Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Jon Reed

Responding to SAP’s Social Media Guidelines for Employees – Riffing on Their Blogging Suggestions, Part One

SAP spent a considerable amount of revision time on its Social Media Guidelines for Employees, and frankly, it shows. Previously, I had criticized SAP’s social media strategy in PAC’s “Feeding the SAP Ecosytem” blog for not providing its own employees a clear sense of what they could (and couldn’t) do when it came to social media participation. With the publication of SAP’s Social Media Guidelines for Employees that’s changed for the better – one reason why I rated SAP’s social media strategy an “8” on a scale of 1 to 10 (with ten being the highest) in my most recent PAC blog post.

One thing that struck me about SAP’s guidelines is that the blogging advice is generally very well articulated, and applies to anyone who is thinking about blogging but also balancing other interests, whether it’s an employer’s scrutiny, industry reputation, or what have you. Blogging is tricky because it thrives on a jugular kind of immediacy. I have seen some folks go to the side of sensationalism to get page views.

I understand the temptation, but I’ve been it backfire more often than not. Backing up opinions with rigorous fact checking and bona fide “in the field” observations not only adds to the credibility of a blog, but it increases the chances that the real thought leaders in the ERP industry will be drawn to your work. And when influential analysts, executives and peers start reading your work, the relationships that come out of that are far more important than a temporary Twitter buzz. Which is not to say that having a strong personality in your blog isn’t an asset – I believe it is, and that’s where having a good set of blogging guidelines comes in.

In this piece, I’ll riff on SAP’s new blogging guidelines and provide a few additional thoughts on them that may be applicable to those who are thinking about blogging but are looking for more encouragement/strategy, or who already blog but want to improve what they do. What follows are excerpts from SAP’s new social media guidelines in bold/italics, followed by my own responses to the relevant sections. I will include links to a few SCN community members who I believe exemplify these guidelines. The numbering scheme I’ve used here is my own and doesn’t correlate with the guidelines.

1. Identify yourself. The value of social computing is diminished when people hide behind a pseudonym or an anonymous post. Trust is hard enough to establish and maintain over the Internet, and if you do not identify yourself, then do not be surprised if your well-considered contributions are brushed aside. Therefore, please identify yourself to provide additional authenticity to your online contributions.

I have found that anonymous blogs do not obtain the credibility and stature of those who are willing to stand behind their words. There is something about anonymity on the Internet that allows people to act much “tougher” than they would otherwise. I have seen more than one Internet bully wither in person. Those who stand by what they write and open themselves up to honest feedback have a much greater impact. The other problem with the anonymous blog? We are usually a part of the picture we are criticizing. Putting our name on our works pushes us towards a balanced view in our words and accountability in our deeds. No one in the SAP community understands (and promotes) the value of open discourse more than SAP Community Evangelist Marilyn Pratt.

2. Be Honest. Tell the truth and if you find you have made a mistake, issue a clarification or a withdrawal or whatever may suit the circumstance and make it abundantly clear that you have done so. Social computing is a tolerant neighborhood – mistakes and errors will not make you a social outcast if you take responsibility. Rather than editing your content once it has been published, find ways to make your corrections transparent.

Agreed. We must strike a balance between putting thought into what we write before we hit “send”/”Tweet”, while also being comfortable putting ourselves our there without agonizing over every word. I judge people by their consistency and overall tone and content, and generally cut them slack in less flattering moments, especially when apologies are forthcoming. I have had to make several of them myself. Perfectionism is a limiting characteristic in life; social media pushes us to move beyond perfectionism and simply be heard, hopefully in an authentic (and not always perfect) voice. There are numerous examples of this type of blogger on SCN, way too many to cite, but one of my personal favorites is SAP Mentor Vijay Vijayasankar, who writes about SAP consulting, the evolution of SAP skills, and emerging SAP functionality in such a thoughtful and honest way. That his work is fun to read and injected with self-effacing humor is another part of why Vijay’s work is a great example to me.

3. Be Respectful. Simply carry the professionalism norms and standards of any SAP office onto the social computing platforms.

It is amazing how arguments can shift online when two parties take the time to listen to the root of each other’s arguments rather than escalate. A big part of this, in my opinion, is letting go of the need to be seen as some kind of outsized personality who doesn’t mind getting into overly personalized slugfests and dish industry dirt in order to get bigtime page views. Those who take the understated approach of sharing expertise where they have it and listening well when they don’t are the ones with the best social networks. Since this example is specific to SAP, I wanted to cite an SAP employee who models this type of behavior, and while I’m admittedly biased, I have seen the professionalism and grace of Chief Mentor Herder Mark Finnern exhibited on a number of occasions. Mark is sometimes in the middle of controversial topics but I’ve noticed that cooler heads tend to prevail when he is around. One thing you might not know about Mark is that he is a founder and leader of Future Salon, a Bay Area organization that brings in fascinating speakers pertaining to the future of humanity. You can watch these events virtually, so I recommend signing up. Mark has clearly sorted through how to carry his SAP identity into the rest of his work; we all have to figure out how to balance such affiliations. Mark is a fun guy to follow on Twitter also.

4. Separate Opinions from Facts, and make sure your audience can see the difference.

Yes! Both opinions and fact-based reporting are valid approaches, but folks want to know that you understand the difference. They also want to see that you are not blind to your own subjectivity and biases. To me, putting your agenda out there is the first genuine step towards “a new objectivity,” where readers put the pieces together for themselves from a range of perspectives. Example: I just launched a new podcast series on called “The ERP Lounge: Opportunities and Misadventures in SAP Consulting.” We spent a good five minutes on the first podcast acknowledging our agendas and who we would be advocating for in the podcast series. I wanted listeners to know why we were doing the podcast series, after all, it’s going to take a heck of a lot of work, so what drives it? To be fair, one friend told me he thought it was a bit tedious, but I personally think it’s useful to understand what drives our commentary, and I look for that acknowledgement in the first class bloggers I read. I don’t have to agree with their agendas, but it helps me to weigh both their factual reporting and their commentary if I know what their end game is.

5. Add Value: be informative and interesting. Contribute your thoughts, experiences, observations, and opinions regarding issues you know and care about, but make sure to check your facts and figures if you dont, someone else probably will.

Yep. I noticed that some people seem to just use their blogs to riff on other people’s blogs or ideas, which is fine from time to time – that’s basically what I am doing in this post, after all. But the more creative and original the format, the more interesting it will be. For example, I really like how SAP Mentor Jim Spath set up the narrative for his ongoing Solution Manager blog series. Jim is brilliant at creating a storyline that makes the technical information that much more vivid. I had a similiar situation recently – I wanted to blog about the SAP news stories of the summer and that seemed like a really dry topic. So instead I decided to rate SAP’s response to each story on a scale of 1 to 10. This was unbelievably subjective, but it made the blog post a lot more fun to write – and hopefully to read also.

Well, this blog post is getting pretty long and I had a few more sections to go. Out of respect for everyone’s Monday inbox, I’ll put a wrap on it here, and look to post the rest next week.

Assigned Tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hey Jon- thanks for your kind words. It is a great honor to be mentioned this way in your blog.


      Author's profile photo Mark Finnern
      Mark Finnern
      Hi Jon,

      After reading your compliment regarding cooler heads, I had to jump over to Facebook and post some long overdue comments to some heated discussions 😉

      Thanks also for the link to the Future Salon. Thursday in a week, the 20th of August, we will see whether we can bring more transparency into our financial system with the folks behind Free Risk.

      Looking forward to your second part, Mark.

      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      "I judge people by their consistency and overall tone and content, and generally cut them slack in less flattering moments, especially when apologies are forthcoming. I have had to make several of them myself. Perfectionism is a limiting characteristic in life; social media pushes us to move beyond perfectionism and simply be heard, hopefully in an authentic (and not always perfect) voice"
      Well said.  I wonder if others have sensed that there is some confusion lately in the blogoshpere between transparency and downright meanness.
      While I admire a number of bloggers who are unflinchingly candid and use shock treatment to create dialogue and prompt thought, I cringe to think we make a virtue of vitriolic speech. 
      In your blogging and tweeting I find your critique tempered by good manners and humor.As old-fashioned as it might sound, there is something ennobling about that; something that reminds us that cutting remarks aren't the only remarks to make an important point. (and yes, guilty myself on more than one occasion of nastiness and even more guilty of enjoying its use)
      So having reflected more on your remarks about tone, I particularly admire your style(restraint) and think it takes just as much courage to be civil as pure brashness does.  It's even beginning to be a somewhat rare exception to a populist norm.
      So... long live your brand of courtesy and let the powers that be make some of us more forgiving of lapses of it. Very honored to find myself mentioned here.
      Author's profile photo Jon Reed
      Jon Reed
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks for the comments y'all. I'm looking forward to posting part two. My real hope for the piece was to hopefully inspire folks to start blogging or blog more. I guess there's a limit to such pieces as in the end everyone needs to take Hugh MacLeod's advice to "Ignore Everybody" and find their own voice.

      Marilyn, you and I have talked before about how it is harder to be entertaining when your goal is to be ruthlessly fair. But it's a fun challenge. But you're right- there are roles for blogging provocateurs as well. The bloggers I read have a really wide range in styles, but the two things they have most in common: they make it a point to "know their SH*T" and not just go off without doing their homework, and they have found an independent style that is their own and not an attempt to mimic somebody else's. And you can do just as well blogging while working for a large employer as being on your own. All other rules, blogging frequency, etc, go out the window. I will plan to finish this piece next week with part two.

      - Jon

      Author's profile photo Sean MacNiven
      Sean MacNiven
      Thanks Jon, really appreciate your comments. The most important thing for anyone to remember is that social media, in fact, even corporate communications, is an ecosystem, not a fixed structure. These guidelines will evolve, and one important part of that will be learning by doing, and learning through making mistakes. We can't possibly know the nature of our environment if we don't test its borders. Your comments are very valuable, and we welcome criticism as much as praise. We are currently a little like Columbus setting out to find India and prove the world really is not flat...not by theory, but by getting in a ship and taking the risk of not being 100% certain! It is and will continue to be an exciting journey.