The general consensus on social is that companies with social cultures are more successful engaging and marketing using social media. IBM has been “walking the social media walk” for four decades, a formidable task for a company that currently has a globally dispersed team of 400,000.
The scope of IBM’s internal social media impact is staggering: citing 17,000 individual blogs, a million daily page views of internal wikis, 25,000 tweeters and 300,000 LinkedIn profiles doesn’t do justice to the scale of the brand’s social footprint.
Does it work? I asked four IBMers to tell us how social media helps them do their jobs. You’re bound to find ideas in their stories to help you in yours.
Casey Dugan, Research Developer
My research group spends a lot of time building the newest social tools and features that are incorporated into IBM products. We do our best to make IBMers and even the public in some cases aware of what we’re working on and what’s available to them.
For example, I tweet about non-confidential projects, presentations we’re giving at conferences, or academic papers we’ve published for the external community. I also try to give more details internally to IBMers on new research projects, features and demos. My team and I use IBM Connections microblogging to spread the word on things we’ve built that we’d like other IBMers to try out.
We also use an IBM Connections community to collect feedback from our users on our latest system and features. This is where social comes full circle – we use the tools we’re building and encourage other IBMers to use them as well.
Edward L. Linde II, Senior Marketing Manager
My team and I are leading the effort to transform our North American sales force into “Digital Sellers” who use LinkedIn, Twitter, eContact and Sametime 8.5.2 [IBM’s internal instant messaging system] to engage and collaborate with their clients. We are also leveraging Social Media to mine for sales leads from small and mid-sized businesses.
As a manager of 16 employees spread across the United States and Canada, I depend on Sametime 8.5.2 and IBM Connections [IBM’s enterprise social software platform] to collaborate with and manage my team and to be a helpful, indispensable resource to breakdown barriers, navigate the matrix and to help them succeed.
Stefan Pfeiffer, Marketing Lead Social Business & Collaboration Solutions Northeast Europe
I can’t imagine doing my job without social tools, both internally and externally, when it comes to communicating and collaborating with colleagues, external partners and suppliers. I use our internal social tools – Connections and Sametime – for sharing all work related information and files with my colleagues. Using these tools helps to decrease the amount of emails I’m sending and receiving and streamlines communication and collaboration.
Also, external social networks nowadays are a normal part of my day-to-day job as a marketer. I connect with customers, journalists and bloggers, partners, as well as colleagues on Twitter, Facebook and through my blogs and business focused social networks like XING, a popular social networking tool in Europe similar to LinkedIn. I also write a regular blog for an online, German business technology publication. I believe that the times of pure push marketing are over and that someone who’s very well connected and uses social media regularly will be more successful in their job. I am available for customers and partners online over social networking platforms and help them to find the right person at IBM or the right information.
A specific example of how social helps me get my job done, I secured a number of speakers for our upcoming Social Business Jam Camp through my social media networks. I connected with bloggers, analysts, and also clients who will be presenting at the event, speaking about their own social business experiences and best practices. These are connections and opportunities I may have never uncovered or discovered without my participation over social networks.
Ethan Mccarty, Global Manager, Social and Digital Strategy
Given my role at IBM, it’s probably no surprise that my day is pretty much completely powered by social digital experiences. It’s literally the first thing I do and the last thing I do every day.
My entire team is globally diverse – we are spread across North America, Asia, South America and Europe. This means that asynchronous collaboration is the only way we can be productive. We make liberal use of IBM’s collaboration systems – the largest and most active community we manage is called the Digital Community of Practice; it has more than 725 participants worldwide who share best practices in a very active discussion board, share files and can have immediate access to one another’s profiles (photo, resume, contact details, etc.)
As for my immediate team, we are all on Sametime (instant chat, file sharing, etc) all day. And every other week we have a team video conference using an open source video conferencing application. The video conference gives us an opportunity to see one another’s faces, which is humanizing and also demands a more complete attention (as opposed to the multi-tasking one can easily fall into the habit of doing during conference calls). These personal interactions build trust on the team — I’ve seen it myself and witnessed how increased trust leads to higher productivity and a team more satisfied with their work.
I am also a long time blogger (since 2000 or so) and an early adopter of Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare. My blog has been a useful tool for me to get feedback and discussion on my projects at work – for example, there was an interesting discussion of the cultural impact of using the word “expert” in social media. As for Twitter, it has become my most reliable news source. Finally, Foursquare is fun – I like the game aspect of it, but moreover, with my team being as mobile as it is I have found on numerous occasions that when I’ve checked in, I discover another person on my team in the same IBM location – and that has led to productive in-person meetings (and a couple of nice team lunches too).
IBM Social Media Timeline
Activity dates back to the 1970’s when mainframe programmers started online discussion forums on System 370 consoles
1997 — Recommends that its employees get out onto the Internet – at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access
2005 — Makes a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere and to encourage IBMers to participate
2007 — Launches Connections, its own enterprise social networking platform
2008 — Introduces social computing guidelines to encompass virtual worlds and sharing of rich media
2009 — Opens IBM Center for Social Software to help IBM’s global network of researchers collaborate with corporate residents, university students and faculty, creating an incubator for the research, development and testing of social software that is “fit for business”
For more perspectives on IBM’s customer-facing social media activities, see this recent article in Fast Company.
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, where he delivers integrated social, digital and linear media solutions. Contact Neil by email and join his conversations on Twitter and Google+.