I am constantly impressed with IBM and its open attitude towards its employees’ use of social media. The company has on its website, for all to see, its “IBM Social Computing Guidelines”.
I wrote about this on the Blogger’s Bulletin, a LinkedIn subgroup. With the start of 2010, other companies, who are floundering with their social media policies, would do well to check out IBM’s guidelines. One of many lines in the guidelines that intrigued me: “IBM is increasingly exploring how online discourse through social computing can empower IBMers as global professionals, innovators and citizens. These individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communications, but masses of communicators.” What a profound statement. Gone are the days when a company can tightly control its message through advertising and printed materials. IBM has recognized that thousands of its employees, within certain guidelines, are the touch points for communications with customers, prospects and the general public.
Empowering employees to be brand advocates for the company takes courage and a great deal of trust. From the guidelines, “In 1997, IBM recommended that its employees get out onto the Internet – at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access. In 2005, the company made a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere and to encourage IBMers to participate.”
IBM says that when it wishes to communicate publicly as a company it has a well-established means to do so – through employee blogs and other forms of online discourse. Isn’t this refreshing? That a company as huge as IBM is empowering and leveraging its employees to enhance its brand? There are other companies, too, like Zappos and Comcast that understand the value of employee involvement in social media. But there are too few companies who understand the power of the Internet. And some companies are still muzzling their employees – but it’s too late. Their employees are already out there.
Jon Iwata, SVP, Marketing & Communications, spells out IBM’s social media policy in this video. Jon Iwata – Social Media as an Internal Tool. Well worth watching.