By Don Bulmer
This year’s SAP Influencer Summit was not only a successful model for influencer engagement, but an excellent example of Tom Foremski’s quote: “Every Company is a Media Company.” SAP’s amazing team of communication, marketing and business professionals just wrapped up their 2010 Annual Influencer Summit in Santa Clara, California.
The Influencer summit is a marquee event for SAP that dates back to 2001. And when we started the event (in 2001), the core audience was a small group of elite IT industry analysts representing many of the top research firms in the industry. Over the years the event has evolved tremendously – in scope, size, audience and importance to SAP and now includes a wide range of industry influencers.
The reason for the increase in scope is tied directly to the changing nature of influence in our industry. People who make decisions to purchase business software and other IT related hardware and services increasingly rely on multiple sources of experts/expertise in the industry to support, inform and shape their opinions - that ultimately influence their purchase decisions.
Equal to this, the disruptive nature of social media and advancements in collaboration and mobile technologies have drastically changed the way that decision makers access, consume information, engage and collaborate with their trusted sources in the industry.
The adjustments that we have made to our influencer relations program over the years are tied directly to these forces of change.
A bit of traditional…
The Influencer Summit is one core component of SAP's overall influencer relations program.
It’s important as it provides us with the opportunity to bring SAP’s top executives, customers and partners together with the most important thought leaders and ‘truth seekers’ in the business software industry. The core audience of this event represent the most prominent individuals in the IT analyst, academia, media, blogger, business consulting, customer, partner and SAP mentor communities. Our estimate is that the people who attend this annual summit represent channels to the market that have an estimated $45 billion impact on business software purchase decisions. It is an audience we respect and value very, very much.
Through the event we are able to provide these important industry professionals with the information they need to better understand SAP’s strategy (as it evolves); the progress we have made in delivering on the strategy (throughout the year); and highlight what we will deliver over the proceeding 12-18 months. It is an event that has helped to keep SAP honest, accountable and focused. It is also an event where the influencers ask (with great encouragement) very tough questions and challenge SAP.
…mixed with a whole lot of new
Because of the great advancements and effiencies of social and collaborative technologies we are now able to expand the scope and ‘influence’ of the summit without a dramatic increase in cost.
In 2010, SAP’s marketing organization made tremendous investments to co-develop an online virtual event platform with our partner vcopious that we used to support the summit.
This year we hosted 150+ influencers (onsite) and welcomed 1300+ additional participants (from around the world) through our online virtual event environment (see screenshot below).
The average amount of time that people spent in the virtual environment (watching sessions) on the first day of the event was 120 minutes. The second day average was about 90 min. These are amazing averages across the total audience of online participants.
The virtual site was created exclusively for the Influencer Summit and will live forever. As our program grows the site will grow with it. We will be able to add, renew and host very rich multimedia content that influencers in our space will be able to access anytime – on demand. In many ways we will build and extend a vibrant community of influencers around the content, thought leadership and information that they need to support their ability to understand SAP’s strategy to help them as they advice customers on their decisions.
On the social side…
In addition to the onsite and virtual program we had a tremendous amount of activity through various social media channels such as twitter, LinkedIn and Sina (Chinese micro-blogging community). The hash tag for the summit was #SAPSummit. Total ‘tweets’ across all microblogging platforms linked to the hashtag were 6,500+ over the 2 ½ day event (and still going) with 8.5m+ impressions (follower’s reach). We also posted a number of important sessions on SAP's YouTube channel for open public access.
The pure scale of influence generated at this event through online and offline channels is absolutely amazing!
The combination of the onsite event provided us with an intimate setting to engage, interact and deepen the relationship with the industry influencers and the online and social media component gave us tremendous scale that multiplied the buzz, core content and energy that those influencers experienced at the event.
I am very proud of the SAP team and the tremendous advancements that allowed us to achieve such terrific results - that will carry forward over the long term as part of our overall program efforts.
This is a terrific case that supports the notion that every company is a media company – in a world where business has gone social!