Introducing the IBM Expert Network on Slideshare

It should come as no surprise to anybody that IBMers are active in social media. In fact, we have, I believe, the single largest community of employees active in social media anywhere on earth. However, to the casual observer, it can be difficult to really grasp in a meaningful way our unique approach due to our employee-led, intentionally decentralized model for participation. (oh, if only I had a dollar for every time I was asked why we don’t have a single corporate blog or an @IBM twitter account…)

Over the past few years we’ve been looking for ways to raise the visibility of our employees’ individual contributions to the social Web and bring it all together into ways that represent the brand more holistically.

Which brings us to the newly launched IBM Expert Network on Slideshare. Beginning today, you now have a small window into the thinking of many IBMers who are now part of the Slideshare network.

This is a unique program for both Slideshare and IBM. Working with Rashmi Sinha and her great team at Slideshare, we spent the last few months constructing this program to create visibility not for IBM as an entity, but rather for the IBMers that shape our our brand.

For IBM, the value is clear. We are a knowledge-based B2B company that differentiates itself through the expertise of its employees. This program allows us to turn the most common activity of our thought leaders – creating and delivering presentations – into social objects with reach across the Web.

Now, a few notes on the Slideshare network. To be sure, this is a small start. We’ve capped this network today at only 50 experts. Compared to the entire IBM audience, this represents .01 percent of our employee base. It is also a bit too U.S. centric today (with a few exceptions). And finally, many, many more IBMers are already active on Slideshare who aren’t in this program. Over time, we plan to work with Slideshare to evolve the network to be more global, expansive and representative of our work, reach and employees’ expertise. For now, this is a nice start.

So, please take a look through the network, reach out to our experts and let us know any feedback you may have.

And for those interested in a little more context around IBM’s employee-led approach to social media, below is the presentation I am delivering today at the 2010 WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas. Fittingly, I’ve posted it to Slideshare.

Why social media matters for PR and marketing (hint – it’s all about the brand)

I spoke to a group of financial services communications professionals yesterday. It was a small, private event, with an impressively unique agenda. It isn’t every day that I present directly after Ari Fleischer and the Secret Service.

Given the current economic environment, and, specifically, the financial crisis that this crowd is steeped in daily, I wanted to make sure whatever I said passed the “Why does this matter to me?” test. Here is my take on that issue.

When companies are under incredible duress, the first priority rightly becomes fixing the fundamental problems with their business. Experimenting with social media isn’t the top of their agendas. Social media doesn’t replace simply doing business well. I agree with this approach.

In light of the huge issues these companies face, does that mean social media doesn’t matter at all? No. And here’s why: the brand. Nothing gets the attention of communications and marketing people more than talking about brand reputation or brand management. So how does social media influence the brand?

Take a look at this chart from an IBM study done earlier this year:

Note where the traditional levers used by PR and marketing are in the hierarchy of what really shapes people’s perception of a brand. Near the bottom. What’s at the top? People’s interactions with employees of a company. The opinions of analysts and third parties. The personal opinions of family and friends.

So why does social media matter? Because it’s the way we in communications can move up the value ladder illustrated in that chart. We can start to participate in the conversations that really shape people’s perception of a brand much more effectively than our traditional vehicles.