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I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome the New Year than to participate in IBM’s upcoming Connect Conference, held from Jan. 26-30 in Orlando, Florida. At the conference, I will be co-presenting a panel with IBM’s Ethan McCarty (@ethanmcc). The session, titled “The Social Employee: Branding From the Inside, Out,” will focus on the importance of building a culture of engaged brand ambassadors who can represent their company in the digital bazaar.

Of course, whether we’re talking about brands or our own bodies, in order to function well externally, we must first work to take care of ourselves

We all remember what it was like going to the dentist as kids. For most of us, it wasn’t exactly our favorite experience, and we all did what you could to resist every step of the way. We knew, or at least we were told, that going to the dentist would provide us with lasting benefits. But as it often goes with the strange and unfamiliar, our fear outweighed any other consideration. We weren’t budging, at least not without a little incentive.

In our research for our book, The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work (McGraw-Hill, 2013), we learned that many people within a given organization view social adoption in the workplace in much the same way as we used to view our trips to the dentist. After all, it doesn’t matter how old we are; it’s natural to fear the unknown, the new, and the unfamiliar. We’re told social processes can make us into more efficient social collaborators, but we don’t see how that could be so.

And in truth, often the only way we can understand the how is by actually experiencing the process—by finally getting into that dentist’s chair, or by finally filling out that LinkedIn profile. But in this process, it’s important to feel supported, to know that heading into new territory neither blind nor alone. We need the encouragement of “digital rewards.”

It’s not a bad thing that most of us need an extra push to take these little risks, especially if that extra push ultimately leads to deeper engagement and buy-in. Think back again: how did your parents finally give you that last push to get you through the doors to the dentist’s office? What proverbial carrot did they dangle in front of your face? What token of your bravery did you get to bring home with pride?

The fact is, a little recognition for our efforts goes a long way. In our research, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Dubow, Social Business Transformation Leader for IBM Inside Sales (@jennifer_dubow), and an active advocate of giving people digital rewards in social business. Dubow noted that the specifics of the reward itself don’t matter much; it’s the fact that we were recognized for our achievements, no matter how large or small it might have been.

To illustrate this, Dubow shared the image of a balloon. An item like this doesn’t cost much, and its utility value is almost purely aesthetic. However, if you have a balloon poking out from your cubicle and you’re the only one in the room who has one, people are going to take notice. And when they take notice, they’re going to ask you about it. And when they ask you about it, you get to share the pride of your victory with others—albeit with appropriate modesty, of course.

In The Social Employee, we argue that the greatest byproduct of a good idea is more good ideas. But this concept in itself can be applied more broadly: the greatest byproduct of positive reinforcement is more positive reinforcement. Support others in your workplace or online communities, and they will be happy to support you as well.

As we push further into the @SocialEmployee revolution, it is important that we focus not only on the challenges we face, but on the things we’ve already achieved. Keeping an eye on the future means celebrating your victories in the present. After all, there is no shortage of rewards to be had in the digital bazaar.

By building a social employee culture that establishes a clear route to social adoption by rewarding its employees’ digital efforts, businesses will see their own social initiatives begin to take off. Going social may feel like pulling teeth sometimes, but as long as there’s someone to tell us “good job” in the end, it will all feel worth it.


This post was originally published on IBM’s Smarter Planet Blog.


How is your brand championing the why within its walls? Share your stories in the comments below!




Below are recent endorsements for The Social Employee (McGraw-Hill, August 2013) by Tom Peters and David Aaker on their social networks, but if you want to see more of their endorsements click here.

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In The Social Employee, we go behind the scenes with several leading brands—such as IBM, AT&T, Dell, Adobe, Southwest Airlines, Cisco, Acxiom, and Domo—pulling the lid off the inspiring social business success stories that have propelled these companies into the 21st century. These cutting-edge brands have all come to the same realization: the path to social business lies through empowering the social employee.

See what others are saying about The Social Employee and order your copy today!


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“Great brands have always started on the inside, but why are companies taking so long to leverage the great opportunities offered by internal social media? . . . The Social Employee lifts the lid on this potential and provides guidance for businesses everywhere.” JEZ FRAMPTON, Global Chairman and CEO, Interbrand


Amazon_agold-bookThe Social Employee offers an unparalleled behind-the-scenes look at the social business success stories of some of the biggest brand names in the business world, including IBM, AT&T, Dell, Adobe, Southwest Airlines, Cisco, Acxiom, and Domo. These cutting-edge brands have all come to the same realization: the path to social business lies through empowering the social employee.

The brands that leverage their employee base in order to engage customers and prospects through social media are the ones destined to win the marketing wars. This book not only details the astronomical rise of the social employee, but also outlines the innovative methods that leading companies have employed to foster cultures of enthusiastic and engaged workers.

FORMcGrawHill_RedEWORD by David C. Edelman, Global Co-Leader, Digital Marketing & Sales Practice, McKinsey & Company

AFTERWORD by Kevin Randall, Vice President of Brand Strategy & Research at
Movéo Integrated Branding, and a columnist for Fast Company

Download ~> Free Chapter 3 – “Brands Under Pressure”

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