Interview with Ethan McCarty, Senior Manager, Digital and Social Strategy, IBM – Part 1

The emergence of Social Media has transformed how people, and brands, use the web. Crucially, it has also transformed how people and brands interact on the web.  Brands that were early adopters and first movers on platforms like Facebook and Twitter were able to stake out a position as thought-leaders and some were able to leverage that in order to drive business-building initiatives.

Even though Social Media is still in its relative infancy, it has matured. For many brands, that first-mover advantage has disappeared. For other brands misuse or mismanagement has led to a feeling of disillusionment.  We’ve reached an inflection point within the industry and several forward thinking agencies and brands are shaping the future of how brands and their various constituents will engage and interact in digital spaces.  People like Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute, Amber Naslund of Radian6, Azeem Azhar of PeerIndex and Kris Duggan of Badgeville are some of these leaders.

But on a more fundamental level is the notion of Social Business. First put forth by the Dachis Group, Social Business [in their words, is:] “the intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture. The goal: improving value exchange among constituents.”

Recently David Armano wrote about Social Business on the Harvard Business Review blog and the article generated a spirited debate in the comments section. I think Social Business is still such a new concept that definitions and meanings are malleable, thus leading to misunderstandings or just various interpretations.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ethan McCarty, Senior Manager, Digital and Social Strategy at IBM about Social Business and what the technology giant was doing in this area. The result was a wide-ranging and spirited conversation that gave me a new perspective and greater clarity on the notion of Social Business. Specifically we spoke about IBM’s Social Business @ IBM and Expertise Locator programs and how those programs are changing the way IBM thinks about Social Media both internally and externally.

NOTE: Below is an account of our conversation based on my handwritten notes. I’ve done my best to capture the tone, spirit and meaning of Ethan’s statements, but the following dialogue should not be construed as verbatim quotes.

Rick Liebling: First, what was the impetus for Social Business @ IBM?

Ethan McCarty: IBM has a long history of digital collaboration. In the 1960s and ‘70s the company built a nascent intranet system to share information amongst colleagues. In the 1990s, IBM gave employees unfettered access to the Internet at a time when many companies were putting up firewalls that restricted access all together.  Over the last decade IBM has been a leader in pioneering blogs and proto-wiki platforms on internal networks.

As IBM embarks on its second century, our focus, rather than looking back at the progress we made, is to look forward to the next 100 years.

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