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Hypergene MediaBlog » IBM, blogging and the rise of the world's biggest media company
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IBM, blogging and the rise of the world's biggest media company

Today IBM set forth a company policy on blogging and encouraged any of its 130,000 employees to start posting.

The goal is to transform employees into evangelists and, in turn, save millions in marketing costs. Change management is something IBM knows something about.

In the 1990s, IBM was able to transform itself from a company selling mostly software and systems to services. When you sell services, you sell people and their talents. So why not give them the tools to start selling themselves?

IBM has kept the blogging rules simple: Don’t scoop us, don’t get us sued and don’t be boring.

After looking at the guidelines, we noticed that they weren’t all that different from what you might expect to see in a typical editorial policy.

There also doesn’t seem to be much direction. But, as the Web has taught us, a master plan is not necessarily required for success. Effects are generally difficult to predict and it’s especially difficult given IBM’s scale.

To put IBM’s decision into perspective, The Associated Press has a mere 3,700 employees worldwide. IBM will be laying off nearly 4 times that in the coming months.

Let’s say IBM reasonably suggested its employees take one hour each day to blog. And let’s say only half of the employees took them up on that:

65,000 employee hours per day / 8,760 hours in a year = 7.5 employee years of blogging produced each day.

Yes, this is a crude estimate (an employee doesn’t work 24/7), but it gives a sense of the massive scale of the operation. What editorial staff can boast numbers like that? (Not to mention, what marketing firm could produce similar output at a reasonable cost?)

What we’re talking about here is something occasionally referred to as the law of large numbers. Get enough people doing something and just about anything is not only possible — it’s probable.

So, what advice would we give IBM? Seriously consider harnessing and directing that 7.5 years of person-effort into something greater than what you might have planned:

Aggregate and analyze your blogs (an IBM Technorati)
Identify emerging trends across groups that you might have missed
Trumpet those ideas to the mainstream quicker (Can you say “O’Reilly Emerging Tech” conference?)
Some people make better editors than bloggers. Find them and use them.
Pat yourself on the back for becoming one of the world’s biggest media companies overnight.

Posted on May 17, 2005 | 1:59 am EST

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