Struggling to get technical experts onboard with social or are you hesitant to get stuck into it yourself? It’s a common issue, so I thought I’d interview self-proclaimed “grumpy old men”*, Trond Røvang and John Oxenby, about their journey from technical customer enablement social sceptics to social media stars at SAP.
*(They may claim to be grumpy but they packed a lot of dry humour and laughter during our chat!)
Trond works as an SAP reseller Solutions Advisor within supply chain across the whole of the Nordics and John’s role is similar but focuses on the ERP side (which today is SAP S/4HANA). They use their technical expertise to help customers and prospects understand what you can do with SAP, the technical processes and the benefits.
I used to work with Trond around ten years ago when I lived in Norway and I remember saying, “You've got so much knowledge you should be on social media; you should be writing blogs about this.”
Trond and John contemplated creating blogs for social media but when video grew in popularity they realised it was a better medium for them. They took the plunge in April 2020 and started creating their own videos for social selling, which have been a great success.
I chatted with them to find out more about their journey into social media and video, why they believe it’s working and what motivates them to do it. It was a fun and enlightening conversation!
[SARAH] Several years ago, Tron, you were a little bit like, “Ummm, I’m not sure about that!” So be honest. What your first impression of social media was when it all started to kick off?
[TROND] Hmmmm. [Laughs] I would say that I think it's too important to be left to marketing. And my impression was that it was so much shouting. Slightly shallow messages, maybe. A lot about being seen but not so much about listening to the market. But I think, compared to John, I was actually quite enthusiastic!
[SARAH] Were you?! [Laughs!] Go on then, John, what was your first reaction?
[JOHN] I remember we had training where we were all supposed to get on Twitter and I could really not see any use for a media where you have 160 characters to explain things that could take maybe hours or days. Let's say that my first interactions with Twitter and social media in general were quite hesitant and not very willing. So, I guess it's about finding a media that actually suits you.
[SARAH] So, I'm slightly nervous that I was the one that delivered that training so I'm slightly worried now. Please tell me it wasn't me!
[SARAH] Can you remember when your “aha” moment was that changed your perspective, then? Because John you’ve just mentioned about finding the right media. So, when was it that you thought, “Actually, this could work for my customers or...?”
[JOHN] We have been discussing social media for quite some time, Trond and I. I think we've probably spent three or four years discussing how you could set up a blog. And then suddenly we arrive into this century. And we thought, “Well, why not make videos?” And Trond sort of started without really telling me that we started!
[TROND] Yeah, I did. We’d been discussing it for so many years. We were not really in the into the blog format because we thought that someone needs to create weighty content with more depth. And the first one was quite terrible, actually. We didn't even have audio because we were so afraid of speaking into the microphone.
But we created and we had a kind of idea about the structure: It should be fact based; it should be very concrete both in content and in value.
And then we surprised ourselves by escaping the blog and going directly to videos. And then we surprised everyone, including ourselves, by testing it out.
I think to some degree, we can be seen as two grumpy old men. You know, a little bit hesitant to everything corporate. But a lot of what we have seen is that traditional corporate stuff doesn't really fly. So we kicked it off. And yes, I forgot to tell John, but he quickly picked it up, actually!
[SARAH] When did you start doing the video series? I've seen a couple of them and they’re like demonstrations, aren't they? Very in-depth and very technical.
[TROND] In April last year.
[SARAH] So not long then?
[TROND] But, you know, we had been discussing it for four years. So, we felt like we’d been doing it for some time when we started actually doing it...in a slightly different format! But we had the ideas. And it needed to be a demo, because there are so many PowerPoints in this world. I've had customers say they’ve seen so much about SAP S/4HANA, but they’d never seen it. If you sell apples, just show them the apple!
[SARAH] So where do you get your inspiration to create these videos?
[JOHN] I’d say it’s mainly customers, because most of the videos that we make are things that we have had to demonstrate to customers. So, it's something that we know that people are asking about. Then, of course, we have our own special interests which we think are good ideas.
[SARAH] A lot of people will say, “I haven't got time to do that, so why would I do it? It's not part of my job and I’m not about to commit hours outside of my job to do this.” So, what is it that’s motivating you?
[TROND] I actually like what I do. It is a little bit fun. It's also quite beneficial for work because you have to think through things because it’s hard to go back on something once on video. But in general, we're just fortunate to enjoy what we're doing and turn it into a hobby.
[JOHN] It’s also quite rewarding. We believed that there was a gap between very shallow, glossy corporate branding and the full manual which takes you two weeks to get read through it.
[SARAH] So, you've been going for a few months now and you've managed to build quite a community.
[TROND] Exactly and that’s kind of fun. We have got a kind of fan base, who are very supportive, with ideas and feedback from partners and customers. I think we have had historically two dislikes on YouTube. Must have been an error 😂!
[JOHN] Yeah, they hit the wrong button!😂
[TROND] But it surprised us to see so much positive feedback. And you get a little bit addicted to it. There was a barrier where we felt we should know people, but we realised we needed to build an audience. And that’s a job in itself.
[SARAH] I saw that your connections on LinkedIn Trond have just rocketed. So how have both of you seen the impact of this on your own professional brand?
[JOHN] My network has grown exponentially since May. When I started working with it, like Trond said, I was much more sceptical to this than he was, so I had far less connections than he did. You get a lot more interesting discussions. You get a lot more questions. And the really good thing is that you get to talk to people about topics that interest you and them - all over the world.
[SARAH] Have you seen the same Trond? Have you seen your audiences increase?
[TROND] I must say I find it enjoyable too. In our type of work, you learn from questions. The amazing thing about the network is that there is learning in every question and, of course, people know something different. There’s not a single day without some kind of interaction with someone who you didn't know, which I find quite cool. I don't think we are the most concerned about personal brand building, as such, but it gives you a little bit of credibility because you can refer people back to a video on a particular topic because they are typical answers to typical questions.
[SARAH] I am curious though. Do you get any help from marketing? Do the brand police come and slap logos all over it? Or are you just left to your own devices?
[TROND] We decided to not to ask for permission because we wanted to have editorial freedom. I think we’ve sensed that we have some approval as people with a much higher pay grade than ours are liking and sharing our videos. But I think most people don't get that they’re not actually official SAP and we don't hide our enthusiasm for SAP because we are a little bit nuts about SAP - in a positive way!
[SARAH] And what I love about it as well as they're very authentic and they're very raw.
[TROND] Some of it is quite terrible but we are learning. But I think it builds a bit of credibility because it's made by two grumpy old men in the kitchen.
We have learnt a few things like just target your audience. People that are not interested are not going to be interested even if you had music. Most people drop off within 30 seconds, but those that are actually interested, they hang in there, whether the video is two minutes, five minutes or fifteen minutes. It’s amazing to see that you can create boring videos. It was kind of an awakening for us to let go of trying to make - sorry to say it - but let’s just say that if marketing likes our video too much, we will get concerned!
[SARAH] You’ve both mentioned YouTube videos, you mentioned LinkedIn. Are there any other social media channels or are they just the main two?
[JOHN] I've been looking at Twitter to see if we can also promote the videos there, but I think I have too little of a following to make it worthwhile. I’m also not really that good at hashtags because I just recently started Instagramming, for private use mainly, and I realised that I still really don't understand hashtags fully.
[SARAH] You and me need to have a chat, John! What about you, Trond?
[TROND] For me it's mostly LinkedIn. We tried Facebook but we realised our audience isn’t really there. But this has been a learning journey all the way because you have to trial and error a few things. I think we should pick up and do more Twitter and other things as well.
[SARAH] Yeah. All in good time! So, I know that we’re nearly out of time, but I just wanted to ask one more question to both of you. If you could give one tip to a technical expert in the partner community that's maybe hesitant to social media or thinking about it but not sure, what would it be?
[TROND] I think it’s what we already say to colleagues - that one of the biggest errors you can do is not to try it out. Because it's fun. You have to get going and take it from there. Looking back to the first videos, we were quite embarrassed and I'm not sure how we had that idea that it could work without audio, but we wouldn’t have known it if we haven't tried it. So my advice would be to try it out, experience the fun and take it from there.
[JOHN] I would agree with Trond - starting is the main thing. Then you have to realise that, as with most things in in life, you start by crawling and then you walk and then you run. And when you're able to run you will find what you did while you were crawling to be quite, er, bad!
[SARAH] Just keep going. If there's a couple of things from this conversation, I take. It’s listening – that's where you get your inspiration for content from. And keep learning. You’ve now built the community and then actually you start to find the fun in it.
[TROND] And we were so happy when we had so many subscribers on YouTube. And still we don’t have lots but as long as we have more than the official SAP channels, we will...
[SARAH] Is that your benchmark?!
[TROND] World domination is definitely the goal!
[SARAH] Fair enough, well you’ve got to have a goal! I've really enjoyed doing this. Thank you so much for taking the time and I hope this will be inspiring for others that are thinking of taking that that journey. Thank you so much.