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Bridgette Chambers has an audience- a huge audience. As the CEO of the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG), she leads a community of over 100,000 members from 3,200 companies across the SAP ecosystem of customers, partners, and solution providers[1].

I’ve seen Bridgette address in-person groups of hundreds and groups small enough to fit around a table. On Twitter, I see her engage with the community on a variety topics. Regardless of the audience, one thing is clear – she knows how to connect with people and bring them together. She understands that fostering connections amongst the ASUG members drives value for the entire SAP ecosystem.

So it’s no surprise that she is an advocate for engagement in social media channels.

In 2011, she announced the launch of ASUGNews.com, an online magazine that includes blogs and information that provide “timely, relevant, industry-specific coverage and analysis of SAP news and related IT-trends.” I’ve personally watched this site evolve into a great resource for customers to connect, learn, and share. 

And stay tuned for more. This year she is planning a revamp of ASUG.com which she has described as a combination of “Facebook meets Amazon” with the intent to connect members with the information and content they need.

I had the opportunity to ask Bridgette a few questions on the role social media plays for her – read more below. 

As an executive, why is social media engagement important to you?

ASUG’s purpose is to represent the voices of many, and my job is to lead them. My team isn’t just those at ASUG headquarters, but it’s the 100,000 members who drive our agenda, and make ASUG the major influencer in the way SAP designs, implements and supports its applications.

When Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe became co-CEOs more than two years ago, one of their major promises was to better listen to their customers – our members. I spend so much of my time talking with our members, and I value the insight I collect. One of the ways I can help hold SAP to its promises is by leveraging these tools to enlighten SAP and the ecosystem on what I hear from our members. I can also pass along interesting content or commentary from others in the SAP ecosystem, and elaborate on where SAP is doing a good job or falling short.

I believe great leaders wield influence, rather than command and control. Social media tools provide another avenue for ASUG to continue being the chief influencer of SAP’s product strategy.

How do you apply what you hear in Twitter (or in social media channels) to your role as CEO?

I mentioned that I use these tools to really reflect and relay ASUG thought leadership to the SAP ecosystem.

And just as SAP has made a stronger commitment to listening to its customers, I too need to make a stronger commitment to listening to our members.  I get plenty of feedback in my meetings, at our events, through email, about what we’re doing well, and where we need to improve. But I’m always seeking more, in order to deliver on my promise that ASUG provides the best possible experience and even more value for our members.  I can get that by being on Twitter – where many of our members are.

For example, in 2009, I instituted the ASUG Customer First program as a means for myself and the ASUG executive management team to address member concerns, questions, and yes, even accolades.  I am proud to say that much of the insight we garner from our members, especially at events, is through social media.

How do you see social media engagement evolving for future leaders?

Steve Lucas spoke at one of our events this year, and said something that stuck with me – and that’s the fact that no one can hide from their customers any longer. These channels have made it impossible.

Think of companies that are really innovative when it comes to social media – everyone knows the story of Comcast and Frank Eliason. Comcast (which of course is an SAP customer and ASUG member) was one of the first companies to really embrace not only following customer sentiment on Twitter, but acting on it. It revolutionized customer service, and upped the ante for everyone else.

Companies, and their customers, now look at Twitter as a natural extension of customer service. So naturally, customers are going to want better service there. Leaders need to look ahead at the innovative ways we can leverage social media to better meet the needs of our customers – and we can’t do that without understanding and using those tools ourselves.

On the flip side of that, especially in the technology industry, we’re developing a workforce that has grown up on and now lives on these tools. Discounting them as fads or extras seems shortsighted from a workforce development perspective. We need to find ways to extend social technology to help employees be more collaborative at work; to enhance their productivity, not take away from it.

It’s like Steve said — leaders can’t hide from these social media channels – we need to jump in. I think you’ll only see more of us take that leap, and our organizations as a whole will benefit from the experience.


[1] Source of statistics: ASUG.com

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