Ever since I started seeing the I am an IBMer commercials I was intrigued. After a while I caught onto the fact that IBM was using an old trick that has fallen out of favor for social media marketing – employee blogging, more specifically blogging about what you are working on.
I am sure all of us remember the days when blogging first surfaced and companies started realizing the many benefits employee blogging can bring – free marketing, making connections with customers, creating excitement about upcoming products etc. Campaigns were launched across the industry to encourage more and more employees to blog. Then came the blogging blunders where a few employees lacking common sense crossed boundaries and instead of creating value through blogging, ended up making headlines for the wrong reasons. The social media strategists wisened up , realized some of the pitfalls and started providing fairly prescriptive guidance on “what you can and cannot talk about”. This probably hampered the free sharing, participation. But employee blogging about their work was not dead.
What killed the momentum out of employee sharing was the secrecy Steve Jobs famously used as a clever marketing tool. He was smart enough to realize that in the era of hyper connectivity, the only way to create real news was to generate great hype around new product launches, maintain absolute secrecy (that means no employee blogging), create a media speculation frenzy and then eventually satisfy the frenzy with a show. That was great and Jobs was a genius. However I can’t help but feel the rest of the industry not only followed, they upped the ante. This started a new era of non-sharing, hyper secrecy with product launches. I am referring to the double NDAs, don’t even tell your spouse and 3 year old kid kind of secrecy.
Don’t get me wrong. I realize surprise is a powerful business tool and in today’s world where product cycles have become short, pace of innovation has increased there is a strong argument and merit in doing what has now become industry norm. What I am trying to say (and I know by now you are waiting for the punch line) is I think the pendulum has swung too far one way. It is time for us to start restoring the balance. It is refreshing to see IBM get the employee voice out there. After all I have not heard of any company that was successful because it found the new phone the competitor was secretly developing in a bar!