Case Study: How IBM Championing Social Media Adoption in Business?

International Business Machines Corporation, or the IBM, is basically a multinational computer technology and has got hold over IT consulting services. The company has established itself as one of the selected information technology companies since 19th century. With its growth in the manufacturing as well as marketing domains of computer hardware and software, it has gained the nickname of “Big Blue”.

IBM Social Media Adoption

IBM had encouraged its employees to use internet since 1997 when most of the companies were not allowing their employees use of internet. In 2003, the company made a strategic decision to encourage IBMers to participate in blogs and embrace the blogosphere. Social Business @ IBM is an internal site that has interactive, educational and social programs which explain  IBM’s social business transformation and  educates and enables IBMers in external social media participation. Employees take personal responsibility for their social media activities and the company has set rigorous guidelines (IBM Social Computing Guidelines) and objectives for its social media strategy. Employees can build their social presence, showcase their expertise, drive innovation and deliver business value through trust and people-centered digital experiences.

DeveloperWorks 

IBM DeveloperWorks is a web-based resource and social network for millions of developers and IT professionals worldwide. This forum was meant for software developers to stay up to speed and communicate with each other on the most current technologies, techniques, and standards. In addition to blogs, forum includes user profiles, forums, wikis, groups, and an integrated iPhone application, and users can also pull in Facebook and LinkedIn content to their DeveloperWorks profile, and publish their DeveloperWorks activities to Facebook via Facebook connect. It has library of over 30,000 articles, receive three and a half million page views and 1M visitors per month. On average, of the 5,000 people posting to forums at least once a month, 50 percent are new and 50 percent are returning and 400K+ active profiles, over 1000 community groups, 800+ active bloggers, 450 wikis, and 20,000 shared bookmarks. DeveloperWorks has both encouraged the growth of the open standards development community while driving down IBM support costs. The net result of the following activities is over $100M in annual support savings.

IBM Blogs Central & Wiki Central

IBMers started blogging since 2003 and have 17000 individual blogs and more than 100000 users that have software project discussions to discussions about IBM’s business strategies. IBM doesn’t have a corporate blog or a corporate Twitter ID because employee’s blogs aggregate as the company’s blogs. Through BlogCentral, IBM Employees can share their ideas by creating their own blogs, or subscribe to each other’s blogs via RSS.

Completed in 2005, the IBM wiki platform “Wiki Central” allows any IBMer to create a wiki. The potential business applications of a wiki cover two broad benefits: collaboration and knowledge-sharing. IBM has scored some notable successes on both fronts in the near- more than 10,000 wiki pages, 10,00,000 page views per day and 1,00,000 users. Due to Wiki central usage by employees to collaborate and share IBM had seen a measurable decrease in e-mail traffic in those areas of between 30 and 40 percent. IBM’s wiki environment, QED Wiki, is mash-up that allows the non-technical user to aggregate content from multiple sources, such as widgets, blogs, wikis, contact lists, podcasts, or one of almost a hundred plug-ins, and present it on one site.

Beehive (SocialBlue)

Beehive (later called SocialBlue) was an internal social networking site deployed within IBM’s intranet. Beehive is akin to Facebook, but slightly different, and perhaps more viral employee social networking site and it allows employees to connect, track each others’ activities, share photos, and even schedule events, a key viral ingredient of Beehive’s buzz is the ability to create shared lists – “top 5” lists called “Hive5s”. Points are given for activities on the beehive and with accumulated points IBMers grow from a new bee into a working bee, to busy bee, and finally a super bee. Beehive has created a sense of community at IBM and help employees make new connections, track current friends and coworkers, and renew contacts with people they have worked with in the past. Over 65,000 employees have joined the site and IBM focuses on understanding motivations for using the site, impact on organizational social capital, and design of incentives to encourage participation.

Fringe

IBM found out that 40% of employee directory listings (called Blue Pages) were not being updated and create a parallel system called Fringe which is a people tagging system. People tagging is a form of social bookmarking that enables people to organize their contacts into groups, annotate them with terms supporting future recall, and search for people by topic area. Fringe profiles display contact information and automatically generated information from the Blue Pages directory including: Communities that they belong to, Blog entries and Bookmarked pages (from their social bookmarking tool, Dogear). Everyone at IBM has a Fringe page by default and grabs existing corporate data automatically for the user and employees can tag anyone with any keyword or tag. Fringe’s main goal is to create a better, more representative corporate directory.

IBM Jam

IBM started the jam concept globally in 2001. Jam is like a massively parallel conference. Employees post views and suggestions on the company’s intranet on issues ranging from their careers to possible innovations and how to take IBM forward. These posts are discussed and debated and management will eventually sift through the entire discussion, identify matters of concern, valuable suggestions and innovative ideas, and use those to redesign practices and policies, and to create new business ventures for IBM. During IBM’s 2006 Innovation Jam – the largest IBM online brainstorming session ever held – IBM brought together more than 150,000 people from 104 countries and 67 companies. As a result, 10 new IBM businesses were launched with seed investment totaling $100 million. Jams methods, tools and technology can also be applied to social issues. In 2005, over three days, the Government of Canada, UN-HABITAT and IBM hosted Habitat Jam. People from 158 countries registered for the jam and shared their ideas for action to improve the environment, health, safety and quality of life in the world’s burgeoning cities. Their ideas shaped the agenda for the UN World Urban Forum, held in June 2006.

In February 2011, IBM hosted Jam, bringing together over 2,700 participants to discuss social business and the ways in which it can redefine how we work in the years ahead. For 72 hours, individuals from over 80 countries “jammed” on key issues and generated new ideas on the major themes. Report synthesizing the 2,600 discussion posts and more than 600 tweets from the Jam highlight that ROI on social media is quantifiable, adoption is slow, increasing focus of integrating social activities and business processes is essential for success.

Other Social Media Initiatives

IBM launched its own social book-marking system, Dogear in 2007 which was a corporate equivalent of web services like del.icio.us; it grabs a URL and a description (tag) and also allows access to lists of tags from theprofiles of other users. Employees can find someone with similar interests and then subscribe, via RSS, to their own tags, or contact them directly. As with all social book-marking, descriptions are user-generated. It follows a folksonomy rather than a taxonomy concept, so no one is shoe-horned into a hierarchy.

IBM was one of the first companies to set up an island on Second Life in 2006, and it was one of the richer corporate experiences on the virtual world. One million current and former IBM employees have joined Second Life, and there are no restrictions on how it was used or accessed. IBM was one of the key corporate backers with a large virtual campus but that campus was closed in early 2010. IBM had begun withdrawing most of its presence from Second Life since then.

IBM integrated all its internal social media platforms into a single platform, based on Lotus Connections for all IBMers. The single integrated platform includes micro-blogging, wikis, blogs, activities (informal workflow to customize and use informal projects, to do lists, activities, etc.). The single platform, also called Connections, is still in its early days, but enjoys about 100,000 unique users every month in Connections.

IBM Social Media Success

IBM is following a decentralized social media approach and controls the internal social media through the employee-created guidelines. IBM does not regulate employee social media activity and instead encourages employees to collaborate and share and drive innovation. Employees are educated about the guidelines and policies and are provided the necessary social media platforms. IBM has integrated social media as an integral part of its business. IBM through its social media initiatives have developed products and services and ended up as client-facing revenue generators, as the big blue capitalizes on its knowledge leadership. IBM has created community and through the social media channels, content is being created internally and externally and “align” it to IBM’s business goals. IBM acknowledges that social media is a very good option for communication with employees and clients and utilize these channels for business growth. In 2011 IBM has conducted Social Media Jam highlighted that monitoring every customer interaction at every point in the buying cycle will showcase opportunities to improve service using social capabilities.

Case Study Discussion:

  1. What is the social media tools role in interacting with employees and clients?
  2. How to manage the risks involved in the employees and clients social media interactions?
  3. How to increase the employee and client’s participation in the social media platforms?
  4. How to manage knowledge that is generated through the various social media platforms?
  5. What type platforms and infrastructure are to be created for the social media interaction within the organization?

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