IBM Social Selling Case Study

How IBM Employees increased LinkedIn followers by 554% - Case Study

IBM, the world’s largest IT services and consulting firm has managed to convert its sales staff into social media savvy professionals! Technology is best discovered online! Over the past few years there has been a steady rise in IT professionals using social media for product research. And with that in mind, IBM wanted to tap into the professional IT community via social media channels to support sales of its cloud services.

IBM selected cloud computing product division for launching social selling pilot. The objective was simple to find out the trends and issues being discussed in cloud computing. IBM roped in global digital marketing agency Mason Zimbler to handle their social media engagement. To begin with an empowering social media programme was developed to train the sales representatives to use LinkedIn and Twitter intelligently and effectively. At its core, the programme adopted a listen and respond model.

Listening is the biggest tool for starting a conversation. And like so in the virtual world, only those sales reps will make inroads who have good listening and observation skills. It also involved identifying the prospects and following their topics, queries and posts. IBM also developed the social media toolkit that empowered every sales rep to join online discussions, answer queries, and make informed recommendations that went beyond their sale-led activities. IBM, of course, drew on its own resource pool to generate ideas and content that was cutting edge and in sync with what the prospects wanted. Reps were further trained to engage potential clients and communities with real and genuine conversations. The content calendar (usually a marketing responsibility) was shared with the reps and they were trained on how to use that for online conversations. Each representative was further equipped with a personalised digital page. Much like a personal meeting room, this allowed the rep to offer appropriate solutions.

Six months after the launch:

  1. There was a 554 per cent increase in LinkedIn followers, more than 3500 tweets and retweets.
  2. The Cloud computing division rolled out an exclusive offer of 60 days' free trial during the pilot of social selling. Within the 1st day of posting the offer on social media, IBM received 10 orders and orders for product during the quarter that were four times higher than during the same time the year before.
  3. The pilot was so successful that it enabled IBM to train 1700 inside sales reps on social selling which enabled the sales reps to have 50,000 LinkedIn connections, posting of 20,000 tweets and reps pages have received 100,000 visits in the last six months.