Social Listening vs Traditional Marketing – Understanding The Oracle Acquisition of Collective Intellect

Social Listening with BloomThink
Creative Commons Attribution via Flickr User Visualpanic

In the world of impulse consumerism you can attempt to stay top of mind through saturation marketing (expensive) or you can compel a transaction with artificial limits on deals, quantities or geographies (difficult) or you can become top of mind by entering with a splash at the right time (data-intensive).

The first approach is the traditional media marketing approach.  Big spending gets eyeballs some of those eyeballs belong to people who will want your product.  But you have got to gain volume and maintain attention with no way to actually track a sale.  Look at the image.  The first approach tells the world that they have tetris tiles available and hopes that someone needs one.

The second is the coupon / contest approach. Getting people off the couch to get to an event or to change buying habits is difficult.  The payoff of the contest or the discount on the product has to be extremely steep in order to compel the desired behavior.  It’s the Black Friday deal which gains awareness and attention but the profits are often slim if there at all.  Hope is placed in down-stream purchases from newly loyal customers.  Look at the image again.  The second approach tells the world to stock up now during their 2-for-1 tetris tiles sale…you know, in case you ever need a tetris tile piece.

The third approach is the engagement approach.  Understand what the consumer needs and when they are almost ready to make a decision then present your deal, your product, your offer.  This is the intelligence-drive approach. With enough data in aggregate about consumer trends and the ability to engage with individual consumers via social channels businesses are able to deliver compelling and persuasive information at the right time.  The third approach listens and watches for when people share that they’re remodeling and repairing their bathroom and need some tetris tiles.  They then let that prospective consumer know that they have exactly what is needed and that it is convenient to buy.  The hope-based approach of market saturation is traded for precise targeting.  The profit-gutting approach of behavior modification marketing is traded for persuasive and timely information delivery

This third approach is behind all good social media campaigns and it is a big reason why there has been a mass of acquisitions in the social media monitoring space.

Social media monitoring is all about “listening” to what is being said about you, your products and the market space in why your business exists.  Oracle’s most recent acquisition of Collective Intellect directly supports this social listening and BI approach.  Collective Intellect brings deep textual and semantic analysis to social conversations.  By gaining the ability to mine social conversations for sentiment, trends and names, they deliver extremely rich contextual business intelligence.  Collective  Intellect has focused their software on the social media spaces.

Way back in 2008 while working at Oracle I wrote:

A BI engine can create a concept map based on term frequencies, term proximities and term usage. When combined with metadata classifications and transactional data, an organic classification structure begins to surface. Mapped against topics, groups, or classification phyla, specific semantic ontologies begin to emerge. These organic ontologies can then be used as the basis for BI inferences that produce predictions for users.” In B-eye Network Magazine

Four years later, my prediction has been borne out and I am excited to see where it goes.  Added to their recent acquisition of Vitrue and being similarly placed in the Oracle cloud, Collective Intellect looks to position Oracle as a premier source for social media business intelligence.  This is the critical ingredient in the third, and best, approach outlined above.

But Oracle is not alone in recognizing this space.  SalesForce.com, already owning Radian6 has recently acquired Buddy Media. And Adobe is still blazing the trail with their prescient acquisition of Efficient Frontier which completed early this year.

This space is hot and more innovation and acquisition is likely as businesses and brands realize that understanding the customer (whether B2C or B2B) is the most effective way to engage the customer.

Resources & Links:

Oracle announcement of the acquisition

TechCrunch review

Collective Intellect on SlideShare

This article originally appeared on SocialBusinessNews.com

Oracle To Buy Vitrue – In Depth

Oracle Buys Vitrue
screen grab from Oracle’s presentation on the Vitrue acquisition

Oracle buys Vitrue (pronounced Vi-true)

It seems Oracle is getting religion on social…again.  This time they have acquired a multi-tenant SaaS social media management platform firm named Vitrue for a reported but unconfirmed $300M.  The big news with this acquisition is that Vitrue provides the software and analytics for big B2C businesses to management engagement across their various social properties.  You know, the ones we all use like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+.  This is a big deal for B2B oriented Oracle who usually likes to force customers onto their platform – WebCenter, PeopleSoft, Siebel etc..   Native Oracle products like WebCenter “Social Network” are squarely focused inward at the organization rather than outward.  Recent acquisitions like Fat Wire, Taleo, InQuira, ATG, RightNow all have an outward social, consumer/customer engagment or listening component to them but all (so far) fall into the familiar Oracle model.  Roll it into the Oracle product stack, sell the stack to customers to use internally or as middleware for pretty front-end systems, repeat.

The Vitrue acquisition is different.  First, Vitrue provides a completely cloud based product with no on-site software.  Second, Vitrue enhances, *other* platforms and it does so in bite-sized pieces (see the list at the end of the article or just take a look at Vitrue’s website).  Third their product is a high-touch, high-service product. This is something that brand managers and marketers keep coming back to use for each campaign.  It is something that, try as they might, Oracle could never achieve with Siebel, Real-Time-Decisions, WCM, Sites or WebCenter.  In short, Vitrue would be the first outward focused offering available from Oracle.

According to Oracle’s published FAQ (PDF), they intend to, “…add Vitrue’s products to the Oracle Cloud to deliver the most comprehensive, integrated social relationship platform that can support social marketing, sales, commerce, service, data and analytics.”  This is huge.  All of the other Oracle public cloud offerings, from CRM, to HCM to “Social Network” are inward focused.  They are SaaS versions of back office utilities.  If Vitrue lands in the Oracle cloud it could become a useful tool from Oracle that helps businesses do better interacting with customers and constituents rather than with their own employees data processes.  Of course, Vitrue’s interest and development into social analytics and reporting is a natural draw for Oracle’s data business.  Think about what Oracle could do with all that aggregated Vitrue social analytics data if the SaaS offering takes off!  They could become to social data what SalesForce’s Data.com is to CRM & Contact data.  Of course, the reported $300M price Oracle paid for Vitrue is hardly considered huge.  But the recurring subscription revenue model is a big shift for Oracle who usually relies on heavy-handed maintenance payments from one-time big sales.  They’ve been beaten up in the past for their less-than-friendly tactics.  But a SaaS model where people opt-in to pay for a service gives Oracle the recurring revenue and puts a friendly face on it.  It could be a very good move for Oracle’s image.

I am eager to hear what competitors in this space think.  SalesForce’s Radian6, Lithium, Buddy Media, Zuberance, Adobe’s Efficient Frontier and others all have a stake in this game.  Contact me with your personal opinions – billy.cripe AT bloomthink.com

Vitrue has several different price points but according to their CEO, a typical starter package is reported to be at about $4000/month (PDF) for management of a Facebook page and Twitter account.  They are focused on big B2C organizations since lower end social management is teeming with free/freemium services like Buffer and Shortstack.

Virtue provides the following kinds of services:

  • Analytics – Social analytics for things like social listening (what are people saying about us, who has problems, who is cheering our product right now)
  • Publisher – Status and update queuing (think scheduling tweets and Facebook wall posts but coordinating it with blog posts, marketing campaigns etc for a holistic social marketing drip campaign management)
  • Tabs – Vitrue’s CEO Reggie Bradford describes these as “…content management system across your social properties.” (PDF) They incorporate translations/geo-aware targeting and scheduling.  The WebCenter Sites and Content as well as ATG and InQuira teams may want to sit up and take notice here.  Enterprising Oracle partners might want to build a connector to leverage content from one of Oracle’s many content management systems for Vitrue’s social scheduling tabs.  While tabs as such have been pushed to the background in the new Facebook Timeline layout, they still exist and are still important for things like landing pages, contests, contact forms and events.  Even more important is having coordinated messaging, themes, timing and content between  the social and traditional email, physical and event-driven marketing campaigns.
  • Social commerce – this is their ability to help businesses sell goods through facebook (and maybe Google+) which they do through partners.
  • They also have a program of offerings and tool sets enabling social media agencies to implement the strategy they create for their clients.
  • You can watch a demo of their product on their facebook page

This blog post is my own opinion.  I received no information from anyone from Oracle or Vitrue.

UPDATE: Oracle’s FatWire Acquisition Round Up

Oracle Acquires FatWire

========= UPDATE ===============

This is a response to Laurence Hart’s commentary on Word of Pie blog that may be found here.

I think that the WEM and widget capabilities of FatWire complement (read: fill the gaps) the in the ECM / WebCenter stack.  Oracle’s story around how to do that natively was much more about building with the stack.  While possible, it wasn’t necessarily quick or easy.  Combined with other R&D priorities like combining BEA with WebCenter with Stellent with IPM with Apps and you’ve got an overloaded product management team with too many competing “good and necessary” priorities to fill in-house.  The alternatives are to look to partners to build necessary add-ons (take a look at their OVI program to see how they’re leveraging this model) and look for other technology to acquire – enter ATG, Fatwire, and undoubtedly others.

Look at Oracle’s trajectory – ECM continues to move into the background as a SOA enabled rich content store.  But they recognize that they need to keep up with WEM not just by allowing coders to code but also to build in or fold in capabilities that meet the needs right away.  Thus Fatwire.

Disclaimer: I’ve got absolutely no insider info on this and it is pure conjecture.  Educated conjecture, but conjecture nonetheless.

=============  START ORIGINAL POST ========

You can be sure that there will be more coming out over then next weeks about Oracle’s acquisition of ECM company FatWire.  But here is a run down of some of the best sources at the end of day one.

Apoorv Durga from The Real Story Group has the customer perspective.

CMSWire notes that Oracle ECM has been lacking specific engagement management capabilities for a while that FatWire rounds out.

FierceECM says that the acquisition complements Oracle’s earlier acquisition of ATG.

ReadWriteWeb compares Oracle’s acquisition strategy to that of Adobe.

Oracle has released a letter that places the acquisition smack into their existing ECM & E20 platform.

The original press release.

Oracle’s FatWire acquisition page on their website

I applaud Kumar Vora, Oracle’s new SVP of Development for E20 (among other things) and his team for getting out ahead of the pundits and putting his name to the letter above.  This kind of transparency and leadership is a breath of fresh air from big Red.  It also gives some important hints as to what Oracle is likely to do with the technology and customers from FatWire.

While I have been out of Oracle since 2009, I can see how FatWire’s web engagement capabilities plug a badly leaking hole in the whole ECM/WCM stack.  Oracle may have simply gotten tired of getting beaten up by the analysts for having lack-luster features and capabilities in this area.  Campaign management – kind-of.  Analytics (tracker? really? still!?) – meh.  Personalization and mobility capabilities – well, to be sure, ECM and mobile ADF *could* do all of these and, sure, Real Time Decisions (coming out of Siebel) could stand in for a pretty good persuasive content strategy.  But at the end of the day these required much more work to wire together and even re-code than most folks were ready to do.

Now enter ATG with high-powered, highly curated, high-performance scripted e-commerce and combine it with the mature and WCM specific engagement widgets from FatWire and you’ve got the ingredients for an all-you-can-eat ECM buffet.  Oracle has proven repeatedly that they are adept at taking all those ingredients and baking them into nicely integrated single-source solutions.  The only down-side is that it often takes them longer than the market would like.

This is the risk that I see for Oracle with this acquisition.  The features needed to be part of the Oracle ECM / E20 stack *yesterday.  Waiting a year or more wont cut it unless there are no other options.  With the host of smaller and open-source players snapping at their heels and with user interaction paradigms changing Oracle will have to plug the WEM leak while evolving their E20 stack to keep apace of the industry, the market and the demands of people like you and me.

I wish them the very best of luck.

PS – to any of the FatWire folks reading – It’s just my opinion but you should really not fret about big scary Oracle.  Oracle invests in technology and people.  They will do a good job with you too.  You’re in good hands with Thomas, Hasan, Kumar, Andy and the team.