Big Blue Blogs? IBM Goes Social

By Loraine Kasprzak, MBA

Big Blue Blogs? IBM Goes SocialWatson. Big Blue. Lotus. What comes to mind when you read these words? Most of us associate them with IBM, the Fortune 50 technology and consulting company. What you might not associate with IBM is social media, but the company is going social in a big way. By 2012, 90-95% of IBM’s marketing budget will be spent on social and digital tactics, including social and online media, blogging, online communities, and content delivery.

I had the opportunity to talk to Leslie Reiser, Program Director for Worldwide Digital Marketing, IBM General Business, about how IBM is using social media and digital marketing today. Leslie’s team markets IBM’s solutions to mid-market B2B companies.
Here’s the first part of our conversation:

How is IBM using digital and social marketing?
The Watson supercomputer – besides winning Jeopardy’s Man vs. Machine Challenge – is a very good example of how we approach social using a Paid-Owned-Earned Media model. There’s a Watson Facebook page and Twitter presence, a website, plus YouTube videos and online community. There’s press and blogger coverage along with paid advertising.

For mid-market solutions specifically, we started with infoboom, a community where we could listen to and provide content for leaders of midsize businesses. This is evolving to a new stage of social collaboration* with a simplified social media presence where we have fewer Twitter handles and just one Facebook page and a LinkedIn group.

Our websites are now optimized for search. So now clients can find us more easily, and partners can interact more easily. Clients can come directly to one of our sites, find us via search, or come in through paid ads and landing pages.

We also rebuilt our middle market portal so that it can provide deep-level solution content. We are making it as seamless as possible for a client to go among the deeper content, wherever it originates. Based on the behavior and intent of the user, the portal gets them to the right content so that they get what they need. For example, if someone is looking for a cloud solution, they can find the discussion threads all in one place at the portal.

With over 400,000 employees worldwide, IBM has considerable intellectual capital. How are you leveraging this in your social marketing?

People are looking for expertise, credibility and authenticity from us.  We identified our “rock stars” – the true experts in the company – and assessed their social media readiness and what they could share. We began evangelizing these people and their knowledge – promoting our expertise and credibility.

We also developed an expertise locator tool – it’s internal now, but we’re beginning to surface it outside the company. It includes profiles of employees – that they add themselves – by skill and willingness to be available by expertise and proficiency.

Getting so many employees on board with social must be a big task. How are you doing it?
It’s no doubt we’re a large company, with disparate goals across brands, teams, and regions. We knew starting out that we’d have to integrate social behavior into the corporate culture, if we hoped to be successful. We needed to address a traditional management culture so we got our senior execs involved and sold it to them first. This way they’d get their people involved.

We put social in terms leadership understands by establishing a consolidated dashboard with social sharing and engagement metrics to demonstrate the value back to the business. Not every social media aspect has a direct ROI, but we can show impact to the business through KPIs.

Our employees have different social proficiency levels and limited time and resources to participate in social behaviors. We needed to bring everyone along the learning curve and encourage participation, so we came up with a flexible model that all employees could leverage.
We also set up social marketing guidelines. Employees company-wide must sign and adhere to these guidelines. These aren’t “do’s and don’ts;” they’re meant to encourage IBMers to blog and participate in internal and external social networks.

We also have our Social Business portal, which is an internal site where employees can access tools – blogs, video, and podcasts – that they can leverage in their social networks. For example, employees could access the IBM Centennial materials via Social Business and then Tweet or blog about our milestone.

Another thing we did was get IBM alumni involved – there’s a very strong group who’re involved on Facebook and LinkedIn. This has been a great way to extend IBM’s capabilities. There are some very notable IBM alumni – such as Irving Wladawsky-Berger – who have an independent, well known presence in industry.

Next week’s post: IBM’s “lessons learned” in going social
* According to the infoboom site, beginning on October 1, 2011, infoboom will merge with several new and expanded IBM midsized business social media channels. The site won’t be available after Sept. 30, 2011.

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