At 'BtoB's' Digital Edge: Yolton discusses social business at SAP

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New York—During the closing keynote at BtoB's Digital Edge virtual event, Mark Yolton, senior VP-digital, social and communities at SAP, talked about how the software company is using social media and other digital programs to drive business and engage with its customers and prospects. “SAP has been using social media since before it was even called that—for many years; and we continue to evolve as new platforms and new customer needs emerge,” Yolton said. Yolton leads the group within SAP's marketing organization that includes, SAP's online communities and social media initiatives, and more than 70 websites around the world. In explaining why social media is so important to SAP's marketing, Yolton said: “Our buyers are looking at social media and are looking for peer recommendations before making technology purchase decisions. Those buyers are about 60% down the purchasing funnel before they ever contact us or any other vendor, so we'd better be in that space when and where the customers are looking.” Yolton said another important driver of social media is helping SAP achieve its corporate goals. “At SAP, we have set some longer-term goals. By 2015, we want to exceed $20 billion in revenue. We want to achieve a 35% operating margin, and we want to reach 1 billion people. So tying our social media goals and our digital and community goals to these corporate goals is very important in order for us to be relevant to the company and for us to be funded.” Yolton presented a diagram of concentric circles to show how SAP is using social media, online communities and digital programs to engage with customers, giving up control as it moves further out in the rings to gain more engagement. “At the center of the bull's-eye is is a traditional broadcast medium—it is the official voice of SAP, broadcasting out into the marketplace. We have maximum control but, as a consequence, we have very little engagement,” he said. Moving out to online communities hosted on the SAP site, “we give up some control but gain more engagement,” Yolton said. “Further out, we orchestrate conversations in social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. We have a bit of control, but not complete control. Finally, we seek to participate in conversations where our customers and prospects already are, such as a CFO or financial community. On the outside rings, we have lots of engagement but very little control because we do not own or host that environment.” SAP's Community Network (launched in 2003 as the SAP Developer Network) now has more than 2.5 million members, gains more than 30,000 new members a month and attracts more than 1.2 million unique visitors a month. Users on the network engage in between 3,000 and 4,000 discussions a day, and there are more than 450 blogs posted a month. The company has also had widespread success with social media, with more than 4 million fans on various social networks, 16.5 million video views, more than 700,000 mentions of SAP in social networks and more than 1.5 billion social media impressions this year. Yolton also discussed how SAP integrates social media into events, such as its Sapphire Now annual conference in May, which garnered over 100 million social media impressions. “We aspire to be the most socially integrated technology company in the world,” Yolton said, noting that SAP will soon be integrating even more social media and online community content into, such as providing live Twitter feeds, community links and blogs from customers and partners on and other Web pages. Visit the show archive to see the sessions.
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