Gini Dietrich

Oracle Social Screws Up the Social Media Game

By: Gini Dietrich | November 13, 2012 | 

This past Saturday morning, I was tagged (along with six other friends) in a Facebook post by Danny Brown.

In it, he questions why Oracle Social, which launched their page just a mere five days prior had 456,000 likes (it’s now more than a million in six days).

I took a stroll over to the Oracle Social page and, thankfully, I was not one of the more than million people who “liked” the page in less than a week, but there are 66 of my friends who have, even though they clearly said they have not.

So what’s going on? How does a page have that many likes in less than a week? Is it paid likes? Or is it something else?

What Oracle Says

It’s pretty easy to get through their page. As of this writing, they have only four posts: An update of their cover photo, an “apology” for the “abrupt transition” to the page, an update about an event in Las Vegas, and a welcome to all their fans.

I also noticed it is impossible to post on their wall, unless it’s in the comments section of something they have posted.

Not very social.

So how is it they have more than a million likes in less than a week?

According to them, it’s because they acquired Collective Intellect, Involver, and Vitrue this year and were merging the pages.

Which is all fine and dandy. Some organizations have deep pockets and can partner with Facebook and merge their fans.

More power to them.

So, why then, are so many people saying they’ve never liked any of the four pages?

Danny outlines three scenarios in a blog post he wrote about this on Saturday. He said it could be: They bought the likes, they paid Facebook to create a large fan base for them, or they were merging accounts.

He wrote the post before Oracle said they were merging the accounts so it’s likely they’re not making it up. Could it be people just don’t remember liking one of the four pages and were shocked when Oracle Social showed up in their stream?

What Oracle Should Do Now

As of this writing, there are nearly 500 comments from unhappy people questioning why they are a “fan” of this page or simply stating they were a fan of one of the companies Oracle bought, but because of the way this was handled, they’re unliking the page.

To the credit of Oracle, someone from their company has been jumping into the comment streams to apologize and interact with fans.

I don’t really love the “hope you will stick with us” comments from a company whose customers are social and digital media experts, but it’s definitely better than ignoring the feedback.

Oracle needs to do a few things immediately:

  1. Write a blog post explaining how they worked with Facebook to merge the four pages into one. Not only will their customers appreciate it, there may be a thing or two they can teach the digital world. It the transition did, indeed, happen more quickly than expected, discuss how that happened and why they weren’t prepared.
  2. Open up the page to allow comments from their fans. This is social media. Not “we control the message” media.
  3. Apologize, apologize, and apologize again. A “hey we totally screwed up” would be nice to hear. Much better than “we hope you will stay,” which implies we screwed up and don’t know how to handle this, but stick around while we figure it out.

We’re nearly six years into social media. It’s been long enough these kinds of mistakes should no longer happen…especially from a company that works in the business.

Update: As of 8 p.m. ET on November 12, Oracle Social wrote a blog post about what they learned when they merged their Facebook accounts.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I’m curious if they’ll open up the comments now, in light of what happened over the last few days. Maybe an idea to let the steam cool and then become a truly social page. We’ll see.

    • @Danny Brown I’m curious too. I thought the explanation about using the Involver apps, without maybe realizing it, was good. We’ll see where they take it from here.

      • @ginidietrich Although the irony of them using a “guest author” to write the post wasn’t lost on me… 😉

        • @Danny Brown Right? But I wonder if it was the person who is behind the Facebook page. Mike could have had her write it because of her first-hand experience.

        • @ginidietrich VP Marketing at Vitrue:

        • @Danny Brown  @ginidietrich I appreciate their blog post, and commented on it, but it still feels like they really don’t care…or think that the very quiet strategy will work.  Maybe it will,but with so many people up in arms, and so many of them digital folks… it seems like a case study in how not to do this.  And just so OBVIOUS:
          1. Have the message up there welcoming people to the page BEFORE FB pulls the trigger.
          2. Have a team ready to engage… and do it, repeatedly –  I often think lots of bad PR is born out of laziness. Yes, it may be frustrating to make the same apology 500 times to every person who complains, but it WORKS. and if they had I guarantee that most of the people complaining would have switched gears and stuck up for them.
          I don’t know… it just seems so OBVIOUS to me, and as always, Silence sounds like Arrogance.

  • It’s because they merged the pages. I “liked” the regular Oracle page a couple of months ago, and when I went to the “Oracle Social” page, it showed that I liked that page. They did acquire some other brands and seem to be making a more integrated “social” presence, as a matter of fact I’m heading to their Social Media Summit tomorrow.

    • I appreciate their blog post apology/explanation….the biggest takeaway is probably that they should have done a larger campaign to inform the users of all pages that they were merging.

      • @sacevero Someone in the comments said they should have brought in their communications team for this. I agree. Sometimes marketing and/or social need help with external communications.

    • @sacevero Their big mistake was not having a sticky post up from day one explaining why people now liked Oracle Social. They had weeks to prepare for this, and as a company advocating using social to better engage their customers, they didn’t follow their own advice too well. Or that of their CEO, it would seem… 😉

  • The whole idea of merging Facebook pages and/or converting a personal profile into a page. I am not sure if the latter is still possible but to me when we like something or friend someone that is what we have agreed to. Merging us into another entity or changing a profile into a page is going to create problems either way in my view.
    I am not sure there is a clean or right way to do this even with a communications department advising them.

  • The whole idea of merging Facebook pages and/or converting a personal profile into a page seems like a bad idea anyway. I am not sure if the latter is still possible but to me when we like something or friend someone that is what we have agreed to. Merging us into another entity or changing a profile into a page is going to create problems either way in my view.
    I am not sure there is a clean or right way to do this even with a communications department advising them.

    • @hackmanj I’m going to annex Spin Sucks and secede into Gone Fishin’s community.

      • @Danny Brown @hackmanj sounds like we’re playing r

      • @Danny Brown  @hackmanj I think you should!

  • Haha, well not really haha, but I KNEW you were going to write about this!!
    Somewhere, somehow, someone is up to some shenanigans. Odd though, because facebook WON’T EVEN LET ME CHANGE THE NAME OF MY PAGE. Sorry for the outburst but come on, really guys?

    • @TonyBennett Well, you aren’t a gigantic company with deep pockets.

  • Back in the days in which I sold space I used to have all sorts of “interesting” conversations with Oracle’s ad agencies primarily centered around the cost of the ad units.
    That isn’t unusual but two things made me wonder about it.
    1) I heard from multiple sources that Larry Ellison was involved in many of those decisions. It was hard for me to reconcile why a billionaire CEO would be hands on there, but I heard enough stories from reputable sources to wonder if perhaps there was some validity to it.
    2) Their enterprise software packages are not something that just any company needs or can buy. The cost and size is prohibitive. Some of what they did in negotiating price was beyond hardball and into the realm of crazy.
    So I am not surprised to hear/read any of this about their desire to purchase likes. Not much different than buying them on Fiverr.

    • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I once wrote a small ad for Oracle, that appeared in some kind of a theater program. Larry Ellison approved the concept and copy. Mind-boggling. But who am I to question the guy who made enough money to buy a Hawaiian island:

      • @barrettrossie It really is mind-boggling. I remember looking at one of the senior planners and telling him that I thought it was a really weak way to try and negotiate a buy. Who would believe that “Larry” was going to waste time reviewing it.
         But here we are and we know from experience…

  • I have always viewed Vitrue as one of those slimy Facebook Centric companies similar to Likeable who sold the ‘Fantasy’ of Facebook to their clients. My friend got a position running Social for THQ a big Video Game company. He said they use Vitrue. So I scoped out the pages for THQ and found very little activity from the fans vs total fans. So I checked out Vitrue and that was when I learned about companies like them. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they helped oracle with this.
    As for Oracle they have a very Machevelian company culture. So there you go. 1 + 1 = OOPS

    • @HowieG I find it disturbing that after going to and reading this and that and the other, I really don’t understand what they do, or what benefit they provide anyone.

      • @barrettrossie well @Danny Brown + @ginidietrich have been sent white papers by me from various agencies that are all in on Facebook. Meaning most of their business. The pitch is ‘the power of Likes’ and the marketing side ‘engagement’ etc. And for the percentage of customers that come to brand pages they behave in the ways described. But the percent of real customers who are fans is not high. And the percentage of the fans who actually participate/see posts/share etc is usually 1% or less of fans. So why the hoopla?
        I blogged 2 years ago with the data. McDonalds has probably 1-2 billion customers. But only 25 million fans. 70,000 possibly engaging a day on facebook if the ‘Talking About’ number is uniques vs actions. They sell 26 mil meals a day! They need TV and mass marketing.

        • @HowieG  @barrettrossie  And, on the flip side, we have 20 clients and 3600 fans.

        • @HowieG  @barrettrossie  @Danny Brown  @ginidietrich Fascinating, and I’d love to see those white papers.

        • @HowieG  @barrettrossie  @Danny Brown  @ginidietrich And Howie, when I try to follow you on Twitter that link isn’t working.

        • @ginidietrich  @barrettrossie that is because Jack Bauer has a lot of groupies!

        • @AmyMccTobin  @barrettrossie  @Danny Brown  @ginidietrich Wildifre had been promoting one called ‘The Power of Likes’ on Sponsored Tweets. It was commissioned by Facebook and I think Radian6.
          They gave a case study of Skittles with 23,000 visitors a month to their website and like 320k to their facebook page (out of 27 mil likes worldwide). Without looking at how small a percent both are from total customers making them a top 15 US candy from really TV and point of sale (in every candy rack in the US).

  • LSizzle

    There is no conspiracy- any company can merge pages with a little help from Facebook albiet they do favor large corporations when they assist you. Music artists with multiple fan pages merge into one all the time and their likes get funneled into one page, all at once. Companies do it too, all the time.
    This is what happened with Oracle and it will continue to happen in other mergers. This one is causing such a scene for two reasons: 1. people don’t remember liking any of those pages and have no idea what Oracle Social is, and 2. Oracle Social didn’t communicate properly about the merger.
    I’m not really sure what the outrage is, just unlike the page if you don’t want their updates. They learned their lesson in not communicating.

    • @LSizzle Yep… a lot has happened since this all happened on Saturday. That’s why I wrote the update so people can see how they’ve handled it. The outrage was because they were showing up in people’s streams and they felt violated. It goes to the privacy issue Facebook doesn’t seem to care about.

      • @ginidietrich  @LSizzle To add to Gini’s point, consider it from the side of a paying customer of either of the three services that were merged into Oracle and Oracle Social. I’m a user of Involver, for example – I get that my services may be transferred over, or I can look elsewhere for an alternative. But that’s my choice, and one I’m made aware of by law during a takeover. However, I didn’t have a choice in showing my endorsement of Oracle Social by Liking them automatically, because of that merger. Let’s say it had been a homophobic or sex hate page, or one that promoted racism – no-one in their right minds would want to be seen as condoning that company.
        While perhaps a far-reaching comparison, it boils down to users thinking they were duped or bought, and the silence that initially came out of Oracle themselves didn’t help.

    • @LSizzle I don’t know if they have learned their lesson….   there are still people complaining about being migrated to their page and their response is: read our blog.  It appears that they’ve lost about 10K followers, and perhaps they would have Unliked anyway but I do think that the terrible communication played into it.My takeaway: people feel differently about Facebook and their own stream – it’s their SOCIAL network, not a traditional marketing platform… so the violation felt magnified.   Second takeaway: Oracle Social doesn’t really give a crap about small business at all and they’re not losing a moment’s sleep over the complaints.  The fact that they handled their own page so poorly would make me seriously think twice about using them if indeed I was a large corporation.Perhaps I am hopelessly naive to think that Social marketing should be different… more human, and kinder.  They really, really suck at this.

  • rdopping

    It’s a weird world we live in, huh? How else can I exist without someone else deciding what’s good for me and what I like?
    I love the fact that you guys stick up for truth and justice in this social media world. Kind of like a whole new League of Justice. Oracle can be the evil multi-headed Hydra that cannot be slain until it’s appendages are cauterized by the heat of the ire of it’s “forced” fan base.
    the more people question these practices and watch the results the less these big conglomerates will be able to operate without impunity. I hope.

    • @rdopping If we are the League of Justice, who am I?

  • thelance

    “We’re nearly six years into social media. It’s been long enough these kinds of mistakes should no longer happen”
    And I still get phone calls from people dialing the wrong number. The phone has been around for more than 100 years!
    So that’s a bit glib but still, they mistimed a merge while coordinating with a third-party and was perhaps slightly slow on uptake when communicating with their customers about the unexpectedly timed merge. And because of this, they screwed up the social media game?
    “Mistakes were made” may not placate the experts here but if the worst a company does on social media is slightly mismanage a merge involving social media pages on Facebook, we should be so lucky.

    • @thelance LOL! That was funny! The problem is the Oracle Social community are social media experts. So, if anyone has to get it right, they do.