Friday, April 3, 2009

Not for consumers only - Oracle's social media initiatives

As promised, I've launched a post series on business to business social media. Normally when we talk about business use of social media, it's in the consumer market - your Zappos or your Amazons or whatever. But what about when businesses are selling to other businesses? The markets are often much smaller, and people may resist the use of a "what are you doing?" tool for marketing. Yet I know of one example of a company using social media for business to business communications - sort of.

As you may know, I've been attending Oracle OpenWorld for the last four years, and I've had the pleasure of meeting many people, but inside and outside of Oracle, who communicate about the company and its products. A few years ago these people were referred to as "Oracle bloggers," but I'm not sure if the tag truly applies.

A little background - Oracle products aren't found in your 7 Eleven, Wal Mart, or Best Buy (although by the time this post actually appears, Oracle may have acquired yet another company that might sell in those channels). Oracle offers a variety of products, but all of them share the common purpose of helping businesses work better.

And Oracle and its satellite community uses a number of social media tools to communicate with each other. I'll probably miss a whole bunch of them in this list, but some of the tools include The Official Oracle Wiki, Oracle Mix, the @oracle account on Twitter, the Oracle OpenWorld room on FriendFeed, and the Ning-hosted Oracle Community. Incidentally, the latter two were not created by Oracle, but by Eddie Awad.

And this is just part of Oracle's social media strategy, which also includes blogger credentials for Oracle OpenWorld, and an open tab for bloggers at the Thirsty Bear during Oracle Blogger meetups. In fact, you can argue that Oracle's ACE and ACE Director programs are themeslves a social media outreach.

But why does Oracle do this?

I've already talked about the International Association for Identification and its lack of a Twitter presence. What are the differences between Oracle and the IAI, and why does Oracle lend itself to the use of these tools?
  • Most importantly, Oracle is a pure technology product. While products offered at the IAI (including my own) certainly incorporate advanced technologies, the focus of IAI products is forensic in nature. While it's possible to build a social media community around forensic light products or janitorial cleaning services, it's a bit tougher than

  • Oracle customers are receptive to marketing. Let me give you an example, again from the IAI. The IAI conference to which I previously alluded is billed as an educational conference dedicated to the advancement of the forensic discipline. Therefore, when I present at the IAI, I must make sure that my lectures are informative and vendor-neutral; if I were to go to the podium and push my product, an IAI official would literally stop my presentation dead in its tracks. The Oracle customer environment is obviously a bit different; any Oracle OpenWorld attendee will attest that a number of companies hawk their products during OpenWorld lectures.

  • Oracle products are marketed to the individual. While Oracle products are used by a company, the true use of the product is via an individual, such as a database administrator. Therefore, social media tools in which individuals such as Justin link to individuals such as Eddie make sense.

  • The social media strategy is championed within Oracle. I have no view of the politics inside Oracle, but it's safe to assume that some within Oracle are more enthused about the social media presence than others. Yet there are champions within Oracle that believe that the use of these tools can benefit Oracle's overall strategic objectives.
If you have additional thoughts about Oracle's social media initiatives, share them in the comments.

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