It's been a couple of months since I moved from Ventures into my new role at SAP. One of the projects I have been leading is our move to embrace social media insofar as our Oracle competitive efforts are concerned. I don't imagine that the challenges I have faced are all that different from one company to the other but I did want to document what I've seen anyways.
First and foremost, I've been reluctant to refer to anything related to this as "getting blogs" because it's really much broader than that. What I am pushing is the notion that we are using social media to fundamentally change the way we interact with our stakeholders and constituents, whether they be employees, customers, prospects, analysts, competitors, or shareholders. The technical vehicle by which those interactions take place is only one half of the solution, the protocols and intentions of what we communicate and the tone by which we do it is quite honestly more critical.
As I have been socializing the broad concepts within the company I have noticed two distinct attitudes, the first being enthusiasm that we can break away from doing things the way that we have been doing them, and the second being concern about displacing functions and responsibilities from the people that currently have them. Needless to say, people tend to take sides based on what they will lose or gain in the process. Politics as usual, but again this is pretty normal in large companies.
The best arrow I have in my quiver is the overwhelming evidence that the technology industry has already moved beyond the question of whether or not to go down this road, companies in our space are really struggling over how fast and how far to take it. My argument is that this is no longer an optional activity to consider, embracing social media is about achieving competitive equality. The evidence is conclusive, the largest and best known technology brands are building communities and feeding those communities.
Culturally we have some issues as well. SAP is a company that is serious about managing message and brand, and quite honestly that strategy has delivered results over the years. Trying to convince people that they need to give up that control for the freewheeling world of blogs where anyone can write anything is a tough sell indeed. In addition to that, there is a code of conduct that, when taken by the letter, would effectively prohibit anyone in the employ of SAP from blogging anything without the content being approved by SAP. Needless to say, that is a big big problem but we already have a lot of people blogging on SDN as well as individuals like myself, so this is something that is manageable. To give credit where credit is due, this is an issue that has been an issue from when the first blogs started showing up at SAP and the company really has looked the other way while relying on the good judgement of the people doing it, but this is something that can't continue so we really do need to get past the issue and implement some reasonable guidelines.
On the technology side there are a couple of things to report. The first is that blog analytics have a long way to go. These technologies are very good at giving your graphs and charts that track various aspects of conversations, but nothing that I have seen helps me understand who is in the community, who is influential, and how I reach them... in short, they aren't telling me what I don't know but want to know. Basically, I am focusing most of my energy on getting monitoring of blogs and forums in place, analytics I can do later. Speaking of analytics, a lot of the vendors I have seen want to give me an analyst function instead of automated analytics, in other words, somebody on the other end of the line is going to tell me what something means. I have 52 analysts in competitive intelligence, I surely don't need to pay a third party to provide me with an analysis of competitive news.
We also have some issues with feeds but I don't think these are anything serious, however, not having feeds is preventing me from doing real podcasting. Sure, I can put mp3 files up to download but I can't syndicate that content and that is what I want to do. I want what podtech.net is doing.
I will continue to provide updates as this project moves forward...