Today, I spoke to Don Bulmer, who is the Vice President of Global Communications at SAP AG.  In this interview, Don talks to us about the most important aspect of his personal brand, how social media is changing marketing, how social networks make it easier for companies to grow their audiences and much more.

What is the most important aspect of your personal brand?

The most important aspect of my personal brand is success enablement. I discovered early in my career that individual success (and self promotion) is important – especially as you build expertise, credibility and mastery of your craft as an individual contributor.  However, at a certain point in your career as you look to move from an individual contributor role to that of a manager or organizational leadership role, your success is measured by a much different and arguably more important set of criteria. In large part your success will be measured on your ability to enable the success of others.

This often requires the ability to motivate and get the best out of people (where often you have no authority over them) to follow your lead and to work together to achieve a common set of goals that generate a much higher level of organizational, company and even industry success.  I feel that good leadership comes from the ability to be a success multiplier and for me this is a very important aspect of my personal brand – which I constantly strive to evolve.

You recently had a blog post that included an article about how social media is changing marketing. Can you explain the difference between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-person (B2P) marketing?

The Internet has rapidly expanded to become a global network of seamlessly connected computers and devices that has revolutionized information sharing and communications, challenged governments, broken down cultural barriers and driven innovation and business velocity to levels never before imagined. One of the most important successes of the Internet is how it is enabling globalization and more importantly business model innovation.

“Today’s most successful companies are driving product and business model innovation from outside their own walls by leveraging the Internet as a collaborative community-building platform.”

This platform has allowed organizations to harness the innovation power of the community and not just individual innovation; some notable examples are and  With the execution of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce over the last ten years, the Internet has enabled companies to create, build and maintain rich and vibrant ecosystems of partners, suppliers and now social networks. At the center of these ecosystems is the customer who has indeed benefited the most from these advances. However, we are now entering the age of business-to-person (B2P) communications, which is the result of Web 2.0 based social networking platforms that give new power to the customer and the communities of interest that form around them.

The affects of this transformation have broad and lasting impact on marketing and communication professionals. The financial crises and daunting uncertainty across global markets has put significant pressure on companies to aggressively manage both the bottom-line (expenses and operational budgets) and top-line growth (sales and revenue generation). This intensive thrust to ‘back-to-basics’ management impacts all departments and organizations. Managers are required to make adjustments to their operations to become more focused and efficient and deliver more value and results for their company (and some cases – much more) with less resource (and in some cases – much less).

The convergence of the recession, with web 2.0 technologies and social media/social networking strategies has created a perfect storm for marketing and communication professionals. We are now forced to make fundamental shifts and adjustments to our strategies to account for reduced budgets – where ‘virtual’ is becoming a new reality for events and a budgets for traditional advertising (print and online) are being shifted to investments in social media and community marketing.

Do social networks make it easier for companies to target specific audiences?

Yes. We are now starting to experience how social networks are changing the way we do business and are, in themselves, new ecosystems, virally creating communities within communities that are driving brand recognition and brand experience.  Social networks are being leveraged by sales executives to understand the networks of prospects and leads and customers in the realm of B2P marketing and sales. Social networks facilitate and automate vast interactions, connections and networks of people by enabling collaboration with colleagues, clients and suppliers anywhere and at any time. This new paradigm lessens the need for travel, and these platforms incorporate a rich suite of evolving Web 2.0 applications.

The impact of these far-reaching social networks on business is becoming clearer every day as millions of consumers, partners, suppliers and businesses discuss and share their brand experiences.  As we enter the era of B2P marketing communications, those organizations that harness Web 2.0 technologies and platforms to enable business-to-person communications will be the winners.

Laggards that do not understand the value of social networking and its appeal to the emotional side of customer relationship management will lose competitiveness and, ultimately, market share. The era of B2P marketing harnesses the new and deep connections that are forming between customers, products and their suppliers. Peer groups, associations and social networks are now one of the most powerful influencing mediums in the world.

The article also says that consumers are demanding more transparency. How can you be transparent with your personal brand without giving out too much information?

What is unnerving for many marketing and communication professionals about managing influence in a Web 2.0 world is that social media forces you to play by ‘crowd rules.’ Crowd rules dictate a fair level of transparency, authenticity, agility, honesty [you can continue to fill in the blank] but most important crowd rules require you to LISTEN. No longer are the ‘house rules’ of marketing and communications effective where you can create a message or position and expect it to automatically resonate or stick in the market.

Using Word of Mouth (WoM) as an example. In the old model of WoM (before the emergence of Web 2.0), if a customer had a good or bad experience with your company’s product or service, they might share the experience with a neighbor, friend or a colleague at work. In this old model of WoM the collective community experience with your brand would ‘eventually’ create a community reality in a viral fashion over a ‘period’ of time.

The affects of this in a Web 2.0 world are much different. In a Web 2.0 world if ‘a’ customer has a bad experience with your company’s product or service and they share that experience in a blog or other form of social media (like Twitter) this experience can reach hundreds, thousands or millions of people overnight – around the world. This can cause great brand destruction and turmoil if you are not prepared to address it.  Now, even in ‘crowd rules’ not everyone expects a company to be infallible. You just have to LISTEN.

If you have good sensory awareness and respond to negative issues quickly – if for nothing else than to show corporate humility – and engage with a negative blogger or disgruntled customer/community to understand the issues, you can quickly turn an adverse situation into great opportunity by:

  1. Fixing the product and/or service issues to advance greater business opportunities.
  2. You have the opportunity to turn a negative blogger or customer into a net promoter – which is the greatest form of advocacy/influence you can hope for.

Social media changes the rules of the game in an era of new marketing and new communications, by forcing companies to be more accountable. I personally think that this is a great thing.  If you understand and learn to work within the crowd rules of Web 2.0 in an authentic and agile way, you will increase your company’s brand value and overall experience in the industry.

What is the best way to build your personal brand with social media?

“In one word: Engage!”

Join discussions, contribute ideas, share your experiences and ask provocative questions that not only show your intellect and personal experience but also involve the ‘crowd’ in social discussions of issues that just might be the answer to solving big problems of great personal, corporate, social and economic significance.

Don Bulmer is Vice President of Global Communications at SAP AG. As part of the global communications management team at SAP Don is responsible for leading the Industry and Influencer Relations organization which includes: IT Influencer Relations, Business Influencer Relations, Global Customer Communities, Integrated Partner Communications and University Alliance programs. Don has over 14 years of multi-national experience leading award-winning marketing, communication and business development programs with measurable affect in accelerating the sales and competitive strength of enterprise technology, Internet start-up and professional service companies.  He blogs at Everday Influence.