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Employees as Brand Advocates: IBM's Ethan McCarty Talks to Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Hosted By:
Kerry O'Shea Gorgone
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
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Ethan McCarty is director of enterprise social strategy and programs at IBM, where he is part of the IBM Design Lab senior leadership team.

I invited Ethan to Marketing Smarts to talk about IBM Voices, the company’s social aggregator platform, which showcases the collective smarts of IBMers throughout the organization. We talked about why empowering employees to engage in social media benefits a business, how to keep the brand voice consistent, and how to pick the right people to represent your company in the social space.

Here are just a few highlights from my talk with Ethan.

Make intentional choices about which employees will best represent your company online, and create a system to promote their posts (8:41) "What you see when you go onto is an aggregation of a couple hundred of our best social media channels, and the feeds associated with some of our best subject matter experts in a variety of topics. What we're doing is combining the official voice of IBM...and the voices of some of our subject matter experts. So, you'd have people who are experts in social computing or business analytics or cloud computing or a range of topics that are strategic to IBM 'mushed together' there on the webpage. Behind that you have this whole enablement system...for brand channels...validating that official channels from IBM adhere to our guidelines and are producing quality content. The same goes for identifying subject matter experts within IBM who have also demonstrated a mastery of using social media to talk about professional topics.... There isn't somebody approving every tweet or approving every blog post or every video or photo uploaded to YouTube or we're very selective about who ends up there."

Provide a way for employees to volunteer if they want to become your brand emissaries in the social space (10:37): "We available on the 'Digital IBMer Hub' on our intranet, and people who are interested in using social media to embellish their careers and their professional reputation on behalf of IBM as well can...join a program on that site called the 'Forward Thinker Program,' which allows us to put them in a smaller pool where we can select from that group of people and start to highlight them in various contexts, like on Voices."

The future of business is about transparency, not logos and kerning. (18:32): "I think the future of marketing has a lot of different dimensions to it, but one that I think is importantly demonstrated in Voices is a convergence of a company's culture and a company's brand, and we're very intentionally experimenting with that here. Traditionally, people think of "brand" and they think of the logo and making sure that the kerning is right on the type and the color is the right Pantone and that kind of thing. Those are important, but as phenomena like social computing and the kind of popularization and democratization of access to digital devices becomes ubiquitous you have a lot more transparency. It's a lot harder to hide behind perfect kerning and the correct Pantone, and in fact what's happening inside of your company really starts to define your company. You can...try to circle the wagons and make your firewall more impenetrable and create more distance between your employees and the customers...but that's not the right approach for IBM. We thrive on bringing the marketplace in and bringing our people closer to our customers."

For more information, visit (or check out the new version currently in Beta), and follow Ethan McCarty on Twitter: @ethanmcc.

Ethan and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Marketing Smarts is brought to you by the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, taking place October 9-11 in Boston, Massachusetts. The 7th Annual B2B Marketing Forum is the premier event for B2B marketers worldwide. This two-day event is packed with 42 sessions, 4 keynotes, tons of networking opportunities, a lot of fun, and more B2B business smarts than you'll find anywhere else this year. Marketing's full of choices. Choose B2B.

BONUS: Use code "SMART" to get $100 off registration at!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

This episode features:

Ethan McCarty, director of enterprise social strategy and programs at IBM.

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone is a lawyer, podcaster, speaker, and writer. As Director of Product Strategy, Training, she oversees sale and distribution of MarketingProfs' premium training products. Kerry also hosts the weekly interview show, Marketing Smarts.

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  • by Sarah Bauer Wed Oct 2, 2013 via web

    Big ups, this is great! Downloading the mp3 right now. In the meantime, I'm interested in how small businesses can re-imagine some of these ideas, especially the training opportunities/programs for employees who volunteer to represent their employers via social. Definitely opening a lot of doors to higher quality, more passion-driven social media marketing.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • by Kerry O'Shea Gorgone Wed Oct 2, 2013 via web

    Great point, Sarah! It really comes down to training and trust, I think, which can be replicated on a smaller scale. :)


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