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What I learned at SAP’s Influencer Summit: Social Media can work!

January 4, 2011
SAP Influencer Summit 2010 Infographic

SAP's Influencer Summit 2010 Social Media Campaign Infographic

Since 2001 SAP has brought together its top influencers (industry analysts and bloggers) in a small intimate setting to share, and receive input on, its product strategy and direction.  Last month’s event was hosted in Santa Clara, California and besides the 120 influencers attending onsite, another 500+ also participated virtually.

2010 also marked a major change in the ‘social’ coverage of the event where upwards of 50 SAP colleagues participated in leveraging social media to extend the reach of the event beyond the selected few that were invited to participate.  When we set out to plan our social coverage, we had three goals in mind:

  1. Build awareness and create excitement to drive participation through the live Twitter coverage
  2. Amplify the key messages during the event for people following the event through Twitter
  3. Provide real-time feedback to the SAP presenters and help the ‘social’ audience engage

So how did we do?  The infographic on the left highlights the major Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we used to measure our impact, but I wanted to highlight some of the key figures:

  • We were able to reach a large audience: While we predominantly relied on Twitter, and had over 12M impressions, our supporting activities on Facebook, Youtube and blogs further amplified our reach
  • Our audience was engaged: More than 75% of the total 7,850 tweets were produced by influencers, the ratio between retweets and original tweets was more than 1:1, and we had more than 3x blog posts written by influencers than by SAP employees
  • We were able to improve SAP’s perception and grow our community:  This is the area that was the most unexpected given the size of this event.  During this event we increased the positive sentiment for SAP’s key solution areas by 8.4 points and increased our Twitter followers by 7.4%

While we had provided social coverage in previous events, this marked the first year of such a concerted effort and we now have a baseline to compare ourselves against.  I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish and look forward to leveraging these learnings for our future events.

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Relax! Performance doesn’t matter as long as you keep your boss happy

December 16, 2010

For the past couple of months I have been following the reviews of Prof. Jeffrey Pfeffer’s new book, titled: Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t (disclaimer: Prof. Pfeffer interviewed me for one of the individual case studies listed in the book).

The book is quite controversial (with a heavy dosage of Machiavellianism) as it describes what it takes to succeed in the corporate world, and many of the qualities he lists have nothing to do with actual performance.  Some of the more notable ones are self promotion, ability to manage upwards, building relationships, cultivating a reputation for control and authority, and perfecting a powerful demeanor.  My favorite quote from the book is:

As long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.

For someone that has been brought up in a utopian environment where first and foremost performance matters, Prof. Pfeffer’s findings have been bothering me quite a bit.  I tried to draw on my own personal experiences based on my years as a consultant and employee of early-stage and large corporations, and have distilled these ‘symptoms’ to one word: accountability (or lack thereof).

Over the past 20 years I have seen many individuals rise to the top (and a few fall off not so gracefully) simply because they were masterful in managing upwards.  They were extremely adept in convincingly promising things they knew could not deliver and then timing their moves to even bigger roles before they had a chance to fail.

What gives me a glimmer of hope are the numerous studies I have been seeing recently on the increasing CEO turnover.  A 2007 study on this subject by Booz found that overall CEO turnover increased by 59% between 1995-2006, and performance-related turnover increased by 318%.  More recent statistics seem to indicate that CEO turnover may have even nudged a bit higher in the past 3-4 years.

What do you believe? Does this resonate based on your own personal experiences? To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, do you wish to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’?

Social Media Lessons From Andy Warhol

November 30, 2010

In 1968, Andy Warhol said “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.  Last month, I had the honor of playing a small part in a big story that demonstrated the power the SAP Mentors (the most influential SAP Community Network members) yield in the SAP ecosystem.  This ‘campaign’ even created its own hashtag on Twitter (#nataschatoteched) which according to my latest count produces over 1,300 hits on Google (you can read the full post here).

At the request (or should I say challenge?) of John Appleby (one of the SAP Mentors that fueled this story), I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts on the relevance of Andy Warhol’s famous words in today’s social-everything world.  So, what are the differences between a celebrity and today’s influencer?

  • True influence:  While celebrities may have very large mass appeal, their ability to influence someone to take an action they would otherwise not have is low.  I recently read this Mashable article quoting a Twitter study that found that the true influence of today’s celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Lady Gaga is very low, despite their very large following on Twitter.
  • Mass appeal versus opt-in:  The emergence of mass media in the 1960s produced many celebrities that had broad appeal and cut across demographic and geographic boundaries.  It was very difficult not to have heard of The Beatles in the 1960s, but how many people had heard of Don Knuth, known by many as the elder statesman of modern computer science? Today’s influencers have a much narrower sphere of influence, but are nevertheless known, respected and  followed by an audience who chooses to listen to them.
  • Focus on relationships: In an opt-in environment, influencers have to work much harder to stand out and have to focus on building trust-based relationships with their audience.  Since we all have the option to opt-out, authenticity, trust and relationships become very important.

So while most influencers today may never reach Jim Morrison’s fame and notoriety, I would argue that their true influence is much higher.  What do you think?  Would you rather have your fifteen minutes of fame or help (a.k.a. influence) others to make the right decision?

What can Maslow teach us about social business?

October 13, 2010

During my ongoing discussions about social media with colleagues across the industry, I continue to be reminded about how infatuated we have become with the underlying technologies and our own motivations as businesses, that we forget about the audience we are trying to engage with.  Abraham Maslow’s pyramid is today a well-accepted principle not only in psychology, but is also regularly taught at Marketing courses as a way to understand consumer behavior.

I thought it was then appropriate to capture my thoughts on the equivalent pyramid for social business, including a feeble attempt at mapping  my definitions to Maslow’s pyramid:

Teach me / help me (Physiological):  There are numerous examples in this area ranging from the chat rooms and forums of the 1980s (remember the Compuserve Forums?), to the more recent example of how @comcastcares was able to change the perception of its brand by leveraging Twitter to proactively address customer service issues

Save me money (Safety): While this is fairly new,  there are again numerous examples ranging from how Dell uses @DellOutlet to dispose of refurbished inventory to a recent study by ExactTarget that cited the #1 reason people ‘Like’ a brand on Facebook is to receive discounts and promotions

Make me part of something bigger (Love/belonging): Anthropologists define tribe as ‘societies organized largely on the basis of kinship’.  If there is one thing the internet has accomplished, is to allow us to organize ourselves in communities that transcend cultural and geographic boundaries.  They vary from your friends on the 500+ million people Facebook communities, to the 300 thousand+ Ning networks.

Help me build my brand (Esteem): Let’s face it, peer recognition is still important and many people engage with social media to help build their own personal brand.  My example here is from my own company.  SAP has a 2 million+ member vibrant community and based on my query earlier today, 39 of the top 50 lifetime contributors were non-SAP employees.

While we can debate the order of these motivations (and they do vary based on cultural biases,  industries, etc.), I hope no one will argue that unless we begin to empathize with our audience based on what they need, we will not be successful.  As for me, I am still trying to find self-actualization.

What do you think?  Do these represent the four core needs people try to satisfy when they engage with a brand?

Social Media Marketing ROI: Looking For The Holy Grail?

September 22, 2010

I had the honor of participating in a panel discussing the impact of Social Media today.  Our lively discussion prompted me to write this post as a follow up to my last one.

Social media reminds me of the internet bubble of the late 90s and I believe Amara’s law best encapsulates the state of social media today:

we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run

To me, this implies the following:

  • The impact of social media in the long-run will be far higher than anyone can even begin to imagine today, just look at where we are 10 years after the internet bubble burst
  • We are very early in the journey, and nobody has the answers although many people think they do

Having said that, and while social media is fundamentally different, it still is a means to end and not an end in itself. I see too many people trying to approach social media as something different for which we do not need to think about the ultimate business objectives we are trying to influence before we embark on an initiative.

So how do you measure success and ultimately ROI then?  In my view, it starts with understanding what you are trying to accomplish, and then driving your strategy and results based on those ultimate objectives.  Are you trying to build awareness with an audience not necessarily familiar with your brand and offerings, or are you trying to generate demand running a social campaign?  These are two very different things and the way you measure success needs to vary based on these objectives.

While I believe there is no one size fits all approach, the framework upon which to place all of these metrics boils down to these three categories:

  1. Reach – how big is the audience you have built?  Depending on the channel, this can be followers on Twitter, fans on Facebook, or visits to your blog
  2. Engagement – how engaged is the audience you have?  Again depending on the channel, this could be measured based on retweets, likes on your Facebook fan page posts, or comments to your blog posts
  3. Conversion – this is the holy grail, ultimately how does reach and engagement convert to hard $$ and repeat purchases?  How many qualified leads have you generated, how many sales opportunities have you influenced or accelerated, what was the cost of these leads and opportunities, or how did you influence customer satisfaction and hence loyalty?

Of course the key is to define the subset of metrics that corresponds to the goals you are trying to achieve and link success to those goals.  Lastly, as you embark on the social media journey, keep these two reality checks in mind:

  1. Keep-it-simple: While eventually everything will have to translate into business results your CFO cares about, it’s ok to draw inferences-don’t get infatuated trying to calculate meaningless metrics.  I recently read an article that posited measuring ROI is easy, all you have to do is calculate customer lifetime value- hmm, I wonder how many companies can do that.
  2. Ensure metrics reflect your maturity level: Give yourselves room to experiment and learn early on, as this is key to the evolution.  For example, if you are trying to build a community first, then measure reach and engagement and don’t feel compelled to deliver a certain number of qualified leads to sales – this will set the wrong expectations and reduce the flexibility you need to experiment early on.

What are your thoughts? I would love to continue the dialogue started under #GlobalSCRM.

Social Media Marketing: Think marriage, not a one-night-stand

September 9, 2010

I hope I am not offending my fellow marketing professionals, but I have seen way too many folks trying to approach social media the same way we have approached traditional marketing channels.  While we all talk about building long-term meaningful relationships based on trust, many of us still approach social media as another form of a transactional broadcast medium.

More specifically, these are my top five favorite myths when it comes to social media:

  1. Look boss it’s free, just let me do it: While it’s true that most tools are (almost) free today, success in social media is hard and requires a sustained, long-term commitment to be successful.  It is not sufficient to ‘just set-up a twitter handle’, but requires a significant people commitment to nurture and build an audience that will be interested in listening to not only what you have to say but also actively participate; as I said in a previous post, content is king and content is not free.
  2. I can get from 0 to 60 in no time, just watch me: Wrong again, building an audience takes a considerable amount of time and that nurturing phase requires a significant investment in time and resources.
  3. Look at me, I just got 10,000 followers / fans / friends: So what, who cares? I have seen numerous studies trying to assign a value to a Facebook fan with values ranging between $3-270.  The reality is unless you know what the business objectives are and set your social media metrics in tandem, measuring your reach is meaningless.
  4. The only way to succeed is to own a community / blog / fan page: We have been trained over many decades to ‘own’ stuff.  It was my brand, my marketing assets, my campaigns.  If we transfer this mindset to social media we are doomed to fail.  We need to start thinking that we need to participate in the conversations wherever they are occurring, and learn to deal with the inherent fragmentation that comes with social media.
  5. Strategy, who needs a strategy? If it’s not clear by now that before you embark on any initiative you need to start with the business outcomes you are trying to influence and directly link the social media success metrics to those outcomes, perhaps you should re-read the previous four points.

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means implying that I have all the answers and by dispelling these five myths we will succeed.  Experimentation is key and there will likely be (and should be) many missteps along the way.  All I am trying to say is that you will definitely fail unless you have internalized these points.

What do you think?  Does this resonate based on your own experiences?  I look forward to your feedback.



Social media: It’s the content, stupid

August 25, 2010

As I delve deeper in the world of social media, I continue to be amazed with how little we focus on the fact that content is still king.  I therefore felt compelled to borrow the phrase attributed to James Carville, Bill Clinton’s political strategist during the 1992 US presidential election.

While social media technologies are enabling an exponential amplification of conversations not previously possible, therein lies the problem: we focus too much on these enabling technologies and not on the underlying conversations themselves. According to this year-old study, only 8% of all tweets are ‘good’, and engagement levels within the 75 million Twitter user base are actually quite low, with 80% of these users having tweeted less than 10 times.  One of the key challenges social media, and not just Twitter has, is to drive those engagement levels higher.  This can only happen if we start focusing on meaningful conversations.

Wikipedia defines conversation as:

…communication between two or more people. Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other.

In the same article, Wikipedia classifies conversations in four major categories:

  1. Conversations about subjective ideas, which often serve to extend understanding and awareness.
  2. Conversations about objective facts, which may serve to consolidate a widely-held view.
  3. Conversations about other people (usually absent), which may be either critical, competitive, or supportive. This includes gossip.
  4. Conversations about oneself, which sometimes indicate attention-seeking behaviour.

I would challenge each one of us to compare our conversations both on-, and offline.  I would not be surprised to see that most of our offline conversations center on subjective ideas and objective facts (and hence content), while our online conversations are heavily skewed towards gossip and self-promotion.

While some of the hype around the enabling technologies is understandable, it is only when we focus the social media conversation on the underlying conversations and not the tools (pun intended), we will be able to truly reap the benefits.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.