By Ethan McCarty
The common view in the business world is that social media is simply a fun tool for checking in with friends and family – something that I, and millions of others, enjoy every day. However, this perception sells social media short and ultimately prevents many businesses from harnessing its true potential.
The fact is that the possibilities of social media go well beyond casual use of Facebook and Pinterest. Its power and influence extend beyond a simple tweet or a pin.
Social media is a force for organizational change and business value. A recent IBM survey found that more companies are tapping into the power of social business. Almost half of the companies surveyed increased their social business investments in 2012.
Companies with the foresight and know-how to apply it thoughtfully, and with rigor, will be the big winners. A great example is social media’s ability to spur the convergence of brand and culture. It encourages people to integrate their personal and professional personae in ways that lead to new and valuable ideas and work – for the individuals and their organizations.
An example of this convergence is a new IBM social website and web service called Voices. Voices is a real-time data service that showcases live social feeds of IBMers who are experts in big data, mobile, social business, cloud, cognitive computing and much more. But it doesn’t end there. Voices then marries the individuals’ thoughts with IBM’s company feeds (@IBM, @SmarterPlanet, @IBMResearch) etc.), as well as a word cloud that shows visitors what’s trending via data visualization technology originating from IBM Research.
This juxtaposition of unfiltered feeds of individual experts alongside “official” channels captures expertise across the entire company in a new way. In doing so, Voices personifies IBM’s values-led culture and massive social media footprint.
It also demonstrates the company’s authentic, people-centric approach to social business. For a true social business, this kind of mash-up can augment or even replace the traditional “About our Company” or “Community” pages. Voices launches with a total of 150 feeds, which will scale 10X by year-end.
Voices is primed for today’s era of data transparency. On this new social playing field, the organizations that win will be those where employees can improve the culture by embodying their company’s character to the world at large. Social brand strategists need to create intentional systems of engagement that allow employees to convey and ultimately shape the brand experience. That’s especially important for a business-to-business company such as mine.
It also represents a natural evolution for IBM, which takes social business seriously, whether it’s to collaborate and innovate, to stay connected with clients, universities and other communities, or to train the next generation of leaders. And this should not come as a surprise when you consider that IBM was one of the first big companies to issue social computing guidelines, which among others things encouraged employees to participate in social conversations whether inside the company, at your desk, at home on the couch, or while traveling on the road.
So check out Voices and let me know what you think.