[Hugo E. Martin from his personal file.]
Of all the people who have been the most generous to me in this SAP Global Survey, Hugo E. Martin, is at this point #1. He has introduced me to people in Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic Ukraine, Bulgaria and Croatia, giving this survey insights that, when published, will help you understand the strategic importance to this rapidly emerging sector of the world. In this interview, he explains why social media is so much hotter in Central Europe than in Germany. Thanks again, Hugo.
He has also been more generous than anyone so far in offering suggestions to SAP on how they can use social media to do a better job. Thanks again, Hugo.
Hugo can best be described as an old-timer in publishing, marketing and the Internet. In 1978, he CHIP, the first German computer magazine CHIP. In 1981, he helped American tech publishing legend David Bunnell and Tony Gold start of PC Magazine in the US.
1993 to 1998 he spearheaded the internationalization process of Vogel
Media Group and helped to build, and managed publishing houses and
publishing ventures in 12 countries, including China, Czech Republic,
Hungary, India, Indonesia, Greece, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam.
Today,he consults media, IT&C and internet companies in Europe and Asia.
1. When did you first get into blogging and social media and why?
I first read about Weblogs in 1999. I started talking and writing about their use and benefits in 2002. That was when my colleagues and friends tried to push me to start blogging. But, at that time, many of my clients had ‘just learned’ about email & e-newsletters, and our CMS was serving my needs for publishing on our websites. I had no problem to solve with blogs. Whenever I wanted to, I could get something in print.
I saw no reason to blog. Of course, I read, cited and pointed to blogs. My colleagues and I discussed regularly, whether the time was right to replace my regular weekly newsletter with a blog. Finally, in November 2004, we decided to go ahead and publish a regular blog while maintaining our monthly newsletter. Only this past summer, was I brave enough to drop my email newsletter and concentrate exclusively on writing my blogs, delivering new posts via feeds with a weekly summary per my newsletter.
2. What social media tools do you use?
Most important for me are feed readers and tools to organize and publish feeds to websites, applications and store and retrieve them on databases. My main tool for accessing and reading is still Bloglines. I also use Google Reader, MyYahoo, Netvibes and others, but not on a regular basis.
My Blogs are on Blogger. I have posted more than 2.000 times in less than three years. I’ve written some on WordPress and other platform and use Tumblr (but mostly for aggregation).
I use video sites--mainly YouTube--and to a lesser extent I use Flickr for photos and I still use IM a lot. To serve international needs, I use Trillian and Skype.
I have experimented with some wiki systems including MediaWiki, SocialText and Jotspot, but in my work, I use any wiki-software my clients want to use.
In 2004 I started to use social networks like Linked-In and OpenBC / XING (and I still do) and checked out others. Today, I am more on Facebook and MyBloglog. I like the ‘ambient noise’ of Facebook, which gives you the feeling of being connected and I wait for the Jabber/Lluna project to become real so I can reach friends by cutting through the space-time dimension.
I have used del.icio.us and digg as social bookmarks. After my favored tool for subject-oriented bookmarking ‘crispynews’ folded, I did not find a replacement, so now I worked around that with Tumblr.
3. How has social media changed your life?
It has not changed my life.
Both my business and personal life are very internationally oriented. Internet and Mobile communication helps me ‘entertain’ my network much more easily. My day on the net starts in the morning with Asian friends and ends late at night, or early morning, in America or Asia.
On the German business sites, social media is going quite slowly. Most publishers here are not convinced about the need and benefits--or perhaps, it is anxiety and/or the hope it might soon go away. Businesses are very reluctant to use social media themselves and prefer ‘their specialized people’ to take care about that. Not all, but most if them. One Example: you hardly find comments on my blog on publishing – the standard response comes by phone or email and business people don’t want me to make their comments public.
4. Tell me about social media in Germany. When we wrote Naked Conversations we could find very few blogs (I apologize for missing yours). But have blogs evolved? What about other social media tools such as social media, wikis and online video?
There are still many fewer blogs in Germany than in US, France or in Poland. There are many reasons (excuses) for that. First I think, many Germans do not like to expose and express their opinion, except when they are asked do so, and it is safe to do so. Second, the media landscape in Germany is quite diverse and in many flavors, so there is little room and need for alternative media (although some of my colleagues would disagree). Third, most of us use new things only if we know about the benefit and can easily explain it to anyone who might (or might not) ask. Of course, we also have our early adopters here, but you Americans outnumber us in that respect.
There are many different figures about how many blogs there are in Germany. Between 350,000 and 1.5 Million. In May 2007, our Burda Communication Network found 1.1 million German bloggers. Is it important? Are the active? What is active?
There are business and corporate blogs, but they remain small in numbers and maybe that is a good sign. As far as you can see from the outside, too few business, companies, organizations blog inside and/or in their private networks.
All social media tools are available. Most people understand enough English to use international versions, and, like anywhere else, for all categories, we have many local equivalents. Often those are clones.
If the benefit of social media becomes apparent to Germans, then I think usage will pick up fast.
Example: Wikipedia is one of the top social media applications in German-speaking countries and with 630,000 articles. We are just behind English (1,950,000) and ahead of French (550,000) and Polish (420,000).
5. You blog in two languages. Why did you choose to do that and how does it work for you? Other than language, what similarities and differences do you find in the people who join your conversations in the English and German versions?
My website always had more visitors on the English version and on my subscriber list for our newsletter I had more people interested in the English (international version), than in the German version. Therefore, my alternatives were, to write in two blogs or to write bi-lingual. In connection with dropping the newsletter, I asked my readers about the language-mix:
0 percent voted for ‘I am only interested in German posts’
6 percent voted for ‘I am only interested in English posts’
13 percent voted ‘Split it into two’
81 percent voted ‘No problem.’
So I think it works fine for my readers. The patterns of communication are not different than in real life. In English “Hi Hugo, I agree, disagree …”, in German “Sehr geehrter Herr Martin, in Bezug auf ….”
6. You took issue with comments Loic LeMeur made during my recent interview with him regarding what's happening in Central Europe. Can you tell me your perception of how social media is evolving in that region?
I pushed Loic once to include Central Europe and Russia (CEE) into his list for Reboot, Copenhagen, so I tried again. Social media in CEE countries is much more “in place” than in Germany and it is much more needed there, as well. CEE is “more social” and the cultures have extended their communication onto the net and into mobile.
- The Russian press is mostly ‘guided’ and ‘owned’ by the state, so the opposition and the intellectual elite need and use social media (particularly blogs) for discussion.
- Social Networks are spreading in the Baltics where you have over 90% of the younger ones in social networks. Mobile internet access plays a leading role.
- Heavy personal use of social media in Poland, the opposite to Russia. Polish people look at Western applications. Google leads search in Poland by far and has less than 1/3 market share in Russia.
Business wise, as far as I can see, social media has not had a strong impact yet, but it will take off, if there are localized versions serving business needs.
Not to forget, there are still strong handicaps like access, speed and cost of Internet and lower incomes. However, I am convinced that they will not follow us for long, but will take a short cut.
7. How is business embracing social media in Germany and Central Europe?
Business is embracing social media rather slowly.
I think the first reason is that social media enables business to do something they do not feel a strong need to do and do not know how to do. Second, is the contrast between the picture consultants paint of social media as sexy and ‘nice to have’ and the horrifying picture an observer gets of social media being a chaotic, abusive, dangerous, uncontrollable and sometimes even criminal environment.
To penetrate business, social media needs an approach of solving needs & wants business people are aware of and see as either mission critical and/or incorporating tools and practices that are successful in everyday business practice.
This would be a worthwhile job for SAP.
8. What about young people? What are the hot social networks?
Although the use level cannot match Korea and Japan, social media and social networking are already big and growing fast. It's different in different countries as is the penetration rate of Internet access which varies from 10 to 60 percent.
You will talk to some of my CEE friends, so I'll give you just a few interesting examples:
- In Poland, the No. 1 Communicator is Gadu-Gadu with about 5.5 million users. Skype has about 3 Million. Poland claims 15 percent of their Internet population blogs. By contrast, Romania less than .5 percent.
- In Russia, LiveInternet is the most popular network. 2nd is LiveJournal and 3rd Mail.ru ,and of course they have, like most other countries, their homemade clones, for Facebook e.g. fakultet.ru and vkontakt.ru.
- In Germany, we have just less than 2 million students, and more than 3 million members on studyVZ.de the German Facebook, we also have a strong community on MySpace and growing fast on Facebook
9. How can SAP use social media to improve its practices in Germany and
My SAP-experiences-- as a user, a system house, a publisher and as a consultant are maybe a bit out-dated. Let me just name a few areas that I think they should examine .
1. Internally, SAP staff and management are using social media (like Blogs & wikis) in a big way for their business, but missing out to provide this features and tools as natural basic components of their software. I would suggest SAP take more care of their clients' basic needs.
2. If you get your WordPress / Socialtext / 37Signals, etc. application offers, when you start thinking about SAP (and you find out that your staff uses them already in their daily life) than SAP has an easy ‘educational job’ creating value by giving a helping hand and first-hand experience. When I talk with corporate clients, SAP does not come up as a social media service provider or even the provider of choice. Just take a look at the SAP Global Website . It is still ‘prospect ware’ it its best – o.k. , they have a ‘contact form’ you can fill out.
3. If I were still a publisher, I would like SAP to deliver my services directly to SAP’s client desks. And I’m sure, SAP clients would like it as well, because their staff would have the information they need for business delivered to their needs and wants. The companies advertising their products and services to B2B would like it. They can finally reach anyone involved in the buying process at a reasonable cost and the B2B publisher should like, because the have a superb and cost-effective way to service their client (readers & advertisers).
But I better stop there, you have the contract with SAP.
[Shel's Note: There was no need to stop there. SAP contracted me and the transparent approach to the study knowing full well they might be paying to see themselves criticized. The people I worked with want to know what people think and i was assigned to find out.]
10. Additional Comments?
In Social Media all should pay their entry fee, be of value to the community and get (based on the value they deliver) invited again. We are much closer to a social media environment, if the User is the one who benefits most, the author / original producer second and the service provider can ‘make a living.'