SCN came out the back of a group of developers and community folks at SAP that wanted somewhere to talk. Read SAP Community Network History for some fascinating history.

Once a developer community, it was extended with the Business Process eXperts (BPX) and is now a wide community of varied folks. Acquisitions like Business Objects, Sybase and SuccessFactors have broadened its horizons, and the re-platform of SCN onto Jive and the opening of SCN to anyone, combined with gamification, have really democratized the platform.

What’s more, SCN has reach! A truly spectacular blog like Thomas Jung‘s SAP HANA Extended Application Services can easily net 100k+ views, which is a great way to get visibility and increase brand.

The SCN The SCN Rules of Engagement provide some good guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable and are a must-read piece of content.

SCN and Products

I’m certain that SCN has caused product and marketing folks to realize that it is a great way to promote a product, get wider reach and bang their drum. I’d like to suggest that people, especially those that work for SAP and SAP Partners, take some time to do this intelligently.

The SCN Welcome page is an awesome way to understand what kind of content people like, and I’m going to call out some SAP peeps for writing good quality content. But first, let’s talk about content marketing.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing.png

Put simply, Content Marketing is what sits in the intersection of what you want to say, and what your customer wants to read.

I don’t know if Tom would agree that what he writes is Content Marketing or Developer Enablement (I would argue that they are the same thing) but to me, his pieces like SAP HANA SPS 09: New Developer Features; REST API are what it’s all about. Explaining product features, enabling, engaging and educating customers.

It wasn’t blogged on SCN, but Michael Eacrett‘s What is new in HANA SPS09 is another quintessential piece of content marketing. There is a little promotion going on, but it’s educational, interesting and customers want to read it!

The HANA Cloud Platform folks are the same way. Rui Nogueira and Matthias Steiner in particular have created posts like Lightweight HTML5 apps and Git on SAP HANA Cloud Platform and Getting started with SAP River Rapid Development Environment (RDE) – Part 1 which are educational and which of course promote the product they are paid to manage.

Press Releases

timoelliott_2015-Mar-24.jpg

A shout out here to Timo ELLIOTT, another SAP employee who knows how to market. See Is SAP HANA a Luxury?

and a great companion slideshare to this post Evangelism and The Future of Digital Marketing. Oh yeah, the cartoon above is his too!

Then you have press releases, which live on the SAP News site, like SAP Cash Management powered by SAP HANA. I’m good with press releases, they serve a purpose – making simple messages available to the market. They’re great to track using the Google News feed.

But SCN isn’t the right place for this information, in my opinion. Instead, SCN should be restricted to Content Marketing. Content should be educational.

The New New SCN

Oliver Kohl has described (in a beautiful piece of Content Marketing about the SCN platform) in The Long Run that SCN will be renewed in 2015. We are hoping that as part of this renewal we will see a return to pre-moderation of content which will mean that those who use SCN for “What you want to say to your audience” but which actually falls into the category of “What your audiences doesn’t care about” will get some education.

But even still, if you’re SAP, or a partner, and you want to promote something – please take a few minutes to consider if you could, instead of copy and pasting a press release, take the time to write some content that your audience would want to read.

If you don’t believe me, look at the SCN Welcome. This front page contains content which has been “liked” by the audience. If you take your time to write content like this, your audience will like it, and you will get the promotion that you need.

Follow Ups

Thank you to Marilyn Pratt for pointing out Julie Plummer and her excellent content like SAP NetWeaver Business Client 5.0 Overview. I’ve not tried to call out everyone in the community that does great work, but rather shine a light on a few. And I’ve deliberately not called out those that I don’t think are doing it right, or indeed called out the blog that prompted me to write this post in the first place!

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  1. Nathan Genez

    Great post.

    When speaking, always remember who you are talking to.  SCN is a wide ranging SAP community but the overwhelming majority of SCN is made up of folks that have to create, build, and support SAP solutions.  Therefore, press releases errrr… marketing rambles don’t do well here.  I’m not sure why folks think that a two paragraph blog announcing that “XYZ powered by HANA” will get much positive attention here.

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    1. John Appleby Post author

      Maybe we should ask them and call them out on it? I think in most cases they don’t know better, and they think that it works. I don’t think most people deliberately go out their way to do something the people who reside on SCN don’t like.

      That’s why I wrote this, I thought maybe it might help a few people. 🙂

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        1. Timo Elliott

          Community is important in both directions — people shouldn’t abuse it with content that nobody finds interesting, but we should also seek to educate each new person that gets it wrong…

          (but if ever that doesn’t work? Heck yeah, shaming and sarcasm, bring it on! 🙂 )

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  2. Lars Breddemann

    Hi John,

    I assume it was just a slight oversight to not mention the rights owner of the cartoon you used (Marketing Has a Branding Problem | Business Analytics), right? 😉
    Beside this, I see your point here and I partly agree.
    What I don’t see is that the “too much marketing from SAP” topic can or should be handled via RoE.
    My feeling is that the kind of change you want to see can only be achieved by changing the culture that leads to the community engagement.
    Even in teams like Tom’s and Michael’s (SAP HANA Product Management) there are only a few active contributors, which I assume you noticed. Yet their team is much larger.
    Ever wondered why?
    As I see it, community engagement sneaked up onto a lot of SAP colleagues, partners and customers alike.
    For some, all of a sudden, it now became relevant.
    Now it’s not that little developer webpage anymore.
    Now it’s more and more the place to find the information required to do the daily job.
    That not being enough, I know more people (inside and outside SAP) than I wish for whom SCN is the exact opposite of their business model.
    That’s the business model of the professional consultant/expert/indispensable developer (let’s call them IDs).
    You know, the kind of guy that keeps know-how and information to himself.
    The sysop that is practically untouchable, because she’s the only person who has the knowledge to do stuff and who makes sure it stays this way.
    And there are many people around (again inside and outside SAP)  that have been running this business model for decades on.
    So, here we have the open, sharing and caring developer community who build themselves a really nice island.
    And on the other side we have boatful of IDs washing up at the shores and trying to “get a piece of it”.
    While being super-simplified, this model works on several levels and SCN user types.
    Now what?
    I don’t think that another “don’t step on the lawn sign” would make any difference.
    There must be a change in the culture behind community engagement, if the content should change.
    Any idea how to change cultures?
    – Lars
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    1. John Appleby Post author

      Ha! Yes, just a timing thing, I had asked Timo’s permission but hadn’t added him in yet.

      On the RoE I actually think that putting it in there is helpful. Not because people will read the RoE, but because when they get it wrong, you can say hey, this is what SCN is all about. Here’s where we wrote the guidelines.

      Cultural change is tough – my culture ate your strategy, but the SCN culture is quite strong. If process is put in place to catch those that are not culturally aligned, spend time with them, point out the issues and work with them, then it can be fixed.

      Right now, Jive makes that impossible but with the New New SCN, I am hopeful that Oliver, Jeanne and team will ensure that the technology enables a cultural revolution.

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        1. John Appleby Post author

          Well SCN has a culture, and it’s down to those in the community to protect that culture.

          When Bill posts, I think he creates content that is in the spirit of SAP Business Trends. If he can do it then product managers should definitely be able to!

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          1. Stephen Johannes

            Well… the only problem is that SAP as company still does has some very questionable marketing practices elsewhere and unfortuantely they spilled over here.  My favorite is when I receive cold calls from telemarketers working on behalf of SAP due to signing up for a webinar or something else.  These calls don’t have caller-id and instead show up from unknown callers.  I always then get voicemails with real numbers asking to call them back.  This practice in the US is normally associated with companies trying to scam people 😉 .

            You would think that SAP which makes some really great customer engagement software, wouldn’t have to resort to such low-end marketing techniques that are usually performed by companies who have less than stellar business reputations.

            My point is that the underlying culture is broke and what we are seeing on SCN is just a result of that cultural problem.  I don’t care what technology we use, until you fix that broken culture we will still see the same results, just in a more limited fashion.

            Take care,

            Stephen

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  3. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Hear, hear! Very much hope to see less of the blue “what SAP wants to say” side on “new new” SCN (SCN 3.0 ?).

    P.S. I would also like to add Julie Plummer to the list of SAP folks who get it right.

    P.P.S. Wouldn’t yellow and blue color mix actually make green? 😉

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    1. John Appleby Post author

      Here’s an image that Timo ELLIOTT created based on my graphic above – fantastic 🙂

      timoelliott_2015-Mar-24.jpg

      I don’t think that SAP folks mean to do it, but I don’t think there’s enough people out there correcting it. So if SCN 3.0 provides us with a technology platform that enables that kind of change, it should be awesome.

      Marilyn already added Julie, but you can send her a +1 🙂

      Yes, I would like it to be green too, but I created it in PowerPoint and that’s how it came out 🙁

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      1. Michael Appleby

        I think I have to agree with Timo’s labeling for most things that have the word marketing involved.  Though I get your point and even agree with your stand, the term “content marketing” tends to provide an image of the kinds of blogs that get removed regularly as violations of Rule 6.

        Disclaimer: I am not the father, son, brother or any other blood relation of John.  Any similarity in last name is purely coincidental!

        Regards, Mike

        SAP Technology RIG

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    2. Julie Plummer

      Wow – shout outs from three of my favourite SCN writers! Can’t help having a huge grin on my face ;-D.

      More seriously, thank you for this great post John. I think we are in danger of destroying something rare and valuable in SCN, so I may have a few thoughts to add later.

      (now past my bedtime).

      Cheers all, JP

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  4. Gregory Misiorek

    Hi John,

    i like your calling out the ‘other blog’ in this post and taking them to task by proxy. i also recognize the freedom that social media brings but also circumspection from large organizations with teams of legal advisers and procedures for everything that only comes naturally in a forum like this.

    taking your example of cash management above. treasury functionality has immediate monetary consequences as you may imagine, so any statements anywhere by anyone need to be carefully designed and proofed by experts in the field.

    i don’t want to take away from the community spirit as i’m quite often a happy participant in on-line discussions here and elsewhere, but participating in this on-line democracy of sorts are also folks who have to be very careful what, how, and when something is being said. they may also want to err on the side of established channels even when venturing into this somewhat freewheeling platform of ours.

    again, thanks for asking relevant questions and asking for more than than the usual in your comments in the other blog.

    rgds,

    greg

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    1. John Appleby Post author

      Nice points. Do bear in mind that most of the people that cause the problem are SAP and Partner marketing and product management resources. These are the guys who do have the capacity to write stuff, get it reviewed by legal and publish.

      Part of the problem with that is it requires effort to create new content, get it approved rather than just repurposing a press release.

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  5. Martin English

    Hi John,

    I direct people to SCN and praise it as a valuable resource for information gathering, learning and collaborative problem solving, and that’s the way I use it (one of the “overwhelming majority of SCN” that Nathan refered to above. Of course, this is based on the history of the site; the days when it was the SAP Developer Network, SCN was about making the most effective use of SAP tools and technologies, not promoting vapourware, justifying bad design choices, or marketing partner technologies and tools.

    Now SAP (or at least some parts of it) are joining the 21st century and the site has a wider job, a wider audience, and I’m beginning to see that the audience is expanding from SAP practitioners (for want of a better word) to include a Marketing audience and a Sales audience. The SCN Rules of Engagement probably need to be updated to reflect this … (does “your company” also include SAP ?)

    6. Avoid solicitations. Avoid marketing your company’s products and services.  If you want people to know your affiliation with your company, put those details in your profile to make the information available to the community. Do not embed links to ads in your posts.  The same applies to email solicitations and advertising.

    This is fine, it’s not my site, it’s not even ‘my’ community, and anyway, I don’t have a problem, so long as I can still use various discovery tools to surface the content that I want / need, and ignore the stuff I want to ignore.

    However, there is a difference between SAP using the community as a kind of peer-to-peer adjunct to product support, and what is becoming more and more common, which is using it as a replacement for (paid for by maintenance fees) support. For a (simplistic) example of this, just look at the bottom right-hand side of the SAP Help Portal – The (supposedly) central place for SAP documentation. I have other examples, but you’ll need an SMP user-id to read the SMP note that tells you to look up the answer on SCN.

    And while I’m here, on a vaguely related note, I do get the s***s when I see a piece like How to use SMP3 sample code for SMP extensions that appears to be using SCN as a bulletin board for SAP employees. But, I must confess, in this case, it’s as much because the links are to interesting looking SAP sites that I don’t have access to 😆   FWIW, that document has been reported to the site moderators by both my self and at least one SAP employee, yet it still stands.

    hth

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    1. John Appleby Post author

      So this is a fun discussion which heads into the real of SCN 3.0, which Oliver Kohl and Jeanne Carboni can speak to better than I.

      In a big a community as SAP, the custodians (that means you 🙂 ) have to play a part to keep the community voice.

      Clearly that dude is using SCN when he should be using an internal portal. Report the content and be done with it, and feel sorry for the moderators who don’t have the tools to do their job!

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    2. Jelena Perfiljeva

      From what I’ve heard SAP is actively “selling” SCN to the customers as part of the whole “SAP experience”, so to say. So I’m guessing the links are part of that direction.

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  6. Custodio de Oliveira

    Hi John,

    thanks for this nice piece. from my side I unfortunately gave up trying to get rid of all the marketing BS in SCN. I tried for a while to do the Deputy job, alerting moderators when I saw “pure marketing” stuff, but many times the content got approved for a quite simple reason: the moderator was also the OP 🙁 .

    Anyway, fingers crossed that “SCN 3.0” will be an improvement.

    Cheers,

    Custodio

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    1. Jelena Perfiljeva

      I’ve also tried the ‘alert moderator’ route with no luck. AFAIK some other SCN members had the same experience. Personally I ended up avoiding some spaces altogether. Hopefully new tools will prevent inadequate content from being posted in the first place because there will be no more spaces to avoid, it seems.

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  7. Matthias Steiner

    Great read and one that truly resonates with how I feel about the topic!

    And yes… in SCN 3.0 (aka NextSCN) we’ll get a single platform that will feature community content, content marketing and classic marketing materials. From what I’ve heard from within the 1DX team this is by design/intent and it’s crucial that they ‘nail’ this combination in order to provide a great user experience!

    Cheers,

    matthias

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    1. John Appleby Post author

      I’m glad it resonates with you, given you are definitely one of the people generating the kind of content that SAP needs.

      I linked you tot he back channel conversation we have been having about what prompted me to write this blog (it’s not fair to the individual that prompted it to be singled out), but there is an element from that conversation I’d like to take to the public domain.

      Your content has more views and likes than a similar person using a classic marketing style. It has more comments and engagement. No doubt that based on those metrics, it influences customer behavior more. However you measure it, this makes your content measurably better.

      So what’s preventing a cultural revolution in SAP marketing? Why are people like you still in the minority?


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      1. Timo Elliott

        “Because cultural change takes time” (and it takes evidence to convince the doubters, so thanks for this post!).

        By the way, I have a sideline activity of “marketing marketing to marketing” both inside and outside SAP — here’s a presentation I gave today that touches on some of the themes above — ESPECIALLY the need for community, and the need to “be human” : Evangelism and The Future of Digital Marketing

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      2. Audrey Stevenson

        John: Timo hits the nail on the head: we are turning a tide and that takes time.

        I can vouch that Timo is one of THE most ardent advocates inside SAP of shifting away from old-school marketing. While I cannot share his blog posts from our internal JAM groups, he writes about many of the points made in the slide deck he shared above.

        And BTW, Timo, I love the deck. Thank you for sharing it with the community!

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        1. John Appleby Post author

          That makes sense. Revolution starts somewhere. What I’m not sure about is whether there aren’t other ways to do this.

          For instance, the areas which do a good job of this are really clear. You could make a list of 20-30 people in SAP that do it really well. Why not task each of those with making a difference to one other person in a different team and taking them on a journey?

          Incite change from the inside, as well as the outside?

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  8. Gurdeep Dhillon

    Hi John,

    This is inspired.  We run a content marketing hub called the Customer Edge (www.custedge.com) but we treat it as a standalone site rather than host on SCN (it used to be here until May of 2014).  Our target audience is Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and Commerce.

    Would love to hear your thoughts about our approach.  We definitely feel like revolutionaries…although I think we would all appreciate it if we were able to stop swimming against the current.

    Best,

    Gurdeep

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    1. Jelena Perfiljeva

      I’m not John but checked out the website and like it a lot actually. Visual design is good, navigation is simple and intuitive. Read a couple of articles from the home page and liked them as well. I believe it was the right decision to move this out of SCN – it’s really a completely different direction.

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  9. Tim Clark

    Hi John, interesting post but feels like the “abolish marketing” discussion is one we had a few years ago. As you pointed out, the SAP Community is growing and evolving. Trying to preserve its strictly developer past as we head into the future seems a bit short sighted. There’s a lot of content on SCN that doesn’t appeal to me – and there’s a lot that does 😉 . I can only assume this is the same for all Community members. I work hard every single day to get SAP-ers to lay off the marketing jargon and overused buzzwords and I think we have largely succeeded to that extent with spaces like SAP Business Trends (which attracted 2 mil. page views last year). Is all of the content “spot-on”, free of sales pitches and custom tailored to please every Community member? Of course not. It’s a space for brand enthusiasts so naturally, you’re going to see a lot of positive stories and news with links back to (hopefully) valuable content that the core Community and plenty of new visitors will find useful. We should absolutely continue to call out disingenuous content to the best of our ability – but let’s also lighten up a bit and embrace the authentic stuff.  – Tim

    Also pertinent to this discussion from yours truly: The War on Authenticity

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    1. Jelena Perfiljeva

      Tim, I think that the content that caused most of, uhm, discontent on SCN was, essentially, negative value information. I.e. it’s neither educational nor informative nor entertaining nor even authentic. Actually it’s something that should not  be posted anywhere ever, not just moved out of SCN. For example, the blogs saying, in a nutshell, that “SAP has solutions for Cloud / IoT / <insert any buzzword here>. Read more. <link to SAP site>”. I’m always struggling to understand who would ever need this? Is there a single person out there who has Internet access but doesn’t know how to google “SAP solutions for Cloud” and cannot find the SAP site themselves?

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