IBM and the Twittersphere

This was one of those comments you start to write on someone else’s blog entry, which morphed into a post all of its own.

As an IBMer who Twitters, I’m pretty astonished that the company hit this list of “brands that suck on Twitter”… in common with Adam, Ed and Ryan’s comments on the post (which Ed follows up in a post of his own).

I’ve spoken about the organisation’s engagement with social media of all kinds before. Looking at my own Twitter usage, I would guess that of my current ~500 followers/followees, a fair percentage of them are folks from across the company I want to keep in touch with, or people that share common technology interests that I want to learn from or that are watching and listening to me. I have search feeds set up for topics of interest (products, brand names, etc.) in my feedreader and make an effort to check what people are saying about our stuff – where necessary I highlight those comments to people internally, or try to talk to the original commenter. I’ve observed IBMers using Twitter to build communities and connections across the company, and with both customers and others outside it too.

I guess that the original post bases the assessment on the @IBM account alone, and reaches the conclusions it does… but look at all the ways in which we use social media and you might arrive at a different endpoint. I’d say we’re listening, engaging, talking, and take these communities seriously.

Adam Christensen sums it up neatly in his comment on the original post, also re-quoted by Ed Brill:

IBM is nothing more than a collection of a gazillion individual IBMers. Really smart ones for the most part, I think. And thousands of those folks are on Twitter. So rather than have a centralized – yet generic – IBM account, we’ve opted for a decentralized approach and let those many individuals be the IBM face to the Twitter world.

Actually that has been our approach with social networks from the outset. If there was a single @IBM account that tweeted about everything that the company touches it would be pretty noisy – our business is diverse. Instead, you can choose to engage with individuals and what their individual voices offer. I think it’s a nice way of working, and I like that my company trusts us to be out there.

11 thoughts on “IBM and the Twittersphere”

  1. Andy, I think you summed it up well. Besides, I have yet to shake the hand of a moral person (ie. corporation). Companies are nothing more than the people that represent them. IBM and Lotus accounts are nothing more than ghost writers rehashing marketing messages with little personal value or interest.

  2. Nicolai, yes there is that user (a feed from the eightbar blog), and as Ryan notes in comments on the original post, there are a whole bunch of other IBM-related accounts too.

    I tend to incline to JFA’s comment that a lot of “corporate” accounts (IBM’s or otherwise) are marketing-type feeds. I think there’s the potential for a lot more and more genuine engagement on a one-to-one level. Do people really want corporations to all have their own Twitter accounts through which they do all their communication?

  3. FYI, it was Nicolai who set up the @eightbar twitter feed. (Nicolai: I just noticed that the tinyurl links go to the comment feed for each post, rather than the post itself).

    Andy, you and Adam (and Ed) are right on the money here. As with blogs, it’s the thousands of individual voices (and, to complete the metaphor, pairs of eyes/ears!) which are important, not one ‘official’ feed. I don’t even know what such a thing could look like.

    Like Kelly, I want to keep up with interesting IBMers, not all of IBM.

  4. Andy, Ed, Adam, Kelly, Roo, et al, I agree that our voices and conversations as individuals do make up the best representation of the whole. Like Roo, I wonder what would a good/interesting/relevant/engaging corporate stream look like? An IBM feed does not work well in the normal day to day case because of the breadth and depth of such a large group and the set of activities the company spans. Event casting is purposeful and twitter is a decent way to stream these activities to connected audiences. In the inbetween, our individual voices are the most interesting.

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