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Interview with Sam Hall, Corporate Communications Director and Social Strategist, Oracle

Social media has given brands more and better opportunities than ever to talk directly to customers in their own space. But equally, customers have more opportunities than ever to shut brands out of their personal zones.

Technology giant Oracle is renowned for its successful customer engagement programmes on social. As part of our Little Shop of More video series (more about its product range later), we spoke to  Corporate Communications Director and Social Strategist, Sam Hall about his secrets to getting up close and personal. Read on, or watch the video.

MOI: What do you see as the critical factors for entering people’s personal zones on social?
SH: You need to understand that people use different social platforms for different reasons. For example, I use Facebook as my personal space, Twitter for business and news consumption, LinkedIn for business connections and Instagram to follow things that I’m interested in personally. So you’ve got to pick the right platform and you have to add value by being there. Whatever the platform, you need to earn the right to be in people’s spaces. If someone’s social space isn’t a playground you’ve been invited to, don’t go there.

When social networking was new, it was tough for brands to get into at all. Brands didn’t know how to use it well, individuals didn’t know how to use it well. Now that social has moved on and it’s part of every day, the barriers to entering people’s social space are from a quality perspective. People are looking for higher and higher quality contributions from those they engage with, so if you can’t add value, you shouldn’t be in it.

You also need to appreciate the frame of mind people are in. When people are on social media, they’re normally in a fast, low-touch, browsing mode – so what you say has to be short, relevant and appeal to that mindset.

MOI: Which do you think are the hardest channels for engagement?
SH: It’s more about picking the right channels and adding the right value. They all have their challenges. Facebook is difficult because it’s such a personal space. With LinkedIn the challenge is finding and adding the right value and Twitter can be a struggle because it’s such a right-place, right-time environment. The challenge here is getting our people at Oracle to be more of-the-moment and more connected to people as individuals.

MOI: How do you gauge social participation?
SH: Listen. What conversations are happening out there and who’s having them? What are the trends? Who are the influencers? You’ll soon identify who to follow and engage with. Don’t follow everything and connect with everyone or you won’t get any value from what you’re doing – you will have information overload. Engage with the right people and they are more likely carry your message for you. There’s actually no such thing as information overload – it’s simply filter failure!

MOI: What are your key metrics for social media?
SH: The thing with social is that measurements can change very quickly. So stick with it. Sticking with it is how you’re able to see trends. At Oracle we look at share of voice – but you have to know what share of voice you’re measuring, and of course there are times when share of voice can be extremely negative. So benchmark your environment first, determine who you want to have share of voice with and at what level. We also measure impact. How many people have started to talk about us more – either more favourably or more frequently within a given time period? And who are they reaching? With these measurements in place, it starts to put a bit of science around the old adage of “influence the influencers”.

MOI: How are you overcoming the challenges of social selling?
SH: Don’t chase the sale. Listen first, build your own credibility so that you earn the right to talk to people in their personal space, then engage. Understand that just because you can talk to someone, it doesn’t mean you should. Years ago, the only way to build networks as a salesperson was through business events, the phone, and later, email. Now, you can find out such a rich tapestry if information about people that you don’t need to jump in two-footed. Hold back. Don’t chase the sale and the sale will come.

MOI: Tell us a little about your social technology stack
SH: One of the lucky things at Oracle is that we’ve already got great technologies “in house” – Collective Impact for social listening, for example, or Compendium for content marketing, which we combine with bought-in tools to form a social management suite. So along with the listening and the content, we have the likes of publishing technologies, workflow technologies and governance. We also have our brand channels, employee channels and our executive thought leadership channels. This way, we can see what’s going on on the outside, discover which content we should design and how, determine how best to get it out the door, and then measure the success of it.

MOI: What’s the next big thing in social?
SH: I think in social it’s not necessarily about the next big thing, although you’ve always got to be ready for it. But there are always little tweaks you can make – often that make a big difference.

For me, the next big thing on the agenda is employee advocacy. It’s been around for years, yes, but how do we really motivate people to embrace it and make those important one-to-one connections? What channels should they use? With what type of content is it done? How can we make that content more engaging and sharable? And how do we do that at scale? Or in a local language? Or with people in different parts of the business or different regions?

Another big thing that excites me at Oracle is how we continually improve how we talk to customers across all channels. How can we replicate great offline content, like events, online and how can we replicate great online content offline? Also, how can we mine all the information that’s out there well enough to continually turn it to our advantage, and hopefully add a bit more value to our customers’ businesses and lives?

Our thanks to Sam and to Oracle for that interview. One of the success secrets to Sam’s social success that he didn’t mention here was his liberal use of the new MOI Little Shop of More product, Personal Zone (that’s not actually true, but it’s a fun idea. Take a look :-))

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