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From Social Media to Social Business at IBM BeNeLux (Case Study)

IBM’s goal is to promote the vision of social business by embedding it into the digital activities and everyday thinking of employees. The challenge is to inspire already technically savvy and digitally motivated employees to become ‘digital citizens’, enthuse them about the value social media can add and motivate them to start exploring the online world.

With this objective in mind, IBM BeNeLux enlisted the aid of global marketing agency, Ketchum Pleon, to help them transition from not just doing social media, but to transform  their daily business through social technologies. A pool of best technical minds and leading innovators – who believe in building a smarter planet – decided to move IBM and its clients well beyond social media into a new era of collaboration they call Social Business.

IBM BeNeLux’s Social Business is based on three leading principles that challenge existing conventions in communications and Social Media:

  1. They don’t have a corporate blog or a corporate Twitter ID, because they wanted ‘IBMers’ in aggregate to be the corporate blog and the corporate Twitter ID.
  2. They represent their brand online the way it always has been, which is employees first.
  3. Their brand is largely shaped by the interactions that they have with customers.


  1. Support change program that radically transforms how IBMers sell their expertise and solutions – going beyond social media towards social business
  2. Bridge communications and sales enablement
  3. Transform IBMers into ‘Social Business Ambassadors’
  4. Motivate IBMers to become responsible for their own digital reputation


Imagine an IBM room full of technical minds, sales specialists and leading innovators. All 300 of them. A room full of energy, where drive and motivation go hand in hand with deep rooted thinking and a common belief what the brand experience for IBM stands for – an experience with an IBMer. But can 300+ of technically savvy and motivated IBMers go even further and be challenged and inspired to become true ‘Social Business Ambassadors’ for IBM?

PR activity involved hand-picking 300+ employees from various business lines across IBM, enrolling them in the ‘From Social Media to Social Business’ program, which included communications and personal branding trainings. We positioned them as ambassadors for the IBM social business giving them different roles of i.e. expert locator, social aggregator, or social business manager. Their progress as ‘Social Business Ambassadors’ was charted on their personal dashboards during training and individual coaching. To help them see the impact of their various interactions, we followed up the trainings with one-to-one sessions, co-creating stories on various topics that we pitched after to several online media and generate wide online coverage.


‘From Social Media to Social Business’ campaign challenged IBMers to become more enthused about their social and digital interactions. Ketchum Pleon’s mission was to transform them into ‘Social Ambassadors’, by:

  • Handpicking and training a pool of inspired and motivated IBMers – the social business brand ambassadors, who are skilled in their personal branding, own messaging, and personal roadmap to engage on social media, and to reach out to traditional media, and who are able to combine these elements in their sales / client contacts
  • Creating and implementing a suite of communications and sales enablement training programs that combined sales enablement, social media, presentation skills, and personal branding
  • Organizing a crisis communication training for the ‘advanced ambassadors’ (real life situation) involving social media (one tweet about the situation leads to a trending topic on Twitter – the message spreads across several (online) media, press is waiting for a statement from IBM – a TV- and a radio interview with IBM’s communication team are simulated)
  • Co-developing Social Media Strategies for different business lines
  • Co-creating campaigns highly integrated with the Social Media culture;
  • Co-managing IBM’s online communities;
  • Deploying Social Media for reaching their Internal Publics.
  • Charting the results of progress of ‘Social Business Ambassadors’ on their personal dashboard charts and helping them see the impact of their various interactions online
  • Giving rise to an active pool of more than Benelux IBMers who are active on at least one of the Social Business platforms, and who share their expertise and experience with peers and clients via Digital Labs on daily basis
  • Making sure that all programs are dedicated to the success of every IBM client, communicating about innovation, topic at the heart of IBM, and by helping to build trust and personal responsibility in all relationships online and offline


  • IBMers have in-dept platform knowledge and know how to collaborate with and use every type of media.
  • IBMers are able to create hands-on messaging and know how to use media to bring their message across their target groups.
  • IBMers know their tone of voice and how to control their body language so it can strengthen their message when talking to media.
  • IBMers are aware of the role they should take in several situations (e.g. crisis) and know they are always seen as the spokesperson.
  • Benelux IBMers now have an in-dept platform knowledge and know how to collaborate with and use every type of media; they are able to create hands-on messaging and know how to use media to bring their message across their target groups; they know their tone of voice and how to control their body language so it can strengthen their message when talking to media.

So, did IBM BeNeLux succeed in turning its sales and technical staff into true social ambassadors for IBM’s social business? Yes, they did…and not only that. The newly appointed ‘Social Business Ambassadors’ also passed their knowledge and enthusiasm along, training their peers. Out of 7,000 IBM BeNeLux employees, 200 are engaged and connected to clients and partners through mobile experience and the new IBM way of collaboration – through social business.

Original source: Social Business at IBM, The Holmes Report

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