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

Blog policy? Try a Social Media Policy

Toes_2My company, Brulant, has been around for many years, but is just recently embracing elements of social media internally. In the past few months I have immersed myself in social media to learn – each day I find something new about what our clients can do and what we can do internally.  I’m still learning, but one of the first pieces of advice was to get a blogging policy out there for the company.  We don’t have official corporate blogs in place yet, but I hope to one day soon.  Even so, people need to know what can help them and hurt them regardless of social media tools in play.

I started by looking for other examples out there.  Here are some things I dug up, and I’ll add to this as I find more.  Frankly I started saving so many links and examples it became redundant.  Some of the most valuable finds:

  • A colleague from the Technology Marketing Executive Council run by Forrester shared his firm’s policy (I’ll ask permission to mention him here before I give him up).
  • John Cass, who I connected with over Twitter and Social Media Breakfasts in Boston, has written a book about corporate blogging along with a companion wiki.  He also is a contributor to the list of Fortune 500 companies that have blogs.
  • Charlene Li from Forrester has a wiki of example corporate blog policies, although some of the links are DOA.  Her new book Groundswell with Josh Bernoff has a whole chapter dedicated to "the groundswell inside your company," but the strategy and advice for marketers applies throughout. This is a fundamental book everyone should read. There, I said it. And I just bought 15 copies to give to the people on our internal social media interest group.

Combing through all of these, it was clear that what was relevant to blogging policies is relevant to other sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and many others.  Aside from the HR verbiage around "disciplinary action up to termination may occur" for policy violations, the policy is really designed to promote professional and open dialog regardless of the technology.  Frankly, people need to be aware that firm executives (not to mention our clients) are watching the content generated on the interwebs and should act accordingly. 

Here is the outline of our policy and paraphrased snippets of what is included.  Contact me directly if you would like a copy, although we are still in the process of finalizing and publishing internally.  What have you included in yours and how could we improve this?

  • Agency Monitoring and Privacy Policy
    Essentially saying, "yes, executives are watching and you are responsible for your content out there especially when talking about work on your personal blogs, Face book profiles and forums."
  • Promote Interactivity and Individuality
    Be personal, clear about the purpose of your content, and be responsive to emails, comments and feedback.
  • Promote Free Expression
    Don’t censor comments unless they violate the policy (i.e. confidentiality), and don’t restrict access.  Allow and encourage conversation through comments and sharing of ideas.
  • Strive for Factual Truth and Scholarship
    Never plagiarize, do not use assumed names, and cite sources referenced in each post.  Learn about Creative Commons. 
  • Be As Transparent As Possible
    Reveal as much as your are comfortable with about your identity while being mindful of your own privacy.  Disclose conflicts of interest and other professional associations.
  • Be Professional
    Balance time spent in social media and don’t let it interfere with your work.  Don’t talk about specific clients without their formal approval.  Be mindful of what information is confidential to the firm or our clients.  Live the values in our internal team member handbook.  Respect copyright, the law and other people – disagree gracefully and respectfully. 
  • Examples of Situations Where The Policy Applies and Does Not

I’d value further advice on improving, and as we evolve our use of tools and engaging in conversations we will keep the policy updated.  Already I wish we had an internal wiki to use to collaborate with the team drafting this.  Does your company have a similar policy?  Who drafted it?  What was the response when it was published to everyone?

Thanks to Becky McCray and jwhitcomb for suggesting to write this up.

photo credit: mrvjtod via flickr