Interview: EMC Does Social Media From The Inside Out

Recently I had a discussion with a client about doing social media “inside out” – starting with leveraging collaboration tools and focusing on using social tools inside the walls before engaging customers.  I was quickly reminded that storage technology and services company EMC has taken that approach and embarked on a journey with employees, customers and partners worldwide.  I reached out to Len Devanna (a good friend, a former client years ago, and Director of Social Strategy helping lead EMC‘s social media efforts to the next level), and asked if he’d answer a few questions about it.  Turns out it was a timely ask.

Q. How did EMC start on their social media journey?

LD: We formally embarked on our social journey back in 2007. At the time, we saw the world around us changing. The emergence of the social web was big in BtoC, but had not made significant strides in BtoB. Regardless, we saw the trend as a game changer – one that would fundamentally change the way brands engaged with their audience. As we embarked on our journey, we made a few key decisions that, in hindsight, were spot on…

We decided to take an inside-out approach as we wanted to focus on our own internal proficiency with social before taking the conversation beyond the comfort of our firewall. To that end, the first major step in our journey was the launch of EMC|ONE – An internal community platform for our global employees.

Over the years, EMC|ONE has proven to be an invaluable tool and has helped us build an incredible degree of social proficiency across the global workforce. Many of our public bloggers, as example, honed their voice and refined their blogging skills on EMC|ONE before going public.

Not only has EMC|ONE helped build that proficiency, but it’s also fundamentally changed our company. We’re proud to share that the EMC|ONE community consists of over 30k active members while our overall employee population is around 48k. That 30k is active members, so it’s safe to assume the vast majority of the delta are passive consumers. Suffice it to say that EMC|ONE is at the very epicenter of enterprise collaboration at EMC. It’s simply changed the way we work.

Q. Do you think companies benefit when they start with internal social initiatives? Why or why not?

LD: I sure do. I’m of the firm belief that there’s a need to understand ‘social etiquette’ in the digital realm. Many of the ‘common sense’ behaviors that we take for granted in the physical world apply to the digital world as well.

I often joke that, if you’ve been invited to a party, you don’t show up – barge in the door and start shouting about your new puppy dog. Rather you walk in, get a sense of the conversations at hand, and emerge yourself in the relevant discussions. Despite being a no brainer in the physical world, how many countless tweets have we all seen along the lines of ‘I’m eating toast!’. Bottom line, I believe our inside-out approach has helped us better understand such behaviors, and ultimately made us more effective through our social engagements.

Perhaps more importantly, social introduces new ways for us to work and collaborate with one another on a global scale. Much like the arrival of email way back when, these are ‘new’ behaviors that must be learned. EMC|ONE has taught us a great deal about how to work differently with one another – and has literally changed how we collaborate amongst one another on a global scale.

I literally cannot imagine EMC without an ‘EMC|ONE’, and suspect the vast majority of the internal community would agree.

Q. What’s the one key takeaway from EMC’s social media journey you’d want people to remember?

LD: Openness and transparency are key. What I find most fascinating about social is that it forces us to change some rather long-standing behaviors in ourselves.

Specifically – anytime someone wants to start a new community on EMC|ONE, they always want a private area with hand-selected members (be it their workgroup, their business unit, geography, etc). In fact we’ve avoided the notion of silo’d discussions, and rather encouraged open dialogue for all global employees to participate in.

Without fail, community managers come back thankful that we steered them down such a path. What they learn is that a discussion is infinitely more valuable when you bring in diverse perspective. We’ve seen countless examples of employees in different business functions and geographies coming together to collaborate on meaningful topics. That would never happen without an open approach.

Openness was perhaps one of the more difficult notions to sell – but the rewards and lessons learned have been simply invaluable.

I hope the bits above help others along their journey. Thanks for letting us share our story via your blog, Adam.

Thank you LD – this is tremendous insight and I’m grateful you shared EMC’s story here.  I’m even more enamored with the video EMC produced to tell the tale.

Share and enjoy, and feel free to leave questions for Len in the comments.

Photo credit: Facebook

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