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Author's profile photo Tom Van Doorslaer

Impressions from TechEd Madrid – Social Media

* This was originally a part of my SAPTechEd Aftermath, but 7 pages was too much for one blog.

Social is everywhere these days. Not just you and your neighbour are using social media, but your company may very well be present on the Twitters and Facebooks on the interwebs. Often though, they seem so clumsy in their use of Social Media.

Sometimes this is because of the wrong people, but more often than not, it’s because of a wrong strategy. It’s the CEO that figures he must set up a marketing campaign via Twitter by randomly spamming his followers with marketing talk, whilst there are only 5 followers (mostly bots).

Or the ever so brilliant and open manager decides that we should collaborate over Facebook and show more transparency to the world. Next day though, confidential data leaks out because it’s posted to the public rather than the project team. That’s not what the company was aiming for.

Modes of operation

I started to think of the different ways in which you (or a company) can use social media. I distinguish 4 main operational modes

  • Broadcasting
  • Listening
  • Engaging
  • Collaborating

Funny enough, I also figured that you can map each of these operational modes to specific social media channels. I can’t help but feel that our own company is choosing the wrong channels for the wrong operations, and that they are giving priority to the wrong modes.


When you’re broadcasting, you want to reach as many people as possible, without really caring about feedback. Writing a blog, or creating a new website (with NW Cloud Portal for example) is sufficient. You can reach a large audience without having to gather followers first (like on Twitter). Having broadcasted your message through a blog or website, you can still promote it via other social channels, just be careful not to spam.

The Blog stays visible much longer than a short 140 character message on twitter, or a timeline post on Facebook. It gets indexed by Google, where people can continue finding it. As you add more messages in the blog, you will reach a larger audience with different interests, knowing that they can find the information they need.


When listening, you don’t really care about the message you want to bring, but you’re much more interested in what other people say. So you need a medium where you can subscribe to people, or topics. Like Twitter!

You even get this great API’s and applications to do data mining and create reports over the information you are interested in.


When you want to engage with your audience, you’d better make the right pick of medium. A simple old style forum is still by far the best choice to start discussions, but it requires maybe that users create a new account. People don’t want to have a gazillion of accounts on the website of all their preferred vendors. They want to have a central platform to engage with companies and other people.

Something like, Facebook, or Google+. Those platforms are very well suited for discussions and engagement. Don’t try to use Twitter. I see it everyday that companies and people try to have a discussion on Twitter.

  1. A) 140 characters is far too little to write a decent opinion.
  2. B) Your discussion immediately gets swamped by non-related messages

So you need to get an overview of all opinions on a certain topic. Twitter is very ill-suited. Many people often move their discussion from twitter to G+ (especially for people within the SAP community this is true). Equally often though, people stubbornly stay on Twitter, because not everyone is on Google+ or Facebook. So you want to get your audience there as well. You can’t force them there, so simply wait for them to come to you, and don’t try to engage on Twitter, because then they won’t come either.


It won’t happen often that your company is going to collaborate with its customers. More often, your companies employees will collaborate with eachother. This collaboration is mostly on confidential topics, so you don’t want this to leak out. You need a collab tool which takes care of privacy and allows you to create project teams. No public and free framework exists for this.

You may think G+ has good privacy settings, but what about data ownership? I’m pretty sure G+ does not guarantee to delete all data when you want to. It’s a really good collab tool though, for data that is not so very confidential.

But if you want enterprise grade collaboration with decent privacy, you’ll have to look at enterprise owned services, like Jam, Yammer, Streamworks,…


So choosing the right channel for the right operational mode is key. Otherwise, your audience will just look at you with a weary smile and say: Nice try, but no cigar.

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      Author's profile photo Jon Reed
      Jon Reed

      Good stuff Tom. I think it's also helpful to get clear on the kind of corporate culture you have and how much you are going to actually follow through on the conversations. Too often companies claim to be "open" but in fact they are not and so their social strategy backfires. There are also some tough questions around the guidelines to provide employees on how to engage externally.

      Another key point is measuring the success of social. That's a whole conversation unto itself.

      I get irritated when companies claim they are listening when they are in fact only doing a one way broadcast. In fact sometimes a one way broadcast is fine. Sometimes keeping certain things under lock and key is fine too.

      My view is that in the end, it's about building trust and improving so we can compete better. Trust is not always about being open but it is always about being upfront about what you are up to and why...