Social Media or…Social Platform? : LinkedIn and IBM

Social media or Social platform?offshore-plateform

This question has been bugging me the last few weeks.
Whenever I talk about what can be done with social media from an enterprise standpoint, it pops up in my mind.
I see so many scenarios, almost endless possibilities and the term media doesn’t fit anymore.

Bottom line I prefer Social Platform.

The debate would deserve a long analysis but, instead, I’ll pick one example amongst many: LinkedIn.

In a previous post, I wrote that IBM is the company with the highest number of employees in LinkedIn (>180k).

That made me think a bit about the kind of asset LinkedIn has created for IBM, IBMers and businesses which gravitate around the IBM’s ecosystem.

1) Case One: LinkedIn is the IBM employee database

Not so long ago, I used to work in big corporations and it was always a struggle to have a well organized, descriptive database of employees skills, experiences and interests.
Any tentative to create such an asset were always poorly deployed. There was not enough incentive for employees to enter and maintain their information.
Came LinkedIn which is where everyone (almost) personal brand leaves now and is available to the open world. It contains up to date information about most of IBMers skills, experiences, interests. It’s the database corporations tried so hard to create.

Why did LinkedIn succeed where other efforts have failed?


  • it’s social,
  • it’s not bounded by the walls of one corporation
  • there’s an unquestionable ‘soft’ ROI for each of us so we don’t think twice about keeping our data up to date.

2) Case Two: The social graph of the IBMers in LinkedIn probably maps close to the entire IT community.

Assuming that each IBMers on LinkedIn has or will soon have 200 connections.
That would make the overall connections to 36 millions.
Eliminate the connections between IBMers, the connections to the same person, may be you get to 5-10 millions unique connections (i.e: unique people outside of IBM that are connected to an IBMer through LinkedIn).
And may be if you look at those 5-10 millions connections, you’ll find out that 50% are in IT, 30% in the US and so on. I’m sure the result would be such that a very significant portion of the IT people in America are linked at least to one IBMer.

Slice that a bit and it means that may be 50 IBMers are linked to 50 different IT people working for the same IBM customer across the globe. And those 50 people are probably on social networks, may be blogging, twitting,…..which means that IBM could have a stream of information coming from their customers and those 50 pair of ears always connected to their 50 friends.

3) Case Three: Suppliers can quickly find and profile the right IBMers.

A simple search on LinkedIn will bring back the relevant person(s) in IBM for a particular level, function, geography or a combination of those. Identification is easy.  Strategy for access can then be chosen by looking on other social networks for ways to enter in contact, which isn’t always possible but often is.

4) Case Four: Recreate from the outside the IBM’s org chart ;-)… comment. Easy if APIs were there (public ones).

I’m sure more cases can be built.

Bottom line, for individuals the expression Social Media is ok. But for business, I think of it more as Social Platform an, to quote a conversation I had recently with Francois, all business processes need to be made social to survive

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