SAP on using Social Media

MIT has published an interview with Mark Yolton, VP Communities and Social Media.

SAP, being a large software vendors and technology leaders, obviously have to demonstrate their understanding and implementation of Social into their business.  I have been following their efforts in building out a community of 3 million SAP customers, partners and employees as an example of successful use of social software over the past few years.  It’s taken almost 9 years to get where they are today.

Needless to say, there is still a long way to go in embedding Social into their business – moving all employees to make Social and approach and ecosystem to work, but SAP are positioned to make that happen.

I picked up some salient points that all enterprises can use on their journey to become Social and highlight these below:

  • Shift from ‘Push’ to ‘Pull’ MarketingSAP’s Yolton understands that traditional push based marketing – the majority of marketing spend today – is no longer effective in generating new business today.  Even using Social Channels (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter) are being used as Push Channels.  Yolton’s view that when looking for a new product/service, especially in the B2B arena, requires better engagement.  Customers need the ability investigate and research the topics that interest them and it’s the job of the company selling their products and services to provide that information.   Pull does take longer to go through the sales cycle, but on the flip side, sales people will have a better knowledge of the stage in the sales cycle to reduce efforts in the ‘wrong’ place.As part of this ‘Listening’ is a theme that is important.  listening on social channels, conversations, market trends that can help any company understand market requirements.  This is still underplayed and not well understood by enterprises.  Current listening solutions don’t have the depth, segmentation, context based and filtered content that customers really need.  However, this really depends on the maturity of the enterprise using social.It’s good to see a large enterprise understanding the characteristics of success in Social.
  • Product Development.  With their communities, SAP have the ability to engage with their customers very closely on product development and roadmaps.  The ability to mine large amounts of conversations that determine trends and engaging with relevant people in the network enables SAP to provide what the customers want. Again, we’re seeing this as only the beginning.
  • Brand Humanisation. Yolton gets that people buy from people.  Enabling individuals across SAP to talk externally about SAP and enabling them to do this in the way that they want is definitely something I see all brands having to do.
  • Support.  One of the most successful aspects of the community that SAP has created is that it provides (free) customer support.  This being provided by customers themselves, partners, employees, subject matter experts etc.  I am sure that without community, SAP would have a much larger customer support function servicing individual  company needs.

Where next?  Yolton seems to be asking the right questions On consumer brand products like Heinz:

Who are they trying to attract? What are they trying to achieve as a business objective? Is it simply awareness of Heinz Ketchup? Preference for Heinz over Hunt’s? Awareness of new ketchup flavors, or the easy open bottle, or the no leak container, or whatever it happens to be?

Then the question is, what unique value can they offer to the members of the community that nobody else gets, or that the community gets first? Is there something special? Is it recipes? Is it that I know stuff before you know stuff because I’m on the inside with access to Heinz and you’re not? What is the unique value that they can offer to the community? How can the company give that to them?

And embedding Social into the Business

How can we use social media before, during and after those events to make them richer, so that the event itself is more successful from the point of planning, then once people get there, and so it can be shared, let’s say from Istanbul out to the rest of the world? How do we use social media to preserve some of the content and conversations and insights from those events, so that after the fact, when people get back home, they can refer back to it?

How can our sales force use social media to listen for opportunities or to forge closer customer ties? How can product development use social as a finger on the pulse of the market, a way to keep up-to-speed on the competition, and to spot emerging trends in technology? How can HR attract the best and brightest to SAP through social? What about procurement, or customer technical support, or other organizations who might use social media as a business tool?

Really, we’re thinking about how social media can be applied throughout our company, in every department and division, and in every geography and country, and by every line of business within SAP. We are transforming ourselves into a social business.

Yolton definitely gets Social.  The question is, as he agrees, is that this a long term transformation goal that requires significant business and technology change.   Those who think Social is about Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter should think again.

Social Business is a new transformational way of working.  The journey is only just beginning with most enterprises.

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