At the SiriusDecisions Summit 2014 in Orlando, we recognized four of our clients –Lattice, LinkedIn, Polycom and SAP – for the outstanding work they’ve done in the area of influencer programs. Each of these organizations has a principal strategy for leveraging influencers to drive marketing and sales results. This is the first in a series of blog posts that looks at these winning influencer programs and the innovative approaches they employed.
SAP’s influencer program focuses on “independent voices” – the category of influencers that includes bloggers, journalists and various experts who express their opinions on the Web, in social media, forums and communities. This group has proliferated in recent years with the emergence of “citizen analysts” and is valued by buyers for its objective opinions and deep expertise on a variety of topics.
The SAP corporate affairs and social media team keeps tabs on more than 400 blogs that are segmented based on reach, impact and topic. Not only do team members read all of these blogs for factual accuracy, but they monitor comments to see which storylines are gaining traction with the audience. This real-time feedback helps them continuously tailor their messaging approach based on what is resonating.
Here are a few of the program’s critical success factors:
- Market and message segmentation. Mike Prosceno, SAP’s vice president of corporate affairs and head of social media relations, knows that the sheer volume of information emanating from SAP creates a challenge: “If we were to just dump all of our information out there, it would be like turning a fire hose on these folks. So our job is to segment the information, effectively creating a separate drinking fountain for each influencer, tailored to their needs.”
- Effective mix of virtual and face-to-face interactions. The SAP Developer Network, a community with more than two million members, provides a platform for ongoing virtual interaction with influencers. However, there is no substitute for face-to-face conversations when it comes to building relationships. SAP’s global events, including TechEd && d-code and Sapphire Now are well attended by influencers, and a lineup of smaller, topically focused events allows SAP to engage them on specific issues.
- The power of crowds. One thing that makes the SAP program unique is that there are relatively few one-on-ones between SAP experts and influencers. The program is centered on creating dynamic conversations between groups of influencers with different perspectives, and SAP experts are just part of the conversation. The purpose of these discussions is to get as much debate going as possible. This creates tremendous value for SAP and the influencers. “This is NOT about counting clips,” says Prosceno. “Bloggers are viewed as contributors and collaborators.”
SAP tracks share-of-voice against six peer companies. It also tracks overall favorability of coverage, which is determined based on a combination of coverage quality and sentiment. Using an outside agency, it tracks how the volume and quality of coverage correlate to business results over time. Perhaps the greatest value comes from bringing in outside perspectives, which helps shape the overall public relations and message strategy. SAP’s leadership team also values the intelligence it gains from the open dialogue with influencers.