MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Adam Christensen at the SMASH | April 21, 2011

On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at corporate social media strategist Adam Christensen.

Mr. Christensen’s most recent role was in Social Business Strategy and Execution for IBM, a position that gave him authority over nearly half a million employees in the company’s social media space. Though his new job will be at Juniper Networks, his time at IBM gave him a comprehensive view of the most socially-connected company in the world: because IBM employees are independent and tech-savvy, many maintain blogs or sites on the side; Mr. Christensen was involved in the process that set guidelines for those types of interior communications. His unique and almost universally-applicable expertise has lead to countless speaking gigs and television appearances on business networks like CNBC.

Mr. Christensen began his presentation by addressing two of IBM’s most effective marketing efforts, the recent Watson campaign and the Smarter Planet campaign. Watson is the computer that defeated trivia mavens Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! in February; his convincing victory by more than $50,000 was a massive step for IBM’s Grand Challenges, a program that encourages and funds technological innovation. Smarter Planet, meanwhile, is an ongoing initiative to address wayward world trends, like the counterfeiting of medicine, with achievements in responsible engineering:
From there, Mr. Christensen’s lecture turned to internal social media monitoring at IBM. Until five years ago, he said, social media existed at the peripheries of IBM’s business plan; today, web communications are part of a strategy to maintain employee loyalty and encourage the proliferation of their ideas. IBM has a long history in this arena — the company had online discussion forums as early at the 1980s, and in the last two decades it has used a systematic review process to create a safe environment for employee expression. In 2005, IBM workers drafted rules and regulations for personal blogging. The same year, the company tested Beehive, an internal social network to enable “rich connections on both a personal and professional level.” In the years since, the blogging guidelines have been consistently updated and networks like Beehive have enabled workplace synergy, the generation of friendships outside of work and a model for other companies of vast size searching for sensible ways to connect their workforce.

Mr. Christensen explained that IBM’s goal has always been to foster deep, intensive educational and interactive relationships with its employees. Over the last decade, the company has realized exponential growth in employee-created online content, which in turn forges a tight-knit workplace community with genuine passion for its assignments and pride for its accomplishments. (One of the true joys of the Watson project, for instance, was the row of IBMers cheering for their computer at his every correct answer.) Mr. Christensen showed how social networks, often disallowed from being used at work, are more effectively managed if embraced.

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    Established in 2009 at USC, the Master's of Science in Human Behavior is designed to equip students with knowledge of consumer psychology, social media and market analysis skills. This is our blog. Subscribe

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