Social Media and the Professional: Enterprise Social Media

In this series I’m looking at my experiences using social media as a business professional. In this entry I examine the rules and policies I personally use regarding enterprise social media.

In the introduction to this series of blog entries, I asked several questions regarding my use of particular social media services, and how I manage the intersection of my personal and professional lives in them.

Here I’m going to look specifically at enterprise social media. That is, services that allow you to blog, post status updates, comment on the status of others, all inside your company’s or organization’s firewall. I’ll assume that what is posted is seen only by people in your organization, not by the general public.

I think use of multiple social networks only has value if you do different things on each of them. If one service targets a specific audience, use it with those people in mind. If you are more or less throwing the same material at all of them, I think you are spamming people, hoping it will lead to some sort of positive outcome for yourself. Therefore, if you post blog entries externally, there is no need to repost internally, but perhaps a link will do.

Enterprise social media is tricky because what you post could be seen by your bosses, your colleagues, and your employees, not to mention HR. You want to keep it relevant to your work life but you do need to be aware of the politics and sensitivities involved.

Do not use internal enterprise social media to state how brilliant you think management and their status updates are and how much their postings have changed your outlook on life, the way you’ll raise your children, or the very essence of your being. It’s fine to just click “Like.”

Be constructive, don’t use use enterprise social media to build a mutual admiration society. Ask questions, get a better understanding of the details of how the business is run and why decisions were made, and improve upon the suggestions of others. Don’t ever say in a response posting “What is more important …” but rather say “What is also important …”.

Share what you have learned about making products or service engagements better. Pass along dos and don’ts about working with clients. Don’t ever criticize a client as individuals or a company in your postings. Think about how new technologies like mobile and analytics can help you serve customers better and share your thoughts with your colleagues.

Be interesting. Be a person.

The social media service I use inside IBM is Connections.

Here are answers to the standard questions I’ve used in all these postings.

Who will I follow?

I follow (or connect with) people I know and have worked with directly. IBM has over 400,000 employees. If I connected with everyone, I could never find anything of value in the stream of status updates.

Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?

I’ve suggested to my current employees that I would be honored if they connected with me, but it is completely optional. If anyone expresses uneasiness that “the boss” is watching what they post, I won’t follow them. No one is blocked (I’m not even sure I could if I wanted to).

How much will I say in my profile about myself?

Much of my work contact information is pulled up automatically. I’ve added a few other items, plus links to my external social networking activities. I certainly don’t list my personal hobbies in my inside-IBM profile, though I don’t think that is out of bounds in general. Since I cover my personal social networking elsewhere, I don’t redundantly add things in my internal profile.

What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?

Though many people blog internally, I don’t. When I first started blogging in 2004 I had a WebSphere blog, then a developerWorks blog, an internal blog, and then one WordPress personal blog and one WordPress business blog. It didn’t take me long to decide I needed just one, and that is what you are reading here.

If I had something to say about open source, standards, Linux, WebSphere, or mobile, I would not have a special inside-IBM version and a different outside-IBM one. For one thing, this helped me keep the messages straight! Since I spoke publicly quite a bit, I needed to make sure that I did not say things internally in print that might inadvertently get repeated externally.

I do use Connections Communities now to share very specific internal information with named groups of people, such as the worldwide Business Analytics and Mathematical Sciences community. This is quite useful.

In terms of status, I post questions, some simple statements about IBM activities in which I’m engaged, and occasionally some critiques of features of processes or software.

While it’s fine to inject the occasional comment about non-work matters, I do not recommend that you use a lot of bandwidth in your company’s social networking service discussing American Idol or the World Cup. Take it elsewhere, perhaps to Facebook.

When will I share content posted by others?

Sometimes if I think it is really important or answers a question someone posts.

How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?

Zero, nada, zip.

How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?

See above.

On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?

Anything I see where I might add something useful to the conversation.

What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

I’ll link to co-workers to share what they’ve said or to note them as experts on a particular subject.


Blog entries in this series:

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