Recently, I joined fellow marketers and PR professionals for a panel discussion on “Social Media Adoption in Large Enterprises” hosted by Third Thursday Meetup, at the SAP campus in Palo Alto. After an hour of quality networking over generous portions of appetizers and crisp white wines from local vineyards, we settled down for an evening of insightful panel discussion with Ken Kaplan, New Media Manager at Intel and Donald Bulmer, VP of Industry and Influencer Relations at SAP.
The moderator Jen McClure did a good job of moderating the two-person panel with many thought-provoking questions. Overall, it was a solid discussion and both panelists provided a fascinating perspective on how social media is being deployed by two of Silicon Valley’s largest enterprises.
Here are some interesting insights from the discussion:
Innovation and thought leadership: Dan Bulmer credited the current economy as ideal for fostering creativity and innovation. According to him, tight budgets and current economic climate have made it easier and paved the way for social media adoption in large enterprises. Kaplan offered a great insight from the PR perspective as to how social media has revolutionized the communications space. In the past, press releases used to be an one-time event, but now thanks to blogs and social tools, a press release event can go on for weeks. To promote innovation, Intel works closely with industry thought leaders and many prominent bloggers are on Intel’s internal blog council. They consistently leverage thought leaders from the social media space to create and foster social media best practices.
Efficiency: The budget cuts have impacted three primary areas – events, ads, and travel. The budget cuts have ranged between 30-50percent, however, the goals for the organization have stayed the same or have grown. For SAP and across the industry, while advertising spend has been cut, additional resources are being diverted to social media, because it’s perceived as a more efficient way to generate results. Bulmer mentioned how virtual tradeshows are fast becoming more prevalent as an efficient channel for driving results at lower costs.
Customer Engagement: SAP’s approach is very community-focused, they use web 2.0 collaboration platform to bring their customers together based on common products they use. They expose customers to SAP products as well as connect their customers to others who also use the same products. They leverage social media technologies to foster a strong user community and also, enhance SAP’s relation with their customer base. Kaplan was pleasantly surprised to discover their customer’s passion for Intel’s processors when he came across on tweets like “Loving Intel Processor” on the popular micro-blogging site, Twitter.
Collaboration: Bulmer’s approach was extremely pragmatic and he said, that he wants the business units to have “skin in the game” to make them more accountable for the deployment as well as results. His group doesn’t take more than 5-10percent stake in any social media project, which forces the businesses to take responsibility for their activities and consequently, the results. McClure had a great question about how the two professionals dealt with the challenges of deploying social media across large enterprises with highly multi-cultural and multi-national presence. Fulmer had a great point and which was to drive social media adoption, you have to associate social media with success because success tends to be culture-agnostic and that in turn has helped adoption. Kaplan’s approach was to decentralize the deployment because he believes (and rightly so) that social media is not scalable and it has to be driven from individual regions and centers. Kaplan referred to the key role that Centers of Excellence (COE) play in deploying best practices and knowledge across a global organization.
Monetization: What particularly resonated with the audience was Bulmer’s approach and philosophy to social media, which he called “purpose-driven” engagement. He encourages folks at SAP to engage in social media with a specific intent and purpose, which forces them to stay productive and efficient. He seemed to be very cognizant of how social media is often dismissed as “fluff” and this awareness was reflected in his highly monetization-oriented social media strategy. According to Bulmer, SAP is already generating thousands of leads from their social media efforts and many of those are about ready to close.
Corporate culture enhancement: Kaplan had an interesting observation that although silos are breaking down they haven’t completely disappeared. However, social media has certainly forced people from across the organization and different functional groups to work together. He urged folks to find the communicators and the experts in the organization who can then engage with the customers. . Both SAP and Intel offer a variety of information resources to their employees on social media. At Intel, these are structured like college courses ranging from #100 to #500 level courses depending on the employee’s level of engagement. Both panelists agreed that getting the right people within the company involved and engaged is the key to social media success.
All in all, it was a very relevant discussion, especially as more companies are getting serious about social media adoption. It was great to get meaningful insights from these two seasoned professionals on the real challenges and opportunities in deploying social media in the enterprise space.