by Frank Cutitta

Leveraging Social Enterprise to Build the ‘Brand Called IT’

Jan 06, 20153 mins
CIOCollaboration SoftwareSmall and Medium Business

CIOs who establish their personal and organizational brand values can avoid the perception of irrelevance.

It only takes a ten-day school vacation at home with your teenage kids to realize how out of touch even the most seasoned social media wonk is with the current communications patterns. For those CIOs who I’ve painted in my previous research as “socially awkward,” the thought of using their limited intimacy with social media as the foundation for street cred in customer facing implementations is a real stretch.

Despite my ongoing rants about the fuzziness of the words “digital strategy,” one aspect that virtually all would agree upon is the application of social and conversational media to internal and external customer engagement.

Fortunately for enterprise IT, in many firms there is still turf that remains uncovered by the BU’s when it comes to the “social” piece of the oh-so-trendy acronym SMAC. In order to play in this space CIOs must first learn to use social enterprise as a means of promoting their brand internally before they’re able to export these skills to external customer engagements.

The first step is to ask yourself (or your team) who manages internal social enterprise content strategy. By this I mean the strategy that fuels conversation from and between employees in and across the businesses. This should not be confused with who manages the content management technology.

In many cases you’ll find that HR controls a content swatch that relates to benefits and employee satisfaction. Many of the businesses or functional groups (marketers, finance) will have their own communities where, in theory, knowledge is shared.

Unless your division is “digitally agoraphobic” you’ll probably be very familiar with a section related to the IT organization. The question is whether or not something is simply hoisted upon you to justify the purchase of enterprise-wide Chatter, Yammer, etc. or whether you’ve considered this repository as a possible showcase for the “Brand Called IT” that reinforces the vibrancy and relevance of your organization.

The CIOs I’ve worked with who have been most successful at using social enterprise as a branding tool have these elements in common:

  • The realization that content and conversations on social enterprise platforms are rarely organic. Talented digital facilitators delivering rich content are critical to a meaningful community that promotes the IT organization’s brand value.
  • Using what I call the “Cheers” school of conversational architecture. This means assembling a cast of characters (like Norm, Woody, Carla and Cliff) that draw a crowd and keep people coming back. It requires the restraint from shameless self-promotion and finding community members that know how to throw a conversational grenade to inspire lively repartee.
  • The humility in knowing that CIOs are not trained communications professionals and that embedding “shadow brand marketing” within IT may be critical in their internal social engagement branding strategy.
  • The ability to cross-organizational borders to connect a wide variety of technology-related “birds of a feather” and collaborative groups using this social enterprise conversational architecture.
  • The employment of social media listening and measurement tools to analyze IT themes that resonate across various constituencies in the enterprise. But most important is to quantify the increases in IT’s brand value as a result of the social enterprise engagement effort.

What strategies does your organization use to strengthen its global brand image and to develop street cred for other social media related projects?