IBM Unveils New Social Media Initiatives for Business Partners, Customers

By Alison Diana  |  Print this article Print

IBM has unveiled a series of five new offerings to help its customers and business partners get to the next level with social media, including technical certification programs to help partners demonstrate their knowledge to end customers.

As part of its ongoing social media offerings, IBM today unveiled five new initiatives designed to help business partners and their clients more fully integrate these technologies within their organizations.

After all, sales of social business software are expected to grow at 61 percent through 2016, when they will reach sales of $6.4 billion versus $600 million in 2010, according to Forrester Research. This represents a vast opportunity for both traditional solution providers and new business partners, such as digital agencies, Sandy Carter, vice president, Social Business Evangelism and Sales at IBM, in an interview with Channel Insider.

Underscoring these opportunities, this year’s IBM Connect event—to be held in Orlando on Jan. 16 and 17, concurrent with IBM Lotusphere—is expected to attract more than 1,000 partners, a 40-percent increase over last year’s event, she said.

"We went out and we specifically targeted partners we thought would be great in the social space," said Carter.

New Social Business Initiatives

Although an increasing number of organizations recognize the value of social media, many still struggle with implementing these technologies and with understanding the far-reaching repercussions of becoming a social business, Carter said. It’s also vital that organizations integrate their mobility and social media strategies, something that many businesses continue to operate separately, she said. After all, 68 percent of social happens on a mobile device, noted Carter.

By taking best practices from leading social media adopters, IBM created these new initiatives to help other organizations leverage social media as a competitive tool that benefits productivity, customer service, creativity, and more, she said.

These new offerings include:

  • Strategic consulting from IBM Global Business Services to help organizations improve their understanding of their existing adoption of social business tools for internal and external uses. This service helps articulate how social business accelerates and eases business challenges.
  • Global educational and mentorship programs for clients and business partners on how to become effective community managers—the fastest-growing career position in social. In addition, this initiative helps organizations increase employee engagement over line-of-business communities on the social software platform.
  • Technical certification programs designed to help business partners and their clients both validate and demonstrate their skills through assessment exams and training resources so they can plan for and perform installations, configuration, and day-to-day tasks associated with operating social media solutions.
  • Social Media Agenda workshops on IBM’s Virtual Innovation Center, giving participants immediate access to discussion forums about the benefits of social media; case studies, and tools to help organizations develop an agenda for develop social adoption.
  • A partnership with The Dachis Group, a large social business consultancy, which will help organizations via a social business adoption quick-start workshop. This workshop melds IBM services for implementing social business solutions with Dachis Group services.

In addition, IBM has partnered with San Jose State University (SJSU) on a new academic program that gives students the ability to deepen their technical and business skills within the social business arena. Led by Professor Larry Gee, SJSU students assess the social networking capabilities of an IBM business partner in order to learn about the characteristics of a social business, and help apply social networking technologies to business operations for more efficient collaboration and faster innovation. IBM experts mentor students, teaching them about internal and external uses of social business solutions.

"Today's students are already social savvy in their personal lives," said Gee, in a statement. "However it’s vital for them to be able to apply these skills to business and differentiate themselves as they enter a tough job market. Through the use of IBM technology and experienced mentors, our students will join the corporate world prepared to compete."

These initiatives should help solution providers realize organizations’ social-media goals, which sometimes fall flat due to implementation. In fact, more than half the organizations surveyed by AIIM now consider becoming a social business is imperative or significant to attaining their business goals. One reason for failure is organizations’ inability or unwillingness to incorporate social media into their existing culture, the Community Roundtable found in its 2011 State of Community Management Report. In this study, 28 percent of those polled said their organization was either resistant to sharing, controlling, or paranoid.

"If I think about what’s happening and the direction were headed, in order to help our clients we at IBM and our partners need a deep knowledge and understanding of the overall adoption and engagement dynamic and the impact we can have with different technologies, and I think we spent 2011 establishing relationships," Carter said. "In 2012, our role will be to take that insight and lead our clients to that next level of where social can bring them."