How IBM Got 1,000 Staffers to Become Brand Advocates on Social Media

And then take home a big award

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IBM has had a pretty tech-savvy workforce since it was founded in 1911. It is Big Blue we are talking about here, after all. 

But it wasn't until a year ago that the Armonk, N.Y.-based company started working with Dynamic Signal to see what would happen if its sales force and other marketing employees promoted its software products using their personal social-media accounts. IBM created an internal online hub that allowed employees to easily share promotions on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, while they could also privately pass information back and forth to help their marketing and sales. 

A thousand employees have participated in the program, which gives them about six pieces of content every day they can choose to share or not share with their followers. "It's not a requirement at all, but it's something that, if they do it, they get recognized for it," Amber Armstrong, program director at IBM Marketing Digital, told Adweek.

And the program has been a resounding success with more IBM employees "banging down the door" to participate, she said.

Here is one of the reasons why: The company late last year launched a business-to-business appeal called #NewWayToWork, which accrued 120 million digital impressions and drove 141,000 clicks to campaign content thanks largely to the employees sharing content through Dynamic Signal's VoiceStorm software. Interestingly, IBM staffers are only incentivized by a points-based leaderboard—they're not getting bonuses—though Armstrong said it's clearly helping members make sales. 

And last week, the #NewWayToWork effort garnered Armstrong's team a Viral Marketing Campaign of the Year distinction during the 13th Annual American Business Awards in Chicago.

So, if you are a manager wondering how much better your team's results would be if employees shared business items with their social followers, IBM's initiative suggests it might be worth a shot. Armstrong said her crew mostly pushes content on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook—in that order. 

She recommended being patient with millennials, who aren't always willing to publicly share work-related items right after college. In short, they need to be trained. 

"If you are just getting started," Armstrong explained, "you don't want to make a very visible mistake, externally. So any kind of help … anyone would be happy to have it." 

The #NewWayToWork effort includes an innovation program for startups. Here's a recent tweet showing how Armstrong leads by example:

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.