To Get Reluctant Employees On Board With Social Media, Put ‘Em Through Boot Camp

How do you accelerate the adoption of social within your organization? How do you convince your employees that it’s not a fad, but a fundamental shift in how we market to and engage with our consumers? Try a social media boot camp.

To Get Reluctant Employees On Board With Social Media, Put ‘Em Through Boot Camp


We all know that successful social media adoption within any organization isn’t an easy process. Even though social media has been around for a while, there is still a huge perception and knowledge gap within global companies around effectiveness of social channels and approaches.

So how do you accelerate the adoption of social within your organization? How do you convince your employees that it’s not a fad, but a fundamental shift in how we market to and engage with our consumers? Well, it seems that the answer is simple. Get creative, and get personal. 

That’s exactly what one of the marketing teams at Intel did.

A few months ago, Channel Platforms and Strategy Division (CPSD) turned its frustration into creativity. After weeks and weeks of trying to convince their teams that social matters, they still haven’t seen the shift in attitude among the majority of the team members. Even though they all knew how pervasive and popular Facebook, Twitter and other social tools were, they saw them as somewhat of a distraction primarily embraced by teenagers obsessed with over-sharing every detail of their lives. The majority had never personally used the tools and didn’t appreciate the opportunities they would present in connecting with Intel customers.

“Initially, I casually identified the social media bootcamp as a fun exercise for the group,” said Steve Pickard, Director of New Product Marketing in CPSD. “After experiencing the bootcamp first hand, I became acutely aware of social media as an essential piece of a holistic marketing plan. I started seeing ways of connecting with our customers in a more effective and relevant way.”

Sylvia Salazar, Justin Whitney and Jonathan Wilson of CPSD designed the social media bootcamp. “We believe the best way to learn about and embrace social media is to simply take the plunge and do it,” said Salazar.


For their social media bootcamp they divided their staff into teams, making sure each team had at least one social media evangelist, someone who–even if not a social media expert–believed this was a valuable and necessary exercise.

First step: all participants were required to begin using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumbler immediately.

Second step: teams had to follow specific popular brands or products they like and use. This was aimed at creating that bond between a person and their passions, all through social media.

Salazar notes: “There were two important elements to keep in mind: a fun and fresh experience. We created a controlled environment where we could test the tools, using new (or existing) social accounts and followed each other. People started tweeting for fun right there on the spot, sharing a little bit more of their individuality and their lives, personal things that were different from the more serious way they present themselves at work. This exercise, aimed at educating everyone on social media tools, started to become an excellent blend of training, fun and, most importantly, team building! Most of the participants never thought that we would bond on a more personal level using social media tools.”

Third step: send the team into the city with the goal of accomplishing specific tasks. Whether it is checking in at a local business, or using QR codes to get a discount, scanning songs with Shazam, paying for coffee using a mobile app, taking and editing pictures with Instagram, microblogging about products via Tumblr or tweeting on the go, the actions were very relevant to how customers would interact with businesses in their every day lives. After six hours of racing around downtown checking into different types of businesses–restaurants, tech, apparel, bike or bookstores–and interacting with them socially and purposely over-sharing, the team converged for the final pow-wow.

People were so excited they all wanted to talk about the events of the day. Some were amazed at how fast and easy it was to get a direct response from a brand about a particular product, something they never expected. A few were disappointed at how little some businesses use social media and started to think about the potential for growth in this area. Some team members were even perplexed about how much social media tools, even though powerful, made them feel anti-social from the lack of face-to-face, direct human interaction.


So what was the result? Hunger for more information, more ideas, more case studies, and more of similar experiences.

The trio of social media advocates already had phase two planned out. They designed a follow-up session to the initial boot camp that included examples of creative marketing campaigns using social media, tips on using different tools and their effectiveness for multiple purposes, and finally, an in-depth exercise of having teams design their own social media activity around a product–using everything learned so far. That exercise produced a number of creative ideas and programs, the best ones funded by management.

“Everyone on our team was eager to participate, experiment, brainstorm and design a new campaign,” says Salazar. “We got a wide range of ideas. For the first time we saw the whole team rally around their passions.” Now the team is evangelizing social business wherever they go. They consider social media a permanent element of go-to-market strategies and are constantly thinking of new ways to engage customers.

The team moved from “It’s a waste of time, used primarily by teens and soccer moms” and “I’m very skeptical about the usefulness of these technologies for business or professional use” to “The boot camp helped me understand where the social tools work well and how it’s relevant to my job. The new knowledge will help define how I integrate them into my marketing strategies” and “Social Media isn’t a checkbox item–it’s a committed relationship with your customers”.

The team now wants to scale this approach across the whole group. What started with a pilot tested on a small team now turned into the whole framework.

Michelle Johnston Holthaus, General Manager of Channel Platforms and Strategy, is fully behind this program. “The way we do marketing is changing. To run a truly social business you need every single employee on board with understanding not only your vision and your strategy, but how customers communicate online. And then you need to empower your employees to listen to and engage with customers where they are, on their terms. Only through a two-way dialogue can you build solid relationships with them.”


The team is now working closely with the global Social Media Center of Excellence to bring this approach to the worldwide enablement efforts across the company.

[Image: Flickr user Olivier H]

About the author

Ekaterina Walter is the Global Evangelist at Sprinklr, the most complete social media management platform for the enterprise. She has led strategic and marketing innovation for Fortune 500 brands such as Intel and Accenture.