Jarter Jargon

IBM (Case Study)

Posted on: April 30, 2012

IBM is a heavy hitter in the global brand market. With 400,000 employees across 170 countries, it can be hard to pull off “authentic” in the social media world while maintaining the company brand message. However, IBM embraces the #1 social media rule of “be yourself” to the fullest extent: They don’t have a corporate blog or a corporate Twitter ID.

At 116 years old, IBM is not new to the game, so maybe you just assume they have their history to back them up and help maintain a solid brand. They have no need to develop an online presence. Old business sticks to old ways. Well you’re wrong. As a highly collaborative business, IBM uses that same mindset with employee innovation and customer interaction.

“We don’t have a corporate blog or a corporate Twitter ID because we want the ‘IBMers’ in aggregate to be the corporate blog and the corporate Twitter ID,” says Adam Christensen, social media communications at IBM Corporation.

“We represent our brand online the way it always has been, which is employees first. Our brand is largely shaped by the interactions that they have with customers.”

Their social presence includes  17,000 internal blogs, 1 million daily page views of internal wikis, internal information storing websites, 15,000,000 downloads of employee-generated videos/podcasts, more than 400,000 Sametime instant messaging users, resulting in 40-50 million instant messages per day, 400,000+ employees with  access to IBM Connections (internal social networking  platform), and thousands of external bloggers.

IBM does have social media guidelines. The employee-created guidelines basically state that IBMers are individually responsible for what they create and prohibit releasing proprietary information. But the document lacks any mention of brand messages or values. Nor does IBM corporate regulate employee social media activity. Only three people hold social media roles at the corporate level, and oversight isn’t part of their jobs.

Their approach? “We don’t police.”

IBM has created an incredible brand with impressive customer service, informative blogs, and employee innovation without employing their own corporate social media channels. Because existing social channels are self-regulated by employees, it gives them a sense of empowerment and spurs collaboration.

It’s interesting to think that in this day and age when social media is a “must-have” for brands, it’s apparently not always necessary if you have an impressive internal structure. That being said, IBM is a pretty special case. I think that their history and their specific brand lends towards its innovation. However it’s still impressive. Even without corporate social media channels, IBM still follows the rule of “being yourself” by demonstrating to the world their collaborative and innovative spirit. The only problem I see is that with so many Twitter accounts and blogs, who do I follow?


1 Response to "IBM (Case Study)"

This is really interesting. I like IBM’s approach. In a unique way they truly exemplify a real corporate identity because, rather than having just one voice, they have several through social media outlets. At the company where I work we write a number of corporate blogs and, while the ideas come from the corporation, we are writing it, not the company itself which kind of defeats the purpose in a way. I also like how IBM encourages their employees to stay true to themselves and do what they do best. All around, very cool–great post!

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