How IBM is demolishing the social silo

Companies need to think beyond hiring the next “director of social media” and the “social media department” and find ways to break the silos and make social an integral part company culture, business processes, employee engagement and training.

Understanding and even mastering Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn should not be silo-ed by the social gurus in the marketing and communications departments, but rather Social Media collectively owned by all employees considered as a way to get work done, rather than merely a way to spread branded messages.

Ethan McCarty, the director of IBM marketing and communications labs, looks at three ways that social savvy organizations are shifting the way they operate, not just communicate, through the use of social media:

1. The bean-counters (Finance & Legal) are getting social.

Can you imagine a future in which the procurement department or finance or – gasp – even legal regularly use social platforms to get their jobs done? Well, imagine no more. At many firms – including IBM – that’s exactly what is happening today. Recently I read an excellent blog post about the relative risks and merits of trial software by my colleague who is a lawyer at IBM’s global headquarters. No, that wasn’t a blog getting approved by legal it was the legal department actively communicating, soliciting feedback and ideas socially.

 2. Goodbye long internal communications; hello employee engagement.

When I was the editor in chief of IBM’s intranet I was keenly aware of how soon my title would be an anachronism. Companies with socially activated workforces do not need internal news agencies. And this was eight years ago – it was clear then that ‘user generated content’ was giving traditional news outlets a run for the money externally, so why wouldn’t that happen within organisations as well? We accelerated the deconstruction of that editorial department – or rather, repurposed it into a federated set of communications professionals missioned with opening up the flows of information within working groups though education and provocative digital experiences such as Jams and MOOCs (massive online open curriculum).

3. Online collaborative activity becomes a criterion for advancement.

The shift here is simple – senior leaders look to their middle management to move the workforce and effect decisions they’ve made. If the workforce is engaged socially with one another, the only way to get stuff done will be through direct engagement and being able to prove your effectiveness as a participant on social systems. A friend of mine once said to me that when it comes to community, activity equals influence. So no, I am not talking about tweet quotas for middle managers or a Klout score dependency for a vice president. I am saying that increasingly I see organisations looking for a proven capability to use social in the context of whatever business problem – product development, customer relationship management and beyond – as a meaningful component to evaluating future leaders.

So, if content was king in the social media revolution of the early 2000s, then truly the king is dead. But long live the king – because social as a principle for business has moved far beyond where we were at the birth of blogging a decade ago.

Original Guardian article here.

Flickr Photo. silos by Doc Searls

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