IBM and Social Intelligence: Real Time Monitoring and Engagement

The following post is my initial thoughts and ideas as I develop our corporate strategy around real-time monitoring and engagement.  While the team and I are still developing our discourse, we know that we also need to define our approach to social and what our needs are in the form of tools.  For now, we have organized our social intelligence system into three parts:  1) Social Research 2) Real Time Monitoring and Engagement 3) Social Relationship Management.  While real time monitoring is a stand along function, I believe it must be married to engagement.

These categories are not perfectly clear and there are definitely some gray areas and overlap.  Regardless, I am confident that this is a good start to developing our framework.  This system is not just about tools, posts and analytics, rather is it a way to define how IBM (as a brand) and IBM’ers make social media a part of our everyday business.

My current focus is on evaluation of real-time monitoring & engagement tools.  The challenge for us has been understanding how people engage today, where our internal infrastructure gaps are, and what are the metrics and  KPI’s we can standardize on.  What complicates this is the diversity in features and functions of the tools on the market.  This space is continuously evolving in terms of the behavior of the social media practitioner and how companies are developing tools.

People, Places, Posts

At IBM, we have a great internal group called BlueIQ.  This is a core group of experts that don’t just look at social media (Twitter & Facebook) but take a holistic view of social, collaboration, and how companies can benefit from this emerging area.  I sat through a presentations one day in which the presenter segmented social media into three categories: People, Please and Things.  This presentation has always stuck with me.  I think it continues to be the lens I use to view social media.  However, I think I want to transform this into the three P’s of social media:  People, Places and Posts.  These three P’s is how I often approach our business and social.  I’ll try to come back and expand this idea in the future.

Engaging creates a Feedback Loop

What we are looking to do is develop a process and find a tool (or set of tools) to facilitate the day-to-day interactions between IBM’ers and our constituency.  The emphasis is less about tooling and more about interactions and scaling those interactions.  The significance of our mission is to expose more IBM’ers experts to new ideas and people and equally expose the public to our thought leaders.

The focus and quality of engagement will create a feedback loops between IBM and the rest of the world.  This isn’t new.  Companies have been engaging and interacting with their customers, partners and prospective buyers from the early development of commerce. What social changes is the scale and volume of the interactions.  More importantly it creates an environment where consumers can connect with other consumers and exchange comments and sentiment With the emphasis on experts engaging in their topics of expertise you also develop focal points of interaction between two people and or groups of people.  This concentration of conversation can create the richest understanding of a topic and presents the greatest opportunity for thought leadership (Social Media 101, I know you already know this stuff).  Many take this feedback loop for granted, and I believe it’s basic “blocking and tackling” that should never be overlooked.  When I  look at our experts and their influence, I find them in area’s of: research, product development, product marketing, support and consulting.  A organizational map would become even more complicated when you consider the experts that focus on geographies world wide.

Through a series of conversations with people inside and outside the company about monitoring and engagement, I am coming to the conclusion that there are diverse approaches and perceptions that conflict with one another and then those that are just flat our wrong (not that I mine right).

IBM has always been a firm in which is brand equity I directly related to its employee’s success.  Hence, the term the development of the term “IBM’er.”  Over the past 100 years, IBM has taken great pride in the people.  It’s the IBM’er that has helped the world solve big problems.  These interactions have built the company and have given our customers a sense of credibility and reliability behind the brand.  (Take a look at our “100 x 100 video” and our “They were There Video in my previous posts and our Twitter stream around #ibm100)

Today IBM adopts social as a natural extension of what we have been doing for the past 100 years.  So as I look at our social intelligence system, I prioritize our ability for an IBM’ers to engage with our diverse constituents.  Social Media Research and Listening are always the first way to place to start however, the heart of social media is in the everyday dialogue through posts on all platforms:  Our own communities & developerWorks Communities, 3rd party Forums, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn (Herein lies my idea of the first two P’s in my 3 P model:  People and Places).

To enable and support these individuals demands that an engagement tool should not just help them post comments rather, empower, inspire and motivate them to be a part of a greater community.  Our experts have tight schedules.  Our constituents have tight schedules.  Communication has to be easy and quick.  Also, Twitter is not the only venue communication.  While popular with the rest of the world, Twitter is not the primary venue for dialogue between IBM and our constituents.  In fact, Twitter is often used as a tool to promote their ideas, and find others to network with.  Most of the real content generated by our experts would have to be in a forum or a blog.

I hope that my next post will be about real-time monitoring.  Looking forward to your comments.


Social Aggregators

Reflecting on 2010, I have noticed that Social Media aggregators have become a popular tool for many social media marketers. They come in many different shapes and forms, but essentially these tools help brands bring together disparate conversations across multiple platforms. Through aggregation brand are looking to demonstrate to their audience the volume of conversations around their products or services. The idea is that aggregating multiple streams of conversation into a single view will give the general public a holistic view of a conversation and thus the impression that their products or services are popular. It will also provide a single, easy to find location to allow new consumers to engage with an existing conversation. Brands are looking to use an aggregated page as a launch pad for existing influencers to engage with new advocates. Thus, aggregation will bring in fresh thoughts, opinions, and feedback to the broader conversation. I believe this is still an important component of a healthy community.

IBM and other companies have made attempts to use content aggregators across several events and programs. For IBM the initial use of social media aggregators has been around our large conferences around our 5 major software brands (Lotus, Information Management, Rational, Tivoli, WebSphere). We look to leverage the existing crowd at the conferences. Our attendee’s come together and have a great deal of stimulating content and face to face interactions that will prompt them to share and post their thoughts and ideas around our products and solutions. Perfectly sound logic. Yet, I do not believe that the tools I have seen thus far have done enough. Content aggregators need to evolve and develop beyond pulling content into a single view.

Media has always been a way to organize and rally people together. Radio, TV and the web have all been a way for a message to reach a broad audience. Aggregators are missing this very important process. What I want to see from an aggregator is the ability to help a reader find people relevant to what they are looking for. When I say “finding” you may think I mean search, but I think its more than just search. An aggregator must help a reader “discover” new people that are relevant to them. Relevant people can be subject matter experts, customer support, analysts or advocates. There is a person behind all of those status updates and posts.

Social media aggregators do a respectable job aggregating from the main social venues (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). However, for a company like IBM, most of our customers are posting and engaging in forums specific to their industry or domain of expertise. Such forums can be found on our own developerWorks sites, but many of them are run and managed independently. These are great sites for our customers. People can easily connect with others like them and find the support and guidance that they need. I believe that the current generation of social media aggregators are limited because they do not capture these sites. More importantly, they require that marketers be aware of the sites and must manually aggregate content from these sites. As sated before, I don’t just want to be able to search and find content on these sites, as a reader, I want to quickly find the content and people that are experts. I want to know more about them and understand the contributions they make to the discussions.

Basically, aggregators do what they say they do….big deal! We need more. We need them to be effective, meaningful and to help the reading see the big picture.

I think I can go on about how aggregators need to do more. So I will stop here. However, I think the right thing to do is explain more about my approach. My next post will be on the 3 P’s of social media. This will help give some more context.

Reflections During Transition

Indian Pundit

So its official, I am moving out of my Social Media Strategy role with the Information Management brand at IBM, and into a corporate position.  This must have been the worst kept secret amongst the IBM Social Leads.  None the less, everyone that needs to know, now knows.

I will be a part of a team that will help to define and build our SocialCRM strategy.  I know it sounds really cool, and it definitely is a great moment for me professionally.  I feel a renewed sense of passion and enthusiasm for my work.  However with the new position comes the challenge with solving a real problem: How do you make social media a part of the business while delivering strong business value?

So, my next set of ramblings will be a series of Posts called People, Places and Posts.  The following is a transitional commentary from moving out of the strategic day to day management of social and into really building something for the business.

At IBM we have strong group of social media strategists and we have often been called the social media guru by others in our various segmented brands.  The amount of social media talent that is at IBM is amazing.  Recently Mashable listed IBM as one of the top Social Media Employers of 2010 (  I would agree with that assertion.  It’s not just good press.  As a firm, IBM has not only embraced social but is looking to lead the way.  There are some really smart people in this organization that definitely respect and admire.  Many of us are often referred at social media “guru’s” or “mavens” and I have always struggled with this label and believe its too soon for such a label.  I even believe that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg should not be given such label.

Let’s forget all the cultural references that make me cringe every time I am referred to as a “guru” of any sort (still has a great deal of spiritual and cultural meaning for me).  Specifically, I struggle with such labels because social media is a new sociological phenomena (vs a technological one) that has many nuances and dependencies.  To use them requires both art and skill.  The most important reason I think the label fits is because people have not figured out how to make money using social media (I mean make good money…).  This is not just simple transactions rather social needs to account for a significant portion of revenue.  When you have that figured out, then you can call yourself a social media guru.

Guru also means that you have gained wisdom in a practice that you have mastered.  Don’t confuse knowledge with wisdom.  They are very different.  The people that really benefit from social are not those people that are social media experts, rather they are experts in a particular subject area and use social media as a tool.  For example, our DB2 leaders Conor O’Mahony and Irshad Raihan both embrace social media.  They also show up as strong influencer’s in many of our social media analytic’s/reports.  Conor and Irshad have really masted the database space and have gained wisdom technically and from a business perspective.  The content of there engagement with their constituents does not change.  Social just enables a wider audience.

The social explosion has matured, but it is changing so quickly that I don’t think anyone can truly understand let alone predict what is going to happen.

Getting to know Informix

LeadersSocial media practitioners recognize that social media is a socially driven phenomena and not a technological one. This technology enabled trend has given consumers a voice in the direction and development of the products they consume. Companies that recognize the growing voice and power of the consumer will seize an opportunity to build brand equity much faster and much more cost effective than in the past. They will be able to successfully capitalize from social media by successfully building a relationship with their constituents. The strength created from this type of relationship will make a brand more competitive.

In order for a relationship between the brand and consumer to develop there must also be a vibrant community that rallies behind the brand. An example of such a relationship are products like the iPhone and iPad . These consumer products have a vibrant and loyal community. Even though many critics slammed the iPad, consumers demonstrated their power by lining up in droves to purchase the product the weekend it went to market. The crowd has spoken, and the iPad is now another strong product in the Apple portfolio. The iPad is a great B2C example. I was fortunate to discover a vibrant B2B community that mirrored this behavior.

Similar to the Apple iPad loyalists, the Informix community behaved as an equally passionate community. In this post, I am not going to spend time talking about the Informix product, rather the people that are passionate about the database. My next several blog posts will be about the Informix community and my experience and interactions with them. Please understand that my views are mine alone and are not that of IBM. Also, I am a newbie with Informix…so I still have a great deal to learn about the community.

Sociologists and community advocates often comment on the collective behavior of communities. I would add that there are members of that community that impact the larger population. These individuals have the personality and drive to shape the identity of the larger population.

Informix was a acquired by IBM several years ago and is a part of the Information Management portfolio. Even before the acquisition, the Informix community was a passionate group of people. I was recently brought in to the IBM Informix team.

My first introduction to the Informix community was at the 2010 International Informix User Group (IIUG) Conference in Kansas City the last week of April. Attending the IIUG user conference was a unique experience for me. I knew that B2B customers have products that they love, but I never actually experienced this in person.

Informix users have a great deal of pride in their work and are incredibly loyal and passionate about the Informix product. Yes, database developers and managers are incredibly passionate people! IBM is fortunate to have inherited these individuals when Informix was acquired. The acquisition concerned many of the Informix users. They were worried that IBM would absorb the product and sunset it. I was not a part of IBM at that time, and don’t really know what the motivations were for the acquisition. Even if that were true, it is fair to say that Informix is here to stay. After years of support, it is clear that IBM has no desire to sunset the product.

IIUG is an independent user group that works very closely with IBM to support the user community. Every community has its leaders that stand out. Most would agree that the current IIUG President, Stuart Litel, is one of the main reasons why Informix is alive and well at IBM. Stuart’s IBM network is strong and he never hesitates to leverage his connections when he needs to get something accomplished. While for many this may be a nuisance, I believe it is this trait that has kept Informix thriving. With his leadership, tenacity and persistence, Stuart has not only managed to keep Informix as a strategic part of the IBM database portfolio, but has also managed to keep the user community united and energized. The annual IIUG Conference continues to grow and many old Informix customers are retuning to IIUG and getting involved. As a new addition to the Informix community, I am looking forward to not only working with Stuart, but learning from such a senior individual.

Another individual that really stood out for me at the IIUG conference was Miguel Carbone. Miguel has been an Informix customer for quite some time. He was one of the 2010 IBM Information Management Champions. This is an IBM award given to customers and partners for dedication to the IBM Information Management Community. Miguel stands out for several reasons. He is more than just a loyal Informix user, he is an advocate. Currently he is working on building an Informix Center of Excellence in Brazil. Miguel has also translated many of the IBM Informix Redbooks into Portuguese, and he also has his own blog (in Portuguese) .

Miguel’s leadership in Brazil helps him connect with other customers in Brazil. He convinced 4 additional customers to fly to the conference with him. The individuals he brought are a part of a large Brazilian company that is the largest and oldest Informix customer in Brazil. This firm uses Informix in every part of their business and is the standard database used company wide. His work in Brazil and his network allows him build an active community. This single individual in a BRIC nation is able to create a foundation for other users to identify themselves with the Informix product and have a voice with IBM. More importantly his actions support a call to action for existing Informix users. Because Miguel believes that Informix is the best database on the market, he enjoys evangelizing to prospective customers and engaging with existing ones.

These two leaders are not the only IBM Informix users that stand out. I will cover more Informix leaders in future posts.

Stuart and Miguel are not employees of IBM nor compensated. Their work is voluntary and there actions are sincere. They are driven by there desire to evangelize the Informix product to the world. I believe that social media can take individuals such as Stuart and Miguel and turn them into personalities much larger than what they are today. These two leaders can take their passion and channel it to a larger audience. This year I will be working very closely with the IBM Informix community and IIUG to give a voice to thousands of passionate end users.

It is always people that make things happen. The technology is just a facilitator.