How a 100-hundred-year-old business stays ahead of the online times
Meryl K. Evans, Professional Services Journal Editor, interviews Delphine Remy-Boutang of IBM
At InternetViZ, we’ve been collaborating with each other for over a decade. And we do this without being in the same room. InternetViZ employees live all over the U.S., including Minnesota, California, Texas and New York. We rely on a variety of online technologies to create, innovate and educate.
This phenomenon is happening everywhere. Online collaboration changes the way employees in businesses work with each other and clients. At IBM, staff keeps exploring how online discourse through social computing can empower IBMers as global professionals, innovators and citizens. These individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communications, but masses of communicators.
Through these interactions, IBM can share its greatest asset — employee expertise — with clients, shareholders and the communities in which it operates. Delphine Remy-Boutang of IBM shares how IBM values social media within and outside of the company’s walls.
Professional Services Journal: Why do IBM employees use social media?
Delphine Remy-Boutang: In 1997, IBM actively recommended that its employees use the Internet — at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access. In 2003, the company made a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere and to encourage IBMers to participate. We continue to advocate IBMers’ responsible involvement today in this rapidly growing environment of relationship, learning and collaboration.
PSJ: How does your company incorporate social media into its overall strategy?
DRB: The IBM Digital Strategy has three parts:
- Lead how forward thinkers engage with experts and expertise to make the world work better.
- Design a digital system, which creates trust and speeds the creation of value.
- Embrace iteration in everything we do.
IBM has robust social media initiatives focused on enabling all IBMers to participate in social media. Social Business @ IBM is an internal site with interactive, educational and social programs vital to IBM’s social business transformation. It educates and enables IBMers in external social media participation. This resource aims to educate them about social media and various social initiatives taking place internally while allowing them to participate.
We host modules that provide IBMers with an introduction to the social web. They learn how to use social computing tools to foster collaboration, disseminate and consume news, develop networks, forge closer relationships and build credibility. As a result, they’re more informed and prepared to take action.
By making these types of tools and information available, we’re changing how the IBMer approaches social media and, twofold, changing our culture. People get to know IBM through our consultants, speakers, sales people and researchers. Within our walls, we have huge stores of accrued expertise embodied in several Nobel laureates and thousands of doctors. We’re working to use our most important asset, our people. We strive to identify their strengths and expertise and then connect them with potential customers, partners and the knowledge-seeking public that visits IBM’s website.
PSJ: What social media tools do you use, and how do you use each one?
DRB: In the early days of the Internet, IBM introduced social tools internally to facilitate employee collaboration and sent people to the web to find out what was being said about the company, the precursor to social media monitoring.
Many IBMers already use digital social tools in their jobs — helping clients, sharing expertise and engaging in professional and technical communities of practice and development.
IBM’s Social Business @ IBM and Expertise programs provide employees with an easy systematic approach to start or expand their knowledge of social media and technology. They can enhance their social presence, project their expertise, drive innovation and deliver business value by cultivating trust through people-centered digital experiences.
Today, almost 200,000 IBM employees have Facebook pages (nearly half of its global workforce), 25,000 have Twitter accounts and more than 17,000 maintain blogs.
PSJ: How do you manage what IBMers say in social media?
DRB: Under the social computing guidelines at IBM, we ask that IBMers be mindful of what they publish as it will be public for a long time and they are personally responsible for that content. We also ask that they clearly identify themselves and that when they choose to discuss IBM or IBM-related matters, they make it clear that they are speaking on their own behalf and not on behalf of IBM. It’s vital to any organization’s social strategy to stress transparency with their employees.
But, at IBM, there’s no gray area when it comes to sensitive information, for IBM’s protection as well as for the IBMers’, we ask that they refrain from discussing IBM confidential or proprietary information.
PSJ: Please share a memorable interaction that happened in social media.
DRB: Our IBM at 100 campaign drew these results:
The Centennial and Celebration of Service evoked a public expression of enthusiasm and pride by IBM employees. Celebration of Service participants worldwide uploaded over 1,500 photos on ibm100.com. Accordingly, IBM saw a dramatic shift in the tone of its online buzz, moving from a predominantly neutral topic of conversation to one in which one-in-four mentions are positive.
IBM’s worldwide presence dominated — with active social participation from IBMers across the globe. Key conversational themes reflected IBM’s Centennial programs, demonstrating that those engaged in social discussions worldwide understood and embraced them.
Another great outcome of social media interaction was that the social media strategy for Lotusphere 2011 was one of the seven Twitter Marketing Campaigns to Learn From. The Lotusphere team created a social media hub, a single landing page providing a live stream of blogs, Twitter comments, Flickr photos and videos from the conference, resulting in 41 million total impressions on Twitter.
Using LinkedIn‘s search capabilities, one of our employees gained access to potential customers previously difficult to contact through traditional channels such as telephone and email. He managed initially to identify the right contact (i.e., the CEO of SAIMA) through a LinkedIn search, and initiated contact through LinkedIn’s messaging service. The customer had not heard of our offering but was happy to arrange a call. The result: a signed contract.
PSJ: What are the business results from using social media?
DRB: Some examples of IBM’s internal social media footprint today include:
- Over 17,000 individual blogs.
- One million daily page views of internal wikis, internal information storing websites 400,000 employee profiles on IBM Connections.
- IBM’s initial social networking initiative that allows employees to share status updates, collaborate on wikis, blogs and activity, share files.
- Over 15,000,000 downloads of employee-generated videos/podcasts.
- Every month, 20 million minutes of LotusLive meetings with people both inside and outside the organization.
- More than 400,000 Sametime instant messaging users, resulting in 40 to 50 million instant messages per day.
Social examples of IBM’s external social media footprint today include:
- Over 25,000 IBMers actively tweeting on Twitter.
- Over 30,000 IBMers on Linkedin.
- Over 198,000 IBMers on Facebook
Our social business initiatives have had a profound impact on IBM’s business processes and transformation. For one, Online Jams are a catalyst to innovation, creativity and excitement from a defined audience for tangible results.
PSJ: What advice do you have for others considering social media?
DRB: Social Business is the world of possibility that occurs when all of the energy and opportunities generated around consumer-side models, such as Facebook and Twitter, bring business challenges to bear.
To become a social business, you need to be:
- Engaged. Deeply connecting people, including customers, employees and partners, to involve them in productive, efficient ways.
- Transparent. Removing boundaries to information, experts and
assets; helping people align every action to drive business results.
- Nimble. Speeding up business with information and insight to anticipate and address evolving opportunities.
Recent research shows clients are increasingly open to collaborating online with vendors. After a Twitter search or deeper conversation in a LinkedIn group or forum, potential buyers may ask companies for more information and engage with product experts for guidance. Sales reps can use the web, video chat and social media to nurture deeper connections with clients, which makes it easier to do business with them.
About Delphine Remy-Boutang
Delphine Remy-Boutang is WW Digital, Social Media Marketing Manager at IBM, and is based in London. Prior to her current role, she held many positions within IBM communications, marketing and sales. She leads efforts in moving IBM Software Group marketing into online and social media marketing, focused on driving innovative marketing capabilities through the web, driving digital influence strategy and execution across geographies. Find her on Twitter (@delphineRB) and her blog.