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How SAP is handling the social media explosion

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Sentiment analysis just part of the SAP social media vision

Social media in the enterprise is in constant flux. One of SAP's top social media chiefs lays it out, from sentiment analysis to social collaboration.

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How SAP is handling the social media explosion

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Is social media coming of age in the enterprise? With the number of channels growing by the week -- and both marketing campaigns and software tools that monitor public opinion gaining in sophistication -- the answer is a resounding yes.

SearchSAP spoke to Sameer Patel, global vice president and general manager for enterprise social and collaborative software at SAP, about how social media can best be used in an organization. Read his thoughts about the role of sentiment analysis and what SAP is doing to meet its customers' needs for social media and social collaboration.

SearchSAP: When people talk about social media and the enterprise, are they just talking about sentiment analysis?

Sameer Patel: That's one critical piece of it. Engaging customers on social channels is critical today. Beyond that, social media in the enterprise also means collaborating with employees, other businesses and partners -- or your customers.

How does sentiment analysis work, and how hard is it to do well?

Patel: Sentiment analysis uses sophisticated software and often in-memory technology to access, analyze and interpret massive amounts of social media content. It reads, learns and analyzes the text of this social content and extracts meaning such as a customer's positive or negative opinion of a brand. By monitoring this data, companies can identify trends as they are beginning, which allows them to immediately take action to resolve or counter. For instance, SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase also maintains a year's worth of data from more than 165 million sources, enabling companies to also look at historical data when trying to make a decision about the level of action required.

This is one area where we're seeing a lot of innovation in the industry and a lot of differentiation. At a fundamental level, it's hard to understand how people feel about your brand in 140 characters or less. Getting machines to understand how people feel, their opinion and what they may say next about your company is critical to brands but is something we're just beginning to get our arms around. So you see all sorts of different technology out there that's trying to solve this puzzle.

What are the factors that drive the quality of sentiment analysis you get back

Patel: First, it's a function of how good the algorithms are. The second is what kind of integration you have into those social channels. For example, Twitter is super simple. There's Facebook, LinkedIn and a host of others; each of these have various levels of [integration]. The function of both the sophistication around the algorithms and the level of access you have into those social networks determines what kind of data you get back. Now it is possible to analyze behaviors and emotions on any topic expressed on social media in real time and gain a comprehensive picture of your company's performance.

When it's done right, what does sentiment analysis allow companies to do?

Patel: Sentiment analysis allows you to proactively respond to customer sentiment for improved customer relationships. By tracking and analyzing data across social media, you can learn what customers really think about your brand and services, understand campaign performance and respond appropriately.

Does that mostly center on using it in CRM?

Patel: That's where most of the current innovation is focused today. Marketing teams frequently monitor sentiment on social media like Twitter with solutions such as SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase. When [they come across] negative sentiment, such as a product-specific complaint from a customer, marketing can initiate a social media service ticket with SAP Social OnDemand. It's similar to how a service ticket is entered by a customer service representative. This ticket can be routed, responded to or can activate collaborative "SWAT" teams [so that the issue can be addressed]. Once the issue is resolved, customer service or marketing can respond to the customer's original social media posting with feedback, comments or next steps. As many customers vet their opinions on social media, sometimes before they make an effort to call, marketing and customer service teams can be proactive in reaching out to the customer [instead of] waiting for them to call.

People often talk about social media being a part of omnichannel marketing. What does that mean, and is it just more hype?

Patel: The hubris around social media replacing traditional channels is slowly dying, and it's taking its place as one of many channels. When I [use the term] omnichannel, I'm talking about responding to and catering to a holistic view of your customer, regardless of the channel she engages you on, and providing a consistent experience, be that a purchase, an offer or service. This is what today's customer expects.

There are a number of products SAP offers to let customers perform sentiment analysis. What are the differences among them?

Patel: SAP offers SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase, SAP Social OnDemand and SAP HANA Sentiment Intelligence Rapid Deployment Solution. SAP's comprehensive social media intelligence portfolio lets you gauge social media data and reactions and integrates this into core CRM functions.

SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase is our cloud-based solution that can gauge the net sentiment related to any topic mentioned on social media. SAP Social OnDemand, frequently paired with SAP Social Media Analytics, allows companies to manage, route and respond to social media posts from customers and has collaboration baked in.

SAP HANA Sentiment Intelligence RDS software collects data from unstructured sources including forums, blogs and wikis, and leverages text data processing functionality to automatically analyze and extract meaning from this data. This data can be combined with structured data, like marketing campaign data, to deliver a complete picture.

One of the knocks on StreamWork, SAP's first stab at social collaboration, was that it wasn't all that integrated with the enterprise. How is SAP Jam, the company's new social collaboration platform, any different? What's the strategy here?

Patel: SAP Jam is SAP's social business collaboration solution that connects customers, partners and employees without making them jump from application to application. You can work with anyone in your network directly in your social collaboration environment, in your business applications or while mobile.

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Get the lowdown on the SAP JAM social collaboration platform

SAP Jam's strategy is threefold. First, social needs to show up wherever I need it the most. If I am in a business application such as CRM or ERP and I need my network of experts to help with an opportunity or to assist a customer or approve an expense, collaboration needs to be right there. Second, feeds and discussion forums aren't the answer to every business problem. SAP Jam offers [a collection of] social tools such as document collaborating, idea management, polling, decision and planning tools to conform to the needs to specific business tasks to help you get work done. And third, we want to let customers tap into the expertise of not just employees but their ecosystem of employees, customers and partners. SAP Jam enables this for any business process to accelerate performance. Our customers use SAP Jam as a standalone social collaboration network or integrated with our line-of-business on-premises and cloud applications, such as talent management and CRM.

This was first published in May 2013

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How SAP is handling the social media explosion

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