingly customizable.

Oracle Social Cloud sees that coming and is doing something about it, at least in terms of social media management. Today we introduce Social Station, a customizable user experience workspace within the Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) platform.

We think a lot about customer-centricity and customer experience around here, and we know our own customers are ready to start moving forward in being able to set up their work environments in the ways that work best for them. That kind of thing increases productivity, helps deliver on social objectives faster, and generally just makes life more pleasant.

A recent IDG Enterprise report says that enterprises currently investing in more consumerized, easy-to-use technologies experience a 56% increase in employee productivity and a 46% increase in customer satisfaction. Imagine that. When you make it easier and more pleasant for employees to help customers, more customers get helped and everyone ends up happier.

social media analytics

So what does this Social Station do and what does it mean, exactly? It’s an innovative move to take some pretty high-end tech (take a bow developers) and simplify it, making things more intuitive:

  • Drag and drop lets you easily build out and personalize your social workspace with different modules.
  • The new Custom Analytics module can mix and match over 120 metrics with thousands of customizable reporting options. You can check constantly refreshed updates and keep a real-time eye on the numbers you’re trying to move.
  • One-click sharing and annotation in the Custom Analytics module improves sharing and collaboration across teams, departments and executives.
  • Multi-view layout helps you leverage social insights by letting you monitor conversations by network, stream, metric, graph type, date range, and relative time period.
  • The Enhanced Calendar is a better visual representation of content, posts, networks and views, letting you easily toggle between functions and views.
  • The Oracle Social Station sets us up to always be developing & launching additional social modules for you, covering areas like content curation, influencer engagement, and command center creation.

social media management

Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear says, “Consumers today have high expectations of their technology application capabilities and usability, and those expectations don’t stop when they enter their workplaces.” In other words, internal enterprise technology platforms must reflect the personalization and customization being called for in consumer products and marketing.

“One size fits all” is becoming an endangered concept.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday Aug 15, 2014

Alert: It is No Longer 1982, So Why is CRM Still There?

Hot off the heels of Oracle’s recent LinkedIn integration announcement and Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact 2014, the Oracle Social Cloud is preparing for another big event, the CRM Evolution conference and exhibition in NYC. The role of social channels in customer engagement continues to grow, and social customer engagement will be a significant theme at the conference.

According to Paul Greenberg, CRM Evolution Conference Chair, author, and Managing Principal at The 56 Group, social channels have become so pervasive that there is no longer a clear reason to make a distinction between “social CRM” and traditional CRM systems.

Why not? Because social is a communication hub every bit as vital and used as the phone or email. What makes social different is that if you think of it as a phone, it’s a party line. That means customer interactions are far from secret, and social connections are listening in by the hundreds, hearing whether their friend is having a positive or negative experience with your brand.

According to a Mention.com study, 76% of brand mentions are neutral, neither positive nor negative. These mentions fail to get much notice. So think what that means about the remaining 24% of mentions. They’re standing out, because a verdict, about you, is being rendered in them, usually with emotion. Suddenly, where the R of CRM has been lip service and somewhat expendable in the past, “relationship” takes on new meaning, seriousness, and urgency.

Remarkably, legions of brands still approach CRM as if it were 1982. Today, brands must provide customer experiences the customer actually likes (how dare they expect such things). They must intimately know not only their customers, but each customer, because technology now makes personalized experiences possible.

That’s why the Oracle Social Cloud has been so mission-oriented about seamlessly integrating social with sales, marketing and customer service interactions so the enterprise can have an actionable 360-degree view of the customer. It’s the key to that customer-centricity we hear so much about these days.

If you’re attending CRM Evolution, Chris Moody, Director of Product Marketing for the Oracle Marketing Cloud, will show you how unified customer experiences and enhanced customer centricity will help you attract and keep ideal customers and brand advocates (“The Pursuit of Customer-Centricity” Aug 19 at 2:45p ET)

And Meg Bear, Group Vice President for the Oracle Social Cloud, will sit on a panel talking about “terms of engagement” and the ways tech can now enhance your interactions with customers (Aug 20 at 10a ET).

If you can’t be there, we’ll be doing our live-tweeting thing from the @oraclesocial handle, so make sure you’re a faithful follower. You’ll notice NOBODY is writing about the wisdom of “company-centricity.” Now is the time to bring your customer relationship management into the socially connected age.

Photo: Sue Pizarro, freeimages.com

Friday Aug 01, 2014

Social Commerce: Shopping Inside of Social

social commerceWe know the value of friends recommending products to friends, but are we seeing these motivated transactions conducted immediately on the social platforms themselves?  Is social commerce still a thing?

What really seems to matter most is whether or not brand participation on social channels is generating incoming traffic to wherever transactions happen to be transacted. In fact, the very definition of sCommerce has quietly morphed over the years from sales conducted on Facebook, to sales resulting from social.

On-Facebook stores are still available, of course. Brands like J.C. Penney, GNC, Levi’s and 1-800-Flowers have done it or are doing it. But the real drive, budget-wise, is to use social to generate traffic and leads as opposed to building social stores. Social budgets are also moving to rounding up leads and sales as opposed to branding. The expectations for pre-sold shoppers to come from social to the brand’s transaction location and make the purchase are high.

And yet…despite a Shopify survey that found Facebook driving almost two-thirds of social visits to Shopify stores and claiming a 129% year over year increase of orders from social, and despite the barely known Polyvore driving the top average order value of $66.75, less than 2% of traffic to retailers’ sites comes from social. And almost half of retailers said less than 1% of social shoppers wound up buying anything. The best social conversion rate is Facebook’s 1.85%.

So what’s broken?

Every hoop a buyer has to jump through is a golden opportunity for that buyer to reconsider, change their mind, or put off the purchase. The shortest, most frictionless path from discovery to reassurance to sale should be every brand’s Apollo mission. And since two of those three things are happening primarily on social, sales inside of social, that original definition of sCommerce, might be worth a solid second look.

The social nets are inching forward. Pinterest, the proclaimed king of purchase intent, has rich pins so prices and inventory can be updated real-time. You can reply to tweets with Amazon product links adding #AmazonCart and throw the item into your shopping cart. You can make AMEX purchases by adding a hashtag. But these things amount to better social catalog experiences or buy link usage, not purchase-inside-social opportunities.

Pictures leaked from Fancy in January gave us a peek at Twitter Commerce. Brand tweets can be expanded to show a Buy button, from which you could purchase the item inside the Twitter app. Now we’re talking. OpenSky is trying to get there as well.

The goal is to capitalize on everything social brings in terms of shopping and exposure to products tied to users’ visible interests, capitalize on the trusted recommendations of social connections, use content as your virtual end-aisle displays, use the ongoing social relationships you have with customers and rich social data to keep bumping them toward a purchase, customize their experiences, and find the quickest way to satisfy the buying impulse when it strikes.

Finding something you want to buy in a store and then being told by the clerk you have to go two buildings down to buy it sounds silly. Digital hoops are equally silly.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Friday Jul 18, 2014

LinkedIn Inclusion Closes Chapter 1 of the Oracle Social SRM Platform

With big news having rolled out this week, we turn today’s guest blogging duties over to Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear.

Back in May of 2012, Oracle completed a series of social media acquisitions launching its commitment to enhanced, effective digital customer experiences for brand marketers. Peering into the future, we saw that the age of carpet-bombing consumers with messages urging them to come to the brand was doing as much harm as good. We knew that the future was going to be about meeting customers wherever they are, whenever they’re there, and with personalized, relevant content.

It was clear that the social networks were becoming nothing less than the hubs of public communication.

The option for marketers to ignore social was slipping away, and the Oracle Social Cloud committed itself to building a comprehensive social marketing, engagement, and monitoring technology platform that would make differentiating customer relationships possible. The commitment was our recognition that the customer was in control and that brands would have to change if they wanted to retain customers and deliver outstanding customer experiences.

With Oracle’s subsequent acquisitions of Eloqua, Compendium, Responsys, and BlueKai, which together form the Oracle Marketing Cloud, we were able to offer integrations with the Oracle Social Cloud that moved brands far from yesterday’s point solution technology and into a marketing ecosystem capable of powering tomorrow’s promise of highly personalized and engaged customer experiences.

So this week’s inclusion of LinkedIn to our publishing and engagement capabilities should really come as no surprise given the role LinkedIn is playing for B2B marketers today. Adding 2 members per second has brought it to over 300 million users, a number that’s doubled in the last calendar year with over half of those users outside North America.

This addition of LinkedIn to the Oracle SRM platform is great for our customers, solidifying the platform as the clear choice for B2B marketers. But it’s really just the end of an opening chapter in an amazing marketing revolution story we’re all seeing play out in full Technicolor in this era of digital transformation.

This revolution is about mobile, social, big data, cloud-powered outrageous customer experiences. Recognizing the magnitude of this opportunity is the reason our product has been so rapidly innovating. We have been building new capabilities in concert with our global customers with the aim of helping them deliver best-in-class customer experiences…the kind of post-revolution brand encounters customers have come to expect.

As we continue socially enabling the enterprise, we are excited about the great experiences we can unlock with our partner LinkedIn using the Oracle SRM platform. The future is bright for marketers, and Oracle Social is happy being able to do our part to bring innovation to our customers, working together to write the next chapters.

Photo: freeimages.com

Tuesday Jul 08, 2014

Marketing Technology Have You Dazed & Confused?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the growing necessity for brands to have someone filling the role of Marketing Technologist.  Obviously, this wouldn’t be a growing necessity if marketing technology weren’t literally overwhelming management teams.

It’s not that these management teams are unaware, inexperienced, disconnected, aren’t digital natives, or didn’t finish high enough in their class at Harvard. The speed at which technological change is hitting us has everyone back on their heels…including the consumer. How many times have you heard someone say they aren’t on certain social network because they “just can’t handle them all”?

And yet, maybe even unfairly, the public increasingly expects their brands to flawlessly execute the predictive meeting of their needs, instant response and gratification in customer service, and 100% relevancy in the content they’re served…and on whatever channel they might be, 24/7/365 globally.

Yeesh. No wonder there’s the urge to employ new marketing technology as fast as it comes. But because it does come so fast, and because there are so many companies in the space, with disparate products & components of the digital marketing solution, many a corporate eye is glazed over with confusion and doubt. Confusion and doubt leads to not moving forward. Many brands have expensive tech they aren’t even using.

As my great grandfather Stiles never once told me, “Son, too many choices will make your head explode.” So as you’re trying to decide what marketing technology to embrace, consider these things:

  • Whatever tech you adopt, it’s probably going to call for change in strategy, processes, personnel, and budgeting. It’s not like getting a taco from a food truck.
  • You generally get what you pay for. There are plenty of cheap choices out there that will keep you in the minor leagues.
  • Things on the rapid rise like the volume of consumer data, mobile, Internet of Things, cloud, collaborative purchasing (social friend recommendations on steroids), etc. means you can’t sit and wait “until the dust settles.” You will choke on dust.
  • How much fun is a 1000-piece puzzle if none of the pieces fit together? Look to a vendor that has all the integrated pieces you can add on as you grow. It’s the only path to seamless cross-channel customer experiences.
  • Shy away from buying the product without the service. Maximize what you get.
  • Establish an innovation lab for testing or piloting potential new tech products like the one Mayur Gupta has at Kimberly-Clark. It lets you date before you get married.

The proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step. Get in touch with your biggest pain point. What’s currently causing the biggest disconnect between your brand and your customers? Since marketing is becoming dominantly about user experience, that’s as good a place to start as any. Then resist chasing squirrels. Examine potential marketing technology vendors not just for what they offer today, but whether or not they have the big picture integrated parts of the whole you’ll need as you build.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com

Friday Jul 04, 2014

The Buyer Revolution: Let Freedom Ring

Social media truly did amount to a consumer revolution. And if you don’t believe that, simply think back to what life was like before the revolution.

The mantra was “buyer beware.” It was a battle cry that meant brands were largely out to trick you, sell you garbage. If you fell for it, it was your fault for not being smart enough to see through the charade. But even more importantly, “buyer beware” was a pre-emptive warning to remind you that you, as the customer, had little to no recourse if you mistakenly believed in the brand. Gotcha.

Your choices in a particular type of product were slim. And your sources of information that might lead to you discovering competitors and options were limited. In nearly every category, you were aware of two or three of the “big guys.” And, of course, the big guys were barely distinguishable from each other. Why would they need to be?

And not only did brands only care what customers thought to the extent they could be manipulated, they built brick walls, barriers and hurdles between themselves and the customer that were so well-crafted and impenetrable, they remain obstacles to change inside enterprises to this very day.

Fast forward to July 4, 2014. A single consumer voice is connected to other single voices such that it can amount to millions. A circle of influence of about 8 people is now one of tens of thousands, or more. The consumer who formerly could only see what was nearby or marketed to them can now proactively seek out everything that’s available on the planet…with a click.

The revolution has been won for the consumer…but ALSO for the brands.

Brands will now live and die by the way they treat customers. They will rise and fall based on their reputations and the extent to which existing customers are willing to proudly recommend them. They will be forced to get better and be better. The luxury of putting out a poor product is fading away. The maker will be exposed.

But most of all, brands can now pursue the benefits of truly knowing their customers, sincerely caring what they want & need, actually wanting to be in communication with them. Today’s mobile, multi-device, always on, socially connected customers are accustomed to not being ignored, put off, given the runaround, or abused. They are free.

The buyer revolution switched the game from transaction to experience. The experience IS the product. Brands no longer don’t reply. Brands no longer blindly send automated messages. Brands no longer make the customer wait weeks for a resolution. If something is wrong, brands are quick to make it right for the customer. Brands are keenly aware of every previous encounter that customer has had with them for context.

Of course none of that is true. Whether it’s from lack of leadership or lack of the proper tech tools, plenty of brands are still fumbling around, mired in how things used to be before the social media revolution. The customers, however, are not stuck. Their freedom is ringing loud and clear.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: freeimages.com


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