Ursula Ringham (pictured at top) is head of global influencer marketing at SAP. In advance of her keynote presentation at the ANA Influencer Marketing Conference — on November 20 and 21 in New York — she sat down for an interview with ANA group executive vice president Bill Duggan. Ringham shared insight into SAP's use of influencers to create affinity and demand, how she and her team measure the effectiveness of their influencer marketing programs, and why influencers are just as important for B2B companies as they are for B2C businesses.
Bill Duggan: How do you define influencer marketing?
Ursula Ringham: Influencer marketing is a tactic to reach new and diverse audiences. As an influencer marketing organization, we discover and build relationships with a community of trusted voices and collaborate with these influencers to tell our story through their lens, to build awareness, and to create demand.
Duggan: Tell us about the SAP influencer marketing team.
Ringham: We have a small yet mighty team that heads up our global influencer marketing program. We are responsible for designing the program, as well as running influencer discovery and negotiations, content creation, project management, vendor management, networking, and much more. And, we cross-collaborate with many different internal teams to bring our program, assets, and campaigns to fruition.
At SAP, we also have several business units that act independently and have their own influencer marketing people. My goal in 2019 was to bring all these teams together as "#OneTeam" to utilize the same IRM — influencer relationship management — platform, share best practices, and cross-collaborate on numerous activities and assets. And we succeeded. There is now more structure and organization in everything we do, since we now have a unified influencer marketing approach.
We also use several agencies to help bring to life our influencer content, such as video production, graphic design, content marketing, and social media support.
Duggan: What types of influencers do you work with and how do you find them?
Ringham: To truly understand influencer marketing, you have to be in social media and understand it. For this reason, I live in social media. I started seven years ago when I managed SAP's small and midsize business social media channels. I was in the trenches creating the social copy, posting the messages, joining the Tweet chats, researching the latest trends, and engaging with everyone, including influencers. As a result, I built my own social presence and am on all channels every day, watching, listening, and reading what influencers create and post.
As an organization, we use an IRM tool. When we have a certain project, we input the exact criteria —demographics, topics, etcetera — and then IRM spits out a list. We then analyze each candidate and zero in on the ones who look interesting. We put them on a watch list and let their social posts inform us. If we find their content interesting and it aligns with our brand, we slowly engage. Get to know them. And then, when we are ready, we reach out and set up a call or meet in person. We work with traditional B2B influencers, so we look for thought leaders who might have been a practitioner in a certain line of business, a former analyst with a tier-one firm, or someone who has a lot of knowledge on how technology is changing the future of business. All have some sort of social presence, but we look at the quality and engagement of their content over quantity of followers.
Duggan: A recent Wall Street Journal article questions the value of influencer marketing. How would you defend SAP's use of influencers?
Ringham: That article had a lot to do with the B2C market. And yes, I must agree. It's kind of like the Wild, Wild, West with influencers being paid exorbitant amounts of money for product placement photos.
For B2B, it is a whole different ballgame with influencer marketing, and it's really in its infancy. I work with influencers and never ask them to promote our products. I want them to investigate how technology is changing businesses and helping companies make better, informed decisions. The content we create with influencers is a teaser to cut through the noise and lead people to check out what SAP can do for their business.
Duggan: How do you measure the effectiveness of your influencer marketing?
Ringham: It all depends on the campaign. Mainly awareness. We measure the effectiveness of campaigns through impressions, reach, engagement, and click-throughs. But we also have some demand-gen campaigns.
Duggan: What's different about influencer marketing for a B2B brand versus a B2C brand?
Ringham: The biggest difference is that B2B brands do not have sexy products. I always say the "S" in SAP does not stand for sexy. We have to work twice as hard to cut through the noise to reach our audience.
We make innovative software that helps the world run better and improve people's lives, but you can't touch it. You can't see it. You can't feel it. So, we have to be innovative and creative with our storytelling. We focus on the business challenges and the technology that solves these issues. And I've found collaborating with influencers is an essential way to tell this story.
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