Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, Facebook can foster growth in hard times

But analysts warn that companies should be prepared for potential online user attacks.

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IBM spokesman Kevin Acocella acknowledged that the company's use of what many see as kids' technology to gather people interested in big-iron machines used by the Facebook generation's fathers and grandfathers is somewhat ironic.

IBM is looking to use the technology to get young people interested in mainframe technology by offering links to articles, comment strings, YouTube videos and the like. The Facebook page has become particularly important in this economy, since many IT professionals and students can't afford to go to conferences or seminars, Acocella added.

Despite its status as one of the earliest computer companies, IBM is no Johnny-come-lately to the social networking scene. IBMers have been blogging and collaborating with wikis for several years.

The company has even created a social networking site, dubbed The Greater IBM Connection, for IBM employees and alumni. The site, which was created about two years ago, attracted some 24,000 members in the first 14 months. Membership has since tripled to 73,000 in more than 110 countries, Acocella said.

Also, IBM has created a social media team to help its current employees learn how to use social networks, record and edit podcasts, and be successful bloggers.

"Over the years, we've learned that what the decision-makers cite as one of the most, if not the most, important driver of their perception of IBM is their personal interaction with IBMers," noted Acocella.

And while IBM requires its employees to follow Web 2.0 guidelines it has established -- such as banning the use of obscenities or slurs, or the posting of confidential company data or personal information about fellow employees -- others, like Zappos.com, give their employees free rein.

Want to find out more about Web 2.0 for business? See How and why to launch a business presence on Twitter and Best Buy getting results from social network .

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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