Forrester Webinar: Using Social Media in the Workplace

We hear a lot about using social media to increase brand awareness and engagement with customers, but we don’t often hear about how social media could be used within a company to achieve some of those same goals. That’s why when I heard that Forrester would be holding a webinar this morning to talk about incorporating social media techniques internally, I thought it was worth checking out. Especially since the webinar featured speakers Charlene Li, Rob Koplowitze and Anil Dash. I mean, seriously, who better to hear share their experiences and offer up best practices, right?


Let’s listen in.

Anil Dash starts things off by offering up some introductions and explaining what we’re going to be hearing this morning. Er, afternoon, depending on what time zone you’re in.

Up first will be Charlene Li.

Social Computing Comes to the Enterprise

Charlene starts off by talking about when and how to use social media, specifically blogging. She identifies some possible goals you may have for your company and how social media and blogging can help you to achieve them.

Listening — Gather feedback via comments (example: DirectDDell), test new product ideas, and provide thought leadership on a topic.
Talking – Discuss industry or company best practices (Microsoft’s Jobsblog).
Energizing – Energize your biggest fans, WOM referrals (Boeing Flight Test Journal)
Supporting — Peer-to-peer support (HP’s LaserJet blog).
Embracing – Members become contributors (Fastlane/GM Insiders).

Touching on the idea of using blogging to energize brand evangelists, Charlene talks about how Boeing brought enthusiasts into their testing process. She says that the idea isn’t to convince travelers that they should buy a Boeing plane; it’s about using your company blog as a marketing tool to explain to travelers what it means to be on a Boeing plane. That marketing will then translate into a follow up campaign targeted at the people who do buy planes. [Like rich people? – Lisa]

General Motors used social media to embrace community members. When they previewed their new Camaro on the Fastlane blog, they posted a video of one of the designers driving and giving users a look at what it’s like to be behind the wheel. Not surprisingly, users then commented and created a dialog with the people at GM about what features or downloads they would be interested in seeing. GM was then able to incorporate these things into the new design.
Social media isn’t just about talking to users; it’s also about listening and having a conversation. Something else GM did was to invite the best commenters to become "GM Insiders", giving them access to designers and marketing programs. It was a great example of embracing social media.

How to implement Web 2.0 in an era of governance, risk, compliance and privacy

Rob Koplowitz is up and immediately states that he has to be the voice of caution in this discussion. Bummer.

Social media products are proving themselves. What businesses should now do is encourage people to bring these technologies into the enterprise for use internally. However, this needs to be done with an eye geared towards things that are less sexy. Things like governance, risk, compliance and privacy. Enterprises should embrace social computing, but they need to do it on their terms.

Rob recommends designing enterprise applications for people, but to build for change. The question everyone wants answered is how do you take any process and make it faster? He says we’ve over-invested in structure and underinvested in ad hoc messy, chaotic human activities. Today’s economy is less driven by efficiency and more driven by design. Business should support folks and intertwine social media applications in a way that make people more efficient. You have to build for change.

Proceed prudently. The tools are easy available and available under varying models, including ad funded, SaaS models, appliances, etc. New technology is not immune to governance, risk, compliancy, privacy or security concerns. You have to respect the rules and consumer and employee privacy.

Social computing complements the Information Workplace. It brings portals together, allows for collaboration, increases office productivity and better content. Bringing in external sources supports all of these things.

Rob identifies the benefits that come along with providing users with sanctioned tools:

  • Removed the vast majority of issues.
    • Drives security, privacy, compliance
  • Creates a context for better/safer information management
  • More manageable than email, file servers, etc
  • Magnifies the value of the investment
    • Better search
    • Consistence user experience
    • Create better communities
  • It’s a reasonable investment.
  • Rob leaves webinar attendees with several key takeaways, including

    • Get a grasp on what’s going on in your enterprise
    • Corporations are getting value from social media
    • Users are getting social without guidance.
    • Process and content need to be managed.
    • Provide users with sanctioned tools.

    How to measure ROI

    Charlene identifies the three factors you need to weigh to determine the ROI associated with blogging:

    Benefits: Identify key benefits. Use existing metrics and assign values.
    Cost: Figuring in costs — start up costs, recurring costs, etc/
    Risk: Filter the benefits and costs through Risk. Identify uncertainty and calculate probability of something really bad happening. Think through every possible scenario.

    That information will give you the ROI of blogging and the total impact on your business. Obviously, the key benefits of blogging will differ based on your company’s objectives and its ability to put things in place.

    Case Studies

    Anil Dash joins the conversation and offers up a few case studies.

    A lot of the tools we know from the external Web are becoming internal tools. He offers up a few examples

    He says that social networking, sites like Facebook, MySpace, are the external equivalent of Intranet User Social Profiles where people create profiles in order to learn from their peers.

    User Generated Content sites like Flickr and YouTube are similar to Social Asset Management systems where employees can share things without the hassle of email.

    Social bookmarking and voting sites like Digg and Delcious are no different than internal rating and ranking tools. Using blogs as broadcasting medium externally is the same as using them for collaboration internally. Web 2.0 is Enterprise 2.0

    Enterprise 2.0 means building layers of functionality that sits upon your core platform and allow for new compatibilities. He uses TWA as an example.

    TWA realized that the process of sharing what they had learned during a project was very arduous. They were ending up FedEx-ing books and DVDs back and forth to share information. This process was time consuming, costly, and gave users no way to respond.

    TWA wanted something better and in 4 months, their Moveable Type deployment had launched 27 different channels, consisting of over 5,000 published pages. The information collected now supports comments and annotation.

    He talks about retail store Uni Qlo (sort of like the Gap in Japan) that had 700 stores worldwide, with a high amount of turnover. Employees frequently leaving meant that knowledge was frequently being lost. Email conversations about best practices and successes weren’t accessible by new staff. Movable Type was deployed around the world, with each location able to document what works. Even part time employees could access the blog using mobile phones. It created a system where information could be saved and accessed as needed.

    Anil recommends setting up a new blog for every conversation. You decide who has access to it and who can modify things. People use and access information in different ways. Make it easy for them.

    Question & Answer (questions and answers are slightly paraphrased.)

    What about the time cost associated with blogging?

    Charlene: Calculating the cost involved with blogging is no difference than calculating what it costs to have someone spending half an hour talking to the press or talking to employees. You have ask yourself, what else can this person be doing? This is one of the key things. You have to deploy these things in a way that serves a clear business objective.

    Rob: Blogging for Forrester, gives analysts the ability to get their voice out in a way that takes a lot less time. It is more efficient way to get content out to people.

    Anil: Blogging offers a very tactical way of taking conversation that you would have had in email and instead publishing it. Now, rather than answering the same email 10 times, employees can search for it and find it on their own.

    How is social computing going to be easier to manage?

    Rob: One of things I want to manage in my organization is that email is used in a way that is proper and manageable. That’s hard to do. If I instead take that information and put it in a blog post, then I have made that information highly visible and transparent.

    What do you mean by "disposable technology"?

    Rob: Rather than going out and evaluating an application that requires approval by all the departments and may take months to get signed off on, social media allows companies to use low cost technology that they can try out quickly and dispose of if it doesn’t work.

    Anil: These social media tools are much more forgiving for experimenting and iterations. There’s a low cost of failure and high reward. That’s a model not common for most IT departments.

    Once you start a blog, how do you get people to participate in it and promote it?

    Answer: Ask yourself, what’s working right now. What are people using? Many organizations are set up with an intranet portal page that never changes. Put an RSS feed on that page and allow employees to get news that way. Or piggyback on the continuous company newsletters that get sent around and put a link to your blog in the footer. This will keep the blog in their top of mind. If employees are more comfortable in email, let them get blog updates via email until they get used to using an RSS feed. The key thing is to let them access it how they’re accustomed to working. It’s really a matter of thinking about the behaviors users already have and working with them.

    When do you use a Wiki and when do you use a blog? Is MovableType Wiki or blog software

    Anil: Movable Type is blogging software, although it does allow you to create standalone pages. The biggest distinction between blogs and wikis is that wikis are geared towards definitive stuff, not for things you want people to respond to or creating a dialogue about. Unlike blogs, wikis are also bad at giving people credit for their ideas. Ultimately they’re about everyone reaching a consensus.

    On the other hand, a blog gives people ownership and allows for two way dialogue where everyone owns their own ideas. They’re good for capturing the evolution and iteration of something. It gives you a timeline of how ideas change and grow.

    How much of the IT budget should I put aside to start Enterprise 2.0?

    Rob – There’s a number of different technologies you’ll want to use. Blogging is just part of it. If you’re a 55 person organization you should be starting with someone very well known that costs about $20-$40 a month per user.

    What criteria was General Motors using to identify the best commenters?

    Charlene: They cherry picked people who they thought were very insightful in areas they wanted to know more about. Some people create very small communities. It depends on who you pick and what you say to them.

    How are people creating communities inside organizations?

    Anil: There’s an obvious mapping of one blog for each department and that works very well. But we think the communication style that social media forms best with is ad hoc. He recommended having one blog per project, where people from different departments can come together until the project is done. A blog is a very natural thing and can be used to track project progress or collaborative tools where employees can share information and past experiences.

    How do I get everyone in the company to read my blog? [Ha, good luck! Sorry. Bitter. – Lisa]

    Anil: Most of the time that’s not even appropriate. Not everyone has to read your blog because once that information is posted on the intranet, people can find it when they search for it. If you write stuff that they can’t get anywhere else, people will find it and use it when needed.

    People want to have a way to start a conversation. See what conversations started in response to content that was created.

    The role of Twitter and micro-blogging within the enterprise.

    Anil: Six Apart has a Twitter account. There’s a lot of benefit to lightweight notifications, messages that are short enough to go through text messages or IM. That’s something that I think is part of the core of blogging.

    Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

    See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

    Comments (4)
    Filed under: Social Media Marketing
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    4 Replies to “Forrester Webinar: Using Social Media in the Workplace”

    Wow, there are lot of great suggestions here, which you usually only find by accessing a paid webinar — thanks for posting! I work for a nonprofit that does a top small company workplaces 2010 competition to identify those that use employee engagement most effectively to increase productivity and profitability, and I could see these revelations being really useful to them. I know because some of them have asked me these same questions! I’ll be sure to share this with them. Thanks again!

    This is such an informative post. Great ideas for how a company can leverage blogging. Blogging continues to grow and evolve as a useful tool.


    Also thanks for posting this. We’re a recently merged company, delivering a new 2008-2010 strategic plan to all employees. We don’t have a history of getting the information all the way through the org., and receiving comments on it.
    I’m wondering how to set up a blog to post the information, and then invite discussion from certain individuals to see if it’s making sense down the ranks.
    Thanks, Lisa2


    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting discussion. Your bitterness is shared by many! ;-)

    Everybody has a different learning style, so reading blogs will never work for some people, but when you get around to creating your own podcast/online radio show, I’m sure you’ll grab the attention of the other people at your company! Hm, well, maybe. :-)



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