IBM Has Become a Publisher. Is It Any Good?
IBM has about 433,000 employees. To put things in perspective, that’s more than four times the amount of Microsoft’s workforce and 400,000 more than Google’s. It’s also about 427,000 more than The New York Times Co. has. If you believe that a substantial minority of the public can write reasonably well, then Big Blue has a fair shot at putting out a decent product.
The company has been testing that theory since 2005 or so. At the time, Twitter didn’t yet exist and Facebook was for college kids, so social media was synonymous with blogging. It turned out that many IBMers had the itch to write, which of course was a blessing and a curse to the company. A blessing because — free content! A curse because who knew exactly what these employees were going to actually write? Would consumers take their thoughts as word from IBM on high?
IBM decided on a sort of middle road: It encouraged employees to blog to their heart’s content, but it issues blogging guidelines, so they’d know what they couldn’t blog about. The guidelines, crowdsourced by IBM employees thanks to a wiki created by James Snell, a member of IBM’s software standards strategy group, and Ed Brill, a Lotus exec, draw on common sense (“Don’t pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes,” etc.) and are general enough to be adopted by other companies.
Since 2005, micro-blogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter have changed the medium in which IBM often communicates, but the company remains committed to blogging and is an especially enthusiastic user of Tumblr, though you can find IBMers on Instagram, Pinterest and any other up-and-coming social media site. “We have coverage across all of the social media platforms,” says John Rooney, program manager for innovation and collaboration at IBM. “We are a large content creator. What we are becoming very much is a social media publisher.” Indeed, the company now claims some 32,000 individual blogs from IBMers.