Friday, February 4, 2011

Unga Bunga Measure ROI?

I stumbled upon an article with this headline recently:
IBM Sees Blogging as Marketing's Next Big Thing
As I was contemplating ways to make fun of the headline ("In Other News, IBM Thinks the Wheel Shows Promise for the Transportation Industry"), I realized that the article is from 2005.

Even still, that seems a little late to the party.

Nonetheless, it's interesting to see the depiction of big, fuddy-duddy IBM working its way through this whole "blogging" thing that's all the rage with the kids these days -- and coming up with a rough, effective social media strategy. It's almost like reading an anthropologist's account of cavemen coming up with effective solutions to problems as they made their way in the world -- if cavemen did social media ("#FF @GrokUng b/c his cavepaintings make me LOL").

After all, these were the days when companies were firing employees for blogging about company matters.

The article details how, with no experience and very few (if any) enterprises to copy from, IBM created a highly workable social media strategy.
  • They created a list of "common-sense pointers" for their bloggers, including "follow the IBM business code of conduct; respect copyright laws; and don't reveal proprietary information" (social media policy).
  • They didn't just stick to blogs; they incorporated wikis, RSS feeds, and podcasting into their social media plan.
  • They demonstrated a firm understanding of the concept that social media is not a "tradiaional sales and marketing tool[,]" but is rather a tool for brand/reputation management and customer relations.

As ridiculous as the headline of the article is, companies can learn a lesson from the IBM of yesteryear. For all the self-proclaimed "gurus" that talk about "social media marketing," and all the skeptical whining from naysayers, the keys to social media basics are really quite simple.
  • Put one person in charge. Not zero. Not two. Not everyone in the company. One. This person is your Social Media Manager ("SMM").
  • Understand that managing social media is not the job of the marketing department, the IT department, or the CEO. It is the job of the SMM.
  • Create a social media strategy and policy that furthers your organization's objectives while limiting your organization's liability. Train your employees appropriately.
  • Engage the organization from top to bottom. Six years ago, IBM had over 15,000 internal bloggers and 2,200 external bloggers.
  • Engage across multiple platforms. Social media is not just Facebook, or Twitter, or MySpace, or LinkedIn, or blogs, or feeds. You wouldn't build a house using just a hammer; instead, make use of all of the tools that can help your social media strategy succeed.
  • Don't try to use social media as a marketing substitute.
  • Do use social media to engage with your customers/users/audience. Converse, collaborate, and maintain your brand.

It doesn't have to be complex, and it doesn't have to be expensive.

Even a caveman can do it.*

* With apologies to Geico and the those fellows in their commercials.


  1. I was at IBM when this activity took place. We went one step further and created blogging guidelines and virtual world guidelines thus preventing anyone from guessing if their blog or behavior was in line with business conduct. It did seem like common sense but ambiguity doesn't lend itself well to credibility.

  2. Thanks for this tidbit and added insight, Sandy.

    IBM is quite good at structure. I wonder if, by waiting so long to get into the blogging and social media realm, IBM was able to learn from the mistakes of others (like, for instance, Google).