We’ve been on a journey over the past 12 months to effectively integrate popular social networking platforms into SAP Community Network’s (SCN) communication and marketing activities – expanding the options for the core team to deliver value to our members. This brief case study will outline the SAP Community Marketing team’s approach and the results we’ve seen so far.

SAP Community Network is already a vibrant, highly effective community of over two million customers, partners and SAP experts in more than 200 countries. It draws one million unique visitors a month – and over two million total visits each month – with 99,000 members contributing in 2009 alone. SCN has been consistently recognized as a leader in the space:

“SAP ranks in the top ten of the world’s most valuable brands based on how they leverage social media to interact with customers.”  Charlene Li of Altimeter, August 2009.

What could popular social networking channels possibly add to this already exemplar community?

4 Steps to Best Practice Social Media Marketing

1. Audit Current Social Activities

We started with an audit – researching which social network properties were being used by members of SCN and SAP-interested people overall and how they were being used. Through our audit we found over 50 SAP-related social sites spread across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (which we grouped into “amplification” properties) and YouTube, Flickr, and Slideshare (which we classified as “syndication properties”).

Emerging from the audit, the SCN Marketing team saw the need to construct a unique social architecture of properties connected to SCN, uniformly branded, with  clear vision of the role of each property in increasing the reach (by finding new SAP enthusiasts and those unaware of SCN) and immediacy of  SCN.

2. Orchestrate by Building A Social Architecture

Next step for us was to optimize our newly-minted official SCN social properties, define best practices and train our team on how to orchestrate the channels to best effect.  For Facebook and Twitter, a strategy was implemented to amplify content from SCN and SAP at large, engaging fans/followers. It was designed to draw members into deeper dialogue on the social channels, and ultimately on SCN itself. With YouTube, we transformed our model for customer success stories and testimonials; we use it to provide member-generated testimonials, captured informally on video cameras, providing a level of authenticity that is more effective than any best-in-class marketing brochure.

With our property strategy sorted out, we created “SAP Community Network Social Media Guidelines”, which documented the flow of content from   SAP Community Network out to our off-domain social properties, and back.

We applied consistent SAP Community branding on all our social media extensions to create a common touchpoint for users across platforms and to distinguish ourselves from the other SAP-related accounts.

3. Test Tools and Optimize Content

We are undergoing an extensive process of testing tools intended to allow us to plan, structure and deploy content and conversations across our social channels, clustering topics into “campaigns” to measure levels of engagement on topics on each platform.

There is such a rapid proliferation of social media listening, amplification, and measurement tools on the market that we found testing was critical to find tools that met our unique needs as a well-established, ongoing community for whom social media was only an extension of conversations that were firmly established.

We found, for example, through a 90 day test with a vendor, that listening tools did not add any value at this stage in our development, because the yield of “net new” conversations from broad-based web listening tools was very low for us. Our home site, SCN, was indeed the source of most quality content about the topics our audience was most engaged by, and most influential SAP experts were already contributing on our parent site. After this phase of testing, our charter became even more focused on identifying customers and partners in our ecosystem who were unaware of SCN and could benefit from the rich collaboration there.

4. Define meaningful metrics and report monthly results

With our clearly defined objective to create vibrant, orchestrated platforms that reinforce and extend community reach and build reputation for SCN, we knew it was going to be crucial to set goals, map progress and iterate along the way.

For our executive dashboard, we capture and analyze results monthly on these key metrics:

  • Social Users (total count)
  • Interactions
  • Impression
  • Conversion rate
  • Interaction  rate

These are analyzed more intently than the common measures of fans and followers, etc. because we must manage the quality of our engagement in addition to quantity. Our discerning members are accustomed to a engaging in a high level discourse that delivers tangible value to its members. Pure marketing messages are discouraged and even chided by members, many of whom are experts in their field and have high expectations. We measure 34 different aspects of our performance, outsourcing this complex task to a firm that specializes in the rapidly-evolving world of social media tools and metrics.

We communicate our results internally not only to our core SCN team, but also to an internal list of social-media enthusiasts and practitioners in other parts of SAP. This way, we share knowledge with our colleagues to reduce the overall social media learning curve within our company.


We like to think that our form of community social media really “unbundles the brochure”, providing a new level of engagement that changes the role of marketer from creator to conductor.

Participation on all SCN social properties increased 140% between June and July 2010. Our customized Facebook page has exploded, growing by 400% in eight months. We’ve also seen consistent 25% month-over-month growth in Twitter followers for @sapcommnet. Our traffic from social media channels back to SCN has increased by 41%.

Another measure of success is our traction leveraging these social media channels for demand generation for SAP products. For example, we host webcasts on topics where a sub-community is established (e.g. CRM or Retail) and orchestrate conversations on SCN and Twitter and Facebook to drive interest and attendance. Interested webcast attendees are identified and passed to sales for follow up. Notably, attendees can continue the rich conversation started during the webcast in our “always-on” community and our social networking channels. One three-part webinar series generated thousands of registrations, attendees and leads (it was record breaking!).


So that’s it – 4 steps to social media marketing excellence and standard operating procedure (SOP) for marketers supporting an established user-driven community of experts. We invite you to connect with us online via our social handles and welcome your questions, comments and feedback. (@sapcommnet on Twitter or SAP Community Network on Facebook)

Author: Gail Moody-Byrd is Sr. Director of Marketing, SAP Community Network, a 2 million member online community of customers, partners and SAP experts, recognized for its leadership in the B2B social media space.

*This post originally appeared here and has been reposted with the permission of the author.