The Big Brand Theory: SAP Simplifies the Customer Experience via Social
With a presence in more than 130 countries, and more than 282,000 customers worldwide, SAP is one of the world leaders in enterprise applications and software. With a company mission to “help organizations generate new opportunities for innovation and growth and stay ahead of the competition”, it’s no surprise that SAP has also turned to social media to help connect with customers and support their overarching objectives. I recently got a chance to speak with Jennifer Arnold, the Head of Marketing for Australia and New Zealand for SAP, to discuss how the company goes about utilizing social media channels, and how social supports SAP’s wider objectives and purpose.
Socially Active Employees
SAP has a good presence across all the major platforms, with more than 633k followers on Facebook, 168k on Twitter and 33k on Google+. SAP is also active in video content, with more than 20k followers on YouTube. I started by asking Arnold how SAP approaches social channels and whether they have a core mission or vision the team aspires to achieve through their social presence.
"We have a social business strategy, the objectives of which extend across various areas of the business.,” Arnold told me. “Our branded social presence focuses primarily on content marketing and direct customer engagement, putting customer needs first in the content we share, listening to product feedback, and providing 1:1 support. We extend the same principles in enabling employees to be social representatives of the brand both through social selling and employee advocacy programs.”
The specific mention of employee advocacy and staff enablement is particularly relevant – a quick search for people who list @SAP in their Twitter profiles uncovers a wide range of employees who are proud to highlight their connection to the brand, extending the breadth of their social footprint well beyond the follower count of their official company profiles – the Facebook group ‘Life at SAP’ also has more than 39k members. Such efforts can go a long way towards boosting the reach and impact of a branded social presence, utilizing the people who are most invested in the success of your business.
The main standout of SAP’s social media presence, however, is their LinkedIn community. SAP has more than 665k followers on LinkedIn, and operates twelve separate showcase pages to best represent the diversity of their offerings. LinkedIn is also the main facilitator of social shares from the SAP website – I asked Arnold whether she considered LinkedIn to be SAP’s primary social network of focus and what she sees as the main benefits of the LinkedIn platform?
“By nature, LinkedIn is a professional network so it’s a natural fit for us because their core audience is there in a business context,” Arnold said. “LinkedIn’s emerged as the premiere business content platform, highlighted by the Influencer program, the acquisition of Slideshare and launch of their on-platform blogging option, so it’s a critical component of our paid-owned-earned media strategy.”
One of the more interesting aspects of big brand social presences, particularly from a marketing insights point of view, is how they manage their social profiles - how they’re able to maximize the opportunities afforded to them through their large social audiences and what metrics they focus on to define relative success.
Along this line, I asked Arnold how big SAP’s social media team is and what roles they have within it.
"If you’re familiar with Altimeter’s social media organizational maturity models, we follow the “Dandelion” model which has multiple hubs and spokes throughout various areas of the business,” Arnold said. “At the main, global hub within Digital Marketing, we have about fifteen people, with roles focused on social channels, reputation management, paid social, listening and analytics, social selling, social tools, and governance.”
And in terms of analytics and data of focus?
"It depends on the activities, but we focus on interaction rate and audience growth rate to measure social channel health, but we use many other measures for diagnosis of tactics, content, etc,” Arnold told me. “We also look at the traffic coming from social sites and its attribution to downstream activities like downloads, leads, pipeline...”
In looking more specifically at SAP’s social strategy, it’s notable that the brand has several Twitter profiles, including two primary handles - @SAP and @SAPNews. I asked Arnold what the thinking was behind the creation of the two channels and whether that’s been a successful strategy for the brand.
“The two were designed with different audiences in mind,” Arnold said. “@SAPNews was purpose-built for press and analysts whereas @SAP is designed for customers, partners, and developers. The content strategies sometimes intersect, but that’s part of why it’s a successful strategy - the best and most important content gets amplified by both.”
Certainly an interesting approach, though likely only possible with brands of similar size. Separating the two elements gives SAP’s Twitter presence more specific audience focus, and while there would be some crossover in the two audiences, SAP is also able to leverage their followings to better amplify their message, helping boost their Twitter presence overall.
I also asked Arnold about SAP’s approach to Facebook – SAP posts to their main Facebook page 4.6 times per week, generating around 165 Likes per post, on average.
“Because Facebook has changed so much over the years, we’ve had to constantly evolve our strategies,” Arnold said. “We focus our content strategy on energizing our loyalist community of SAP developers and consultants who comprise much of our audience there.”
“Since Facebook changed their algorithm, reducing organic reach to virtually zero, we’ve started using paid more to drive engagement and support our efforts.”
As noted earlier, one of the other standout elements of SAP’s social media presence is their focus on video content. Their YouTube content regularly attract thousands of views and they have a range of channels covering all aspects of the company and their regional representation. SAP has also been experimenting with Vine content of late – I asked Arnold whether video is something SAP is looking to expand upon, and whether they’re also considering newer video platforms like live-streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope or Snapchat?
“Video has been a core component of our content strategy for years and we’ve tested new video formats like SnappyTV, Vine, Periscope and Instagram for relevant objectives, most notably to syndicate the live experience at events like SAPPHIRE NOW and SAP TechEd to virtual audiences everywhere.”
Simplifying Customer Experience
In finishing up our conversation, I asked Arnold what she sees as the true value of social media and how SAP views the benefits of social platforms at a more philosophical level – “the true value of social media is...”
"...engaging with customers throughout the buyer’s journey by equipping them with content they want and need in order to make their decisions easier and experiences simpler.”
A simple, yet insightful encapsulation of all that SAP’s social media presence represents, and really, what content marketing itself represents on a higher level. SAP achieves this by activating their staff on social and by looking to provide platform-relevant content to their audiences – an interesting look into how the company views and utilizes social channels to best effect.
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