Exciting meeting/workshop last night put on by the Social Media Club, located at SAP’s campus in Palo Alto. It was an interesting mix of 40 to 50 marketers, PR professionals, web consultants and others I couldn’t categorize. A very rich mix of voices and perspectives.
The conference featured interesting presentations by Robert Scoble (ex Microsoft blogger, now at PodTech) and Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer.org, and finished up with Giovanni Rodriguez’s Q&A with Geoff Kerr, who manages global communications for SAP labs and is launching a new set of social media channels for the German-based company (with major operations and labs based in Palo Alto).
Robert talked about covering a Cisco press conference focused on its new high-end videoconferencing equipment, which included high definition eye popping 60 inch screens. He actually went into the press conference with a handful of other mostly trade journalists, and videotaped the demo-then posted the entire (30 min) video online Within minutes people were posting comments. As a former journalist I was amazed thinking about how people like Scoble can now cover the news and compete directly with the Big Boys—in some cases, beating them at their own game.
At one of my tables we discussed how employees are the "greatest untapped communication resource." We discussed how, given a voice, employees could be transformed into community ambassadors, and beyond. This is a scary thought for many communication managers, but as we discussed, it's worth the risk. The "conversation" is going on about the company anyhow. Why not create platforms for employees to have their say and influence it? One person said "getting people to let go is the biggest challenge." Another talked about breaking down the walls of marketing and PR (and I think this came from a PR guy!).
Other people at the table discussed t he practical matter of setting up blogs so all the different disciplines-- ex, marketing, PR, etc--could know what the other is doing and talk to each other.
The conference also comfirmed to me that this is a very embryonic movement, if you can call it that. Given what I saw here, and before, this "revolution" will likely be carried out by unlikely pioneers. The conference wound up with Giovanni Rodriquez’s interviewing SAPs' Kerr. Geoff is introducing a slew of new social media tools and channels this week at SAP, but it wasn't easy. He had to convince senior management to put aside their fears and go with the flow on this one. If all goes well, this could become a model for the rest of the company, which competes with the likes of Oracle and IBM (which also has hundreds of employee blogs).
SAP is one company moving in this direction, and others are putting their toes in the water. But most are still standing on the sidelines. While YouTube and MySpace are exploding on the consumer front, we’re not even halfway to first base on the corporate side. And no wonder. The very essence of this—unleashing thousands of potential voices far outside the PR, marketing and advertising control system—threatens the very foundation of modern corporate communications.