Why IBM Could Be Bigger Than Facebook in Social Media

Last week IBM announced a new software portfolio that is the clearest indication yet that social media has truly changed the business landscape.


Fathoming a new product from IBM via a launch event is like trying to
understand the ocean by watching a wave. Nonetheless that was my task,
swimming through the presentations and ultimately landing an interview
with Jeffrey Schick, IBM’s VP of Social Software. Drenched in the
vision Schick shared for the IBM Customer Experience Suite, it occurred
to me that IBM could end up being more important to the business use and
monetization of social media than Facebook.

While the comparison between IBM’s new social software solutions and
Facebook could be considered all wet from the start, the mere fact that
I’m discussing both in the same sentence should make you take notice.
IBM is not sitting idly on the dock as web and mobile usage transform
business interactions. Rather they intend to ride the wave of Web 3.0,
creating and implementing the software that according to Schick, “can
better connect people with people and people with information.”

Social software is not a new idea at IBM


Long before Mark Zuckerberg aggregated his Harvard friends online,
IBM’ers could find their colleagues in a similar manner. According to
Schick, “at IBM 15 years ago, we had a way to look up people to create a
globally connected enterprise.” “Today we have approximately 500,000
people within IBM and we do about 6 million look ups a day on pages that
look strikingly similar to other social network profile pages with
features like blogging and photo posting,” added Schick.

IBM’s internal network served as both an incubator and torture test
for its latest offering. “The idea of getting the right person over the
right time at the right opportunity and yield the right result was
really important,” explained Schick. So while Schick and his team
watched the rise of Facebook with interest, they took greater
inspiration from the technology they were already using to deliver “an
exceptional work experience for employees” which also translated into
better client service.

Social software for business that is as easy as Facebook


Recognizing how simple it is to publish on the web today, IBM aims to
make their social software tools as easy to use as social networks like
Facebook. Acknowledging the early adoption of social technology by
kids, Schick noted, “now I say this stuff is so easy us old people can
use it!” This simplicity of use has fundamental implications for
business, “making a tremendous difference in the way that people can
collaborate and share information,” added Schick.

The emphasis on ease of use also means that IBM may be able to
address some of the needs of small and medium size businesses with its
new offering. By taking the capabilities they’ve created for big
companies and putting them on the cloud, smaller businesses may indeed
be able to leverage these services and according to Schick, “easily
create a community that would allow them to invite their clients and
engage them.”

Reaching for more than 500 million “likes”


While pundits debate the value of a Facebook fan, IBM has no doubt
about the value of its new social software portfolio. In addition to
using the software to “build better client and employee relations,”
Schick expects that “people can get genuine business value [from it].”
While dialog is important, all of this, according to Schick, “is done to
drive revenue, to create better customer satisfaction and gain some
competitive advantage.”

And though IBM calls its Customer Experience Suite “new,” they are
already touting case histories that prove its merit. Schick explained
how the relatively small Practicing Law Institute
is “leveraging the web to create communities to better engage their
attorneys that take their classes.” He also explained how a large
construction firm, “created a web experience that allowed them to hear
the types of homes they should be building.”

Being a social organization is more than being on a social network


Though Facebook is the reigning social network, it is simply a ripple
in the ocean of IBM’s vision for the new social organization.
Businesses of all sizes need to think social across their intranets,
extranets, the internet itself and the emerging mobile marketplace.
Whether it’s about sharing information internally, with clients in a
walled garden, or with prospects on their cellphones, “social is an
important dimension and critical to what we’re doing,” explained Schick.

Recognizing that the social tsunami could be a bit overwhelming to
its customers, IBM also tried to use itself as an example, employing a
range of external and internal social tools at the launch event and
online. Attendees were encouraged to tweet using the hash tag
#IBMexperience while the event was streamed live online. All of the
launch-related content was shown in real-time using IBM’s social media
aggregator providing proof
positive that IBM was indeed practicing what it preached.

Final Note: Regardless of your business size, IBM’s big move into
social software should be a clear indication that every business needs a
broad-reaching social strategy not just a Facebook fan page! This
strategy needs to address the needs of your customers and your
employees, ensuring optimal collaboration between them anytime and


About the author

Drew is the founder of Renegade, the NYC-based social media and marketing agency that helps inspired B2B and B2C clients cut through all the nonsense to deliver genuine business growth. A frequent speaker at ad industry events, Drew’s been a featured expert on ABC’s Nightline and CNBC