Oracle goes after Salesforce.com with Social Relationship Management

Oracle has begun some initial integrations between its various social-themed applications

Oracle first announced its Social Relationship Management product family several months ago at OpenWorld, but has now taken steps to actually integrate the components of the product set, which it gained through a number of acquisitions over the past year.

Oracle's Social Relationship Management product, announced Thursday during the South by Southwest conference, ties together Oracle's software for running ad campaigns on social media channels with its social listening and monitoring tools. The first capabilities were gained through Oracle's acquisitions of Involver and Vitrue, while the latter came from the purchase of Collective Intellect.

"We are on the road to integration," said Erika Brookes, vice president of product management, Social Platform, at Oracle.

In addition, the combined product has been connected with Oracle business applications, including its Fusion and Siebel CRM (customer relationship management) software and RightNow customer service product.

The tie-ins allow users to push sales leads into the CRM systems or take a message from social streams and turn it into a service ticket, Brookes said.

Oracle's announcement follows a recent webcast by company co-President Mark Hurd and Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development, which touched upon Oracle's social engagement strategy as well as described its plans for another related acquisition, marketing automation vendor Eloqua.

While customers can still buy each service separately, Oracle believes it will deliver the most value and beat out the competition with the power provided by a fully integrated suite, Brookes said.

Customers who buy multiple products or the full suite aren't subject to additional fees for connections between applications, according to Brookes.

Thursday's announcement reflects Oracle's growing competition with Salesforce.com in the emerging field of "customer engagement," the idea of a company building a much richer relationship with customers than in the past, from the initial sales cycle through customer support.

Salesforce.com, however, won't give up the fight lightly. It recently switched up its central marketing theme from "social enterprises" to "customer companies."

The differences between what Oracle and Salesforce.com say they want to accomplish with their strategies may come down largely to word choice, however,

In addition, the particulars of a given vendor's technology are less important than the overall goal of customer engagement, according to one observer.

"It's not about social or mobile," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "The business outcomes customers seek are better customer experiences, improved engagement, greater revenue."

Meanwhile, Oracle has also developed a product called Oracle Social Network, which will offer businesses ways to collaborate internally.

That offering is also part of the complete story, according to Wang. "The secret with social business is that every business is social," he said. "If you don't embed this into the business processes, you won't succeed."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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