Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Opting In & A Culture Of Participation

Ten years ago, a group of IBMers came together to answer some questions - How can we encourage the individual voices of our people, the experts upon which our company is built, to be heard in the marketplace? How can we take the wisdom of the crowds and apply it to our products and services? How can we change the perception of IBM from faceless conglomerate to an organization that is engaged, transparent, and agile?

The catalyst for these questions was the effort to create IBM's first blogging guidelines. Several of us who were exploring new Internet social networking tools such as blogging, wikis, and discussion forums recognized their potential as a tool for IBMers to connect with our clients, prospects, influencers, partners, and suppliers. A few of us were already actively blogging, but in a nebulous space where it wasn't clear whether we were simply speaking for ourselves, or as IBMers, or as IBMers with individual points of view. The blogging guidelines would help us resolve these early questions, but we had a much more important goal. The blogging guidelines - which today are the IBM Social Computing Guidelines - needed to be an empowering document, not an oppressive one. We needed a policy that encouraged IBMers to share their thoughts, ideas, and expertise, out in the open, where the market could engage and learn.

Today, by many measures, that objective has been far exceeded. IBM is routinely recognized as the biggest corporate presence in social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. IBMers by the thousands have created blogs, Tumblrs, Instagram accounts, and other social streams. We went on to invent a category of social networking solutions for business, and have lead that market every year since its inception. Most importantly, we put into practice the themes of the social computing guidelines - engaging in the market, transparently, and being responsive and agile to what we learned.

Social Business: Lessons for improving IBM products and services

In a previous role, I was responsible for the overall business and strategy for several of IBM's collaboration and solutions products. I found early on that I could "walk the talk" of social business - engage directly with clients and prospects, find out more about what the market wanted in terms of capabilities or support, and share our plans and perspectives. Though I never intended it, after a few years of writing at edbrill.com, I built an audience comprised of the thousands of companies using these IBM products, those considering doing so, and even our competitors. This direct engagement lead to business outcomes - faster decisions and time to market, more responsiveness to requirements and market conditions, and in what became a hallmark of business blogging at the time - transparency around competitive positioning and roadmap. I learned how to make decisions around whose "voice" I was writing in - myself as an individual, or the representative of the product team, or a broader view from IBM as a company.

Clients and prospects responded. Can we directly correlate the growth of these products during 2004 to 2008 to the nascent blogging policy and presence? No, of course not. However, the sense of community that developed during that time brought clients closer to IBM than ever, IBM closer to the market than ever, and clients closer to each other. User groups formed. Other bloggers entered the fray. Heck, there were even marriage proposals, as people came together with similar interests and ideals.

I wrote the book Opting In: Lessons in Social Business to try to capture what came from that experience. In Opting In, I explore lessons learned around real-world social business: the need to see the big picture, to communicate strategically, to create a three-dimensional personality online, to make oneself accessible. Each chapter of the book examines a set of online activities and their outcomes, told through real stories. Most chapters feature guest contributors from the protagonists themselves: clients, analysts, IBMers. The chapters all conclude with the lessons learned on the subject topic - things like the concepts of personal branding and unique voice, delivering unique outcomes, and how to be transparent in a competitive market.

Join the Conversation

Opting In: Lessons in Social Business is an Amazon bestseller and has earned consistent 5-star reviews. To learn more, participate in our #socbizchat on Twitter on Thursday, July 9 at 1 PM US EDT with @edbrill (me!) and Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia), author of The New Social Learning (2nd edition). You can also connect with me via LinkedIn, or email to ed_brill@us.ibm.com.



from Social Business Insights Blog http://ift.tt/1HdpfUX

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