July 24, 2013
Case Study

B2B Social Media: SAP Latin America boosts followers 900% [Part II]

SUMMARY: Last week's B2B Newsletter featured part one of an extensive look at social media at SAP, drilling down into strategy and implementation.

Not every marketer is dealing with the global challenge SAP faces across its six worldwide regions, but the basic principles presented in these articles can be applied by almost any size B2B enterprise from SMB to, well, SAP-size.

This week, we provide part two of this extensive case study featuring how SAP Latin America managed this effort, including analytics.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


The social media marketing channel should be a part of almost any B2B marketer's active campaigns, but at the same time it's still an emerging channel and many marketers are still trying to figure out how to implement social media and also what to expect from those efforts.

SAP is global company active in six major regions worldwide and many countries. At the same time, SAP has developed a very effective social media program across those regions and on a global corporate level.

Today's case study takes a look at both SAP's social media strategy and tactics in Latin America, and also provides insight into the overall global strategy.

Why focus on Latin America? Social media is huge in Latin America (see comScore data below).

For this article, MarketingSherpa was able to interview both Adriel Sanchez, Vice President of Demand Generation and Todd Wilms, Head of Social Business Strategy, both of SAP. Sanchez provided insight into SAP’s Latin America efforts, and Wilms provided the global perspective.

This week features part two of this case study including how SAP managed its social media campaigns and some insight into how that global company handled social analytics. Part one of this case study looked at building the social media strategy, which you can read here.

Sanchez and Wilms will also be co-presenting a transferable case study at the upcoming MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, "Win Together: Using social business to help local and global teams engage their audience."


Here are some data points from comScore:
  • 176 million social media users in Latin America

  • 7.5 hours spent on social networks per month (highest worldwide)

  • 68.9% of Internet users engage with social media (highest worldwide)

  • Top region for user-generated content on news websites worldwide

One major reason for these numbers, according to one analyst cited by Sanchez, is the plaza culture in Latin America. Cities in Latin America have many plazas where people congregate and share stories, opinions and just enjoy each other’s’ company. This culture translated very easily to the digital world in the form of social media.

"When social media came around, that culture of sharing and that culture of storytelling and that culture of community just extended itself to the online space," Sanchez said.

Step #5. Think "cost of entry" not ROI

Sanchez explained he came to SAP from a direct marketing background. For direct mail, you send out 100,000 pieces and 50 come back, that's the response rate and how ROI is measured.

He added it's the same with banner ads — what are your leads, how many registrations are you getting?

"When I started to go into the social media space, I recognized that you have to look at the ROI very, very differently," Sanchez said.

He felt tracking ROI in B2B in general is difficult, even outside of social media because a lot of companies don't have a good handle on costs, at least consistently.

"They don't have a good handle on how different components in a complicated sales cycle are contributing to a deal and to the amount of revenue," Sanchez said.

He added SAP is doing a number of things to try and track revenue from social media, including:
  • Insights from interactions on Facebook

  • Perform regression analysis on data collected

He also said there was implicit information included, and there are a handful of specific cases where SAP could track opportunities as large as $300,000 to interactions on a social platform.

At the same time, Sanchez emphasized SAP hasn't "cracked the nut on social media ROI." He said traditional ROI calculations do not apply to the incremental value of social media investment and that social media is a communications platform.

Given those constraints, he believed social media marketers should show the value in being active in that marketing channel.

"It is critically important to move toward some measure of business contribution," Sanchez said. "We've done some regression analysis that shows a positive correlation between social activity and leads, opportunities and deals."

He continued, "Like most companies engaging with social, we're still in the early days of quantifying the consistent, measurable business impact."

Cost of entry

Sanchez believes a better way to approach social media is the idea of "cost of entry." That people will engage through these channels and if you are not there you are "already behind the 8-ball."

"So, you've got to be there. That's the cost of entry," Sanchez said.

He added another way of looking at it is, "What's the ROI of the telephone? Would you ask of the bean counters, 'OK, should we have telephones in our organization? How much money are we deriving from having telephones?'"

Wilms used the term "table stakes" to describe the same concept. He said social media is where SAP customers want to communicate, and in that frame and format.

"This is place that they want to have those conversations," he explained. "And, it's the cost of entry. If you're not there, someone else is taking your customers from you."

Social media is part of the self-educated customer

Wilms said there is no concise path from seeing a tweet to buying a solution. He added it's not a pipeline, but more like "chutes and ladders."

"The customer is coming through a variety of different channels and different expectations," Wilms explained. "They go offline, and when they go offline they read something in an article. Then, they come back in and look at your Facebook page. Then, they jump somewhere else. It's almost impossible to manage that."

One thing SAP does is look at growth in raw numbers on each social platform, growth in engagement, growth in clickthrough percentage, and that each of these shows that the content is "hitting the right note" with SAP's customers.

Another soft metric is a shorter lead time to close because that lead comes to SAP more informed, engaged and attuned by the time that person reaches Sales.

Sanchez added within SAP, some account executives will follow a prospect's social media accounts to learn more about them personally and find out what they are interested in before closing a deal.

Wilms added a data point on how social media affects Sales:

A study from the Aberdeen Group titled, "Social Selling: Leveraging the power of user-generated content to optimize sales results" from February 2013 found 79% of sales reps who used social selling achieved their quota over the last fiscal year versus a range of 15% to 43% for sales reps who used social selling partially, or not at all.

Step #6. Address influencers through social media

Understanding your audience, and how they interact with social media is an important aspect of having a successful social program — particularly when marketing to digital natives (30 years old and under) and digital immigrants (30 years old and up).

"It really comes down to empathy," Wilms said. "If you know who you are trying to address — whether they are more old-school and traditional, or whether they are new, hip, innovative digital natives — you can develop content and an argument, and a conversation around the pain points that they are going through and how you can help them through that either from a thought leadership perspective all the way to an actual solution or product."

Wilms provided an example of a contest from several years ago SAP ran targeting CFOs. They found finance people in heavily regulated industries were not on Facebook, and not spending time on LinkedIn groups having conversations with their peers.

What SAP did find was there was a group surrounding CFOs:
  • Lieutenants

  • Chiefs

  • Other people helping run their organization

This group was digitally native and wanted information. They were focused on their careers as accountants and in accounts receivable. The result was SAP began feeding this group information to help them become smarter at doing the books at the end of the quarter, or becoming a smarter accountant. Indirectly this information would trickle up to the CFO — the original target of the campaign.

"Our way of entry was to find out who it was that was actually online and who was having those conversations," Wilms said.

He continued, "You can easily address those audiences if you just have that intel up front — 'Who am I trying to reach? What are they passionate about? How do I engage with them in a conversation that meets on those levels?'"

"Where people struggle is they try and immediately go for the C-suite and they expect that those people are going to online in some secret society someplace, and they just aren't," he said.

Sanchez added the social conversation is also part of a larger conversation with an organization. He said there is never just one person making the purchase decision, but a committee of people who are at least there as influencers.

"There might be final decision makers, but there are [also] certainly influencers," Sanchez said.

He added more and more often these influencers are digital natives who are active on social media.

Step #7. Provide social media-appropriate content

Sanchez said one internal challenge was getting people to understand the context of social media. What is appropriate in another channel might not be appropriate in social media. He added part of the education was getting people to understand even though they are promoting a webinar next week, for example, they cannot blast 10 tweets a day inviting people to the webinar.

"What is perfectly appropriate in email, what's perfectly appropriate in direct mail or what's perfectly appropriate with a tele-rep calling out, just is not appropriate in social media," he said.

Sanchez continued, "It's like the principles of direct mail used to be list, offer and creative. I think there's a fourth now, which is context. You could have a perfectly good group of people, you could have a perfectly good offer and you could have a perfectly good creative, but if you're communicating that in the wrong channel, you're going to fail."

He said social media is appropriate for a wide variety of marketing activities:
  • Social selling

  • Communicate marketing messages

  • Engage communities

  • Inform product development cycles to learn what should and shouldn't be included in the latest product release

  • Inform keyword strategies for search engine marketing

  • Amplifying physical event coverage — taking the message to a wider audience

  • Competitive intelligence

  • Measuring marketing reactions, receptivity to campaigns and messaging

For social selling, Sanchez said SAP described an "evolution" from a "reactive social rep" to a "social selling rep." The social selling rep listens and is opportunistic about reaching out to prospects. An "active" social rep proactively engages in communities, posts messages and tweets.

The "expert" social rep blogs, engages heavily in social media and uses those platforms to become a trusted adviser to prospects.

"The point is that it's a platform that you can do a multitude of things with. There are certain characteristics of the platform that make it better for certain things versus another," Sanchez explained.

He added, "We've used [social media] for selling. We've used it for communication. We've used it for service and support."

Sanchez provided some examples of where SAP Latin America thinks social media is not the best channel for marketing:
  • Targeting a pre-defined list of individuals, such as a segment of your installed base customers. Sure, you can reach them via LinkedIn (possibly). But sometimes, it is just better to pick up the phone.

  • Filling urgent pipeline gaps in the immediate term. There are better ways to accomplish this objective.

  • Deeper-level lead qualification. Even when we identify leads via social media, you eventually have to get someone on the phone to truly understand their needs and propose a solution.

  • In general, we try to avoid turning social media into a "push" channel where we’re constantly promoting events, or pushing SAP-specific content. The context of the platform does not tolerate much promotional messaging. We try to keep a balance of 80/20 between more industry-wide, third party type content and more directly lead generation stuff.


For SAP Latin America, one year after implementing a formal social media strategy, the metrics show the value in an organized social effort:
    From February to December 2012, followers on external social media sites grew from just over 10,000 to close to 95,000. That number is now over 100,000, an overall lift of 900%.
  • Across SAP's 233 global Twitter accounts, @SAPBrasil is ranked number 10 in followers and engagement. @SAPLatinAmerica is number 19.

  • Across SAP's 112 global Facebook accounts, SAP Latinoamerica ranks number four, and SAP Brasil number five.

  • Across the region there is a 17% interaction rate.

  • Latin American subscribers to SAP’s internal social media community has increased 25%

  • A campaign featuring a social app targeting specific buying centers drove over 12,000 visitors and a 15% engagement rate.

Sanchez said his key takeaway from the program was understanding that social media could be used for a multitude of things, and at the same time realize that the channel is very good at some marketing activities, but also needs to be supplemented with other tactics for some other marketing activities.

He also mentioned that ROI will be an ongoing question and challenge for social media marketing.

Wilms added SAP is seeing that social media is truly a cultural phenomenon and that the concept of "cost of entry" is something that enterprises need to embrace.

"Organizations need to come to terms with the realization that this is just how business is being done, and how business is being run," he explained. "You can either embrace it and engage with your customers head-on in the marketplace, or you can shy away from it and lose your customer to somebody else."

Advice for social media marketers

Wilms stated social media is about empathy and understanding the needs of your audience.

"'What is it that they're going through? What is it that your customer is facing? Who is it that you are trying to reach?,'" he said. "Once you understand that, developing your social strategy, developing your content, all the tactics that go into that become really clear."

Sanchez said it's important to have an objective in mind.

He explained, "If your objective is just to drum up some noise to further buy-in from executives, that's a fine objective, but it's going to change your tactic mix a little bit. Maybe you have a bigger goal down the line to really get the resources to put in a social media strategy, and maybe in order to get there you just need to do some quick wins and just make that your objective."

Impact on Sales

Wilms said SAP doesn't have a number for this metric, but in an internal poll, the company found Sales realizes social media is accelerating the pipeline and this was a change from even a year ago. He stated across the board, SAP now wants to see training, programs, campaigns, budget and resources going to social media initiatives.

SAP Latin America has aligned the social media program with Sales in a number of ways:
  • Social selling: the social community has provided Sales with a starting point, and Sales now looks to social media to uncover opportunities, and inform and expedite the sales process.

  • Social Media Ambassador Program: Sales and sales support subject matter experts participate in social media through posts, tweets and blogging.

  • Events: the social media communities are now a vehicle for measuring the impact of events beyond the physical presence by accessing sentiment and extending the conversation after the closing ceremony.

Todd Wilms will be answering your questions about SAP's social media marketing efforts in the MarketingSherpa webinar, "Social Media: How one company operationalized social for replicated worldwide success" — Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 2:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT.

Related Resources

Lead Gen Summit 2013: September 30 — October 3, 2013, in San Francisco

Aberdeen Group research on social selling

Testing and Optimization: SAP's Test Lab increases digital leads 27%, leads to 20% budget savings

Testing and Optimization: SAP's Test Lab increases digital leads 27% [Part II]

Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from "likes" to ROI

Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?

Four Ideas on Marketing to Digital Natives Versus Digital Immigrants

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