Early: Companies Deputizing Their Employees as Brand Managers

For the longest time, social media enthusiasts have noted that employees represent their companies, whether they realize it or not. This becomes more apparent every day as more people take part in the Grand Conversation.

Two tech behemoths have in recent weeks released their social media guidelines for employees. I’ll describe them a bit below, but I think it’s worth noting what milestones there are. Historically, large companies haven’t really encouraged employees to talk out in the market. But then, historically all you had were newspapers and trade magazines.

Companies have had to figure out how to handle social media. Some are advancing well, others are stuck in the 1990s. Here’s a spectrum of ways companies can handle employees and social media:


Social media sites blocked: This is an ongoing issue. More companies appear to be enlightened, but there’s still a persistent, old school strain that blocks them. Hard for your employees to engage in social media if they can’t get to the sites.

Only marketing engages social media: Also known as the YouTube Strategy. Social media is a thing that you use to go viral. Other employees may be out there, but they probably need to keep their company identity a secret.

Only approved employees engage: This is actually a company warming up to social media. It knows there is more than the YouTube Strategy. It wants employees to participate.

EMC found some good natural blogging talent internally that it promoted to be EMC’s external voices. And that has paid off well in terms of market engagement. [See update in the paragraph below – EMC is actually deputizing its employees as well.]

All employees are deputized: This is what IBM and Intel are doing. They are treating every employee as an individual brand manager out on the Web. They are deputizing them by giving them guidelines, setting expectations, and then letting them act on their own. It’s a wonderful way to let employees both (1) engage the market about their company and their work; and (2) learn from others as to the state of their fields.

UPDATE: Per the comments below, EMC is actually another proponent of deputizing all employees.

Everyone does their own thing: Not having any type of policy is the policy. This is the default position. And companies still benefit tremendously here. They just may have some employee behaviors they wouldn’t want to see.

Oddly enough, I’d say most companies are on either extreme. They either block social media, or have no policy. But IBM and Intel are pointing to a new thinking about how companies and their employees are engaging social media.

A Look at IBM and Intel’s Guidelines

IBM released its social media guidelines several weeks ago. Intel’s came out last week. Both do a great job of mixing corporate interests with a hands-off approach that defines authentic social media engagement. The documents are pretty good reads, and surprisingly similar. Looks like Intel was a good student of IBM’s guidelines.

I’ve pulled together highlights from each companies’ guidelines below:


Lots of respect to IBM and Intel for their guidelines. These companies are trendsetters, and I look forward to other companies joining the fray.


See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Early%3A+Companies+Deputizing+Their+Employees+as+Brand+Managers%22&who=everyone


About Hutch Carpenter
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23 Responses to Early: Companies Deputizing Their Employees as Brand Managers

  1. Bryan Rhoads says:

    Hey Hutch – Great Post and interesting spectrum above.

    As far as Intel’s policy, we implemented it in part to empower our employees to engage. This framework helps everyone to understand that its “OK” to participate.

    The guidelines are also there to demonstrate the ROI. To show employees that by participating, they can demonstrate and share their passions/knowledge to a much wider audience; their industry peers, colleagues and customers.

    I wrote the Intel guidelines w/ the assistance of social media folks at Intel based on 3 plus years of experience and as part of the Intel Social Media Center of Excellence.

    I also used Dell, IBM and Sun as my guides for excellent policies and strategies. Colleagues like Todd Watson of IBM and Sean McDonald at Dell help to inspire, and I hope they feed off me as well.

    What’s most interesting to me… is that social communications is considered to be more and more of a critical business tool for brands of all sizes. Meaning that management in some of these firms are taking notice of the ROI and acknowledging the pioneering efforts enough to encourage the settlement of the many.

    It’s a similar analogy to the early web… i.e. when it finally became someone’s job and business models had seriously begun to leverage the medium.



  2. Hutch,
    Great post, but one correction. You list EMC’s external voices which is only subset of the EMC employees who are active in social media. I posted this on our internal collaboration site and within minutes Chuck Hollis posted back that EMC should be in the “all employees are deputized” bucket and that our guidelines look a lot like IBM’s and Intel’s.

  3. Bryan – thank you for that comment. Nice information regarding the genesis of Intel’s guidelines. It’s good to understand the early influencers in this trend.

  4. Stuart – thanks for that clarification. The post is updated. Now…would Chuck be willing to post the guidelines as well? I know EMC has been at the forefront of documenting its enterprise 2.0 experience, with Chuck leading the way in blogging about it. EMC deserves to be mentioned right there with IBM and Intel.

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  6. Chuck Hollis says:

    Hi Hutch

    I’ll go you one better — I’ve posted our entire corporate social media strategy, and documented our journey so far in an extended white paper.

    Find it here:


    Hope you find it interesting!

  7. jeroendemiranda says:

    Hi Hutch, thanks for showing the bookmark to my post on micrblogging in the enterprise!

  8. Hey Chuck –

    Nice to see you here! Thanks for that link – the lessons of EMC’s implementation of Enterprise 2.0. I’d actually seen that a few days back, I plan to read through the white paper.

    Great job documenting the road to Enterprise 2.0.


  9. Karl says:

    Great post but I think the spectrum needs clarification. That is how companies think they are controlling their employees on social media. The truth is there is no control but with guidance they can get value from all the interactions employees are having and avoid serious problems when no social media guidelines are implemented and communicated.

    Recently we have seen issues at a number of companies sacking people which really boils down to educating people on what is and isn’t acceptable.

    At IBM we have the social computing guidelines for a few months now but they just updated the previous Blogging guidelines which we had for sometime before that.

  10. Thanks Karl – you bring up a really good point about company control over employees. In some firms, there is no social media policy, which is essentially a policy of laissez faire. In others, management puts the fear of God into employees with regard to what they say out in social media. It’s that second approach where employees feel uncomfortable participating in discussions about their company and industry.

    I like what IBM has done in terms of trusting employees as de facto brand managers out on the web.

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  12. Emanuele says:

    Wonderful post and useful chart 🙂

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  16. Lawrence Liu says:

    The 5 model segmentation makes sense to me, and I’ve seen each at various companies. My recommendation in every case is to engage both the Marketing (Product Management) *and* HR groups to figure out if/when the company (or it could just be a business unit) should shift from the model it’s currently at to a different one. I posted more of my thoughts at http://telligent.com/communities/business/f/517/t/1057851.aspx


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