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Social Media Networking at IBM IndigoBall

Social Networking Practices at IBM Inc.

Muhammad Nouman Virk (Date: 08.05.2013)


The use of social networking tools is very beneficial for companies. The case study of IBM has been used that is showing positive impact of using social networking tools towards achieving objectives. Opposed from others, the IBM is using its internal social networking tools such as, internal blogs, SocialBlue social network and crowdsourcing platform that is helping the IBM to gain optimal benefits from the opinions, knowledge, ideas and intellectual capital that is shared on internal social networks by IBMers. But, recommendations of IBM are to have a presence on external social networking platforms as well.

The IBM Inc. is an American corporation, selling computerized equipment and software solutions to businesses and consumers. The IBM is offering a vast range of products, services and solutions (IBM, 2012). The IBM considers itself “knowledge based company” that is heavily based upon the expertise of its employees. The History of IBM is 114 years Old and now, IBM is a second top brand in world’s best global brands along with its presence in more than 170 countries and 400,000 employees (Hibbard, 2010).

The social networking strategy of IBM is different than others. The IBM doesn’t have its official presence on famous social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn etc. The fact of the matter is, the IBM is having its internal network of social network that consists of internal blogs, crowd sourcing and dedicated internal social networking applications, which work similar to famous networks such as, Facebook, and Twitter etc. (Hibbard, 2010).

The use of social media approach is another milestone that provided the IBM with innovativeness and high collaboration. The IBM is using social networking that is internal for IBMers only (the employees of IBM Company are called as, “IBMers”). There are following reasons of introducing internal social networking strategy.

IBM strongly believes on the expertise of its employees and wants to get optimal benefit of its employee’s knowledge, ideas and opinions through social interactions. The most important point is that company wants to get benefit but also want to keep it secret. The company wants to aggregate the IBMers to have social interactions on internal blogs of IBM.

IBM wants to let its employees talk with each other and also with the public. The internal blog, social network and crowd sourcing platform work same like other external social media platforms, where employees interact with one another. It was all about persuading the employees to interact collaborate and share their ideas, opinion, discussions and contents.

IBM wants to make such platforms, that is based upon employees, friends, clients and partners, which can be used for crowdsourcing and sharing ideas.

The launch of internal social networking was a tough task for IBM and the company had to face many challenges. Once the internal social networking tools are launched, the outcomes of strategy have also catered these challenges in the best way. (a) The internal social network was not like external, so getting the attention of employees was difficult. (b) The persuading and stimulating employee’s knowledge sharing behaviour and involving them in strategic planning was another big challenge. (c) The internal blogs and social networking kept open, and left for people to self regulated themselves, there was not policing system. (d) Aggregating maximum crowd and engaging them was also challenging task. (e) The internal social networking tools of IBM were not so innovative like famous social media networks, so designing innovative applications and tools was another challenge. (f) The internal social media network of IBM was not revenue creator, like another company, which gets sales, advertising, customer satisfaction from it and it was also involving cost for IBM that makes it less cost effective.

The decision of IBM in using internal social networking tools has shown the positive results. There have been plenty of benefits, achieved through introducing social networking strategy (Appendix 2). First, IBM has succeeded to develop a vast social network that consists of only “IBMers”. These benefits also covered the challenges of employees. The social networking stats of IBM are following;

There are more than 17,000 internal blogs, which are being used by above 100,000 IBMers.

There are more than 53,000 employees using social-blue that works like Facebook, but internal to the company.

There are more than 500,000 people on crowdsourcing platforms.

The IBMers are having a presence on external social networks such as, few thousand IBMers on Twitter, few thousands IBMers have external blogs, around 200,000 people are using LinkedIn and above 50,000 people are using Facebook.

The internal wiki of IBM is service well through providing over one million visitors with required information.

The IBM has identified 10 best incubator businesses through crowdsourcing and then IBM invested $100 billion and earned 44.1% gross profit margin.

Although the social media strategy of IBM has proven very positive results, but there are some critical points about using an internal social networking strategy of IBM. This criticism has been presented in the perspective of validating the use of internal social media strategy that will help in understanding that either using internal social networking tools can satisfy the needs of companies, or external social networking tools are important. Although, the internal social networking tools are beneficial for organizations such as, IBM is using with its employees, and getting its desired objectives, boosting productivity, creating culture, engaging employees, generating credibility and improving communication, (Working, 2012), but there are some negative aspects of internal social media strategy. (a) it is costly for a company that creates variable cost, (b) company has to manage, maintain and regulate itself, (c) attracting and engaging internal employees is difficult (SNAP Blog, 2010). (e) Not much effective or innovative like other famous networks that makes it boring for employees (Edwards, 2012). (f) Not workable in small organizations, because of less crowd of people. (g) Issues of information leakage or break of privacy (Huertas, 2012). These negative aspects of internal social networking tools are keeping the IBM less beneficial from social networking tools.

On the other side, the external social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are very popular now a day which is providing highly innovative features to businesses. In short, although the internal social networking strategy of IBM is enough productive, but the company should also have a presence on external social networks that will provide more benefits to the company.


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