Xerox pushes social media from the inside out

The company works with its employees to spread the word of the Xerox brand.
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor on

In my Fortune 500 series I've profiled a lot of companies who have used social media for a bevy of programs - external communications, employee relations, support, marketing and even product development. Xerox Corporation, which has been slow but steady in it social media adoption, has found a formula in which to leverage social media from the inside out. Meaning, while branding and customer communications is an important objective of the company's social media activities, Xerox is putting employees front and center by encouraging them to blog and use their own social networks to promote the brand. I did a quick Q&A with Christa Carone, vice president, marketing & communications for Xerox, about this approach.

Q. Why is educating users a motivator for Xerox's social media program?

A. As with any initiative, education and information are critical for early adoption and ultimately, success. Motivating employees to embrace social media tools is by far one of the most unique initiatives Xerox has taken on in recent years because, in many cases, it links employees' personal communications with professional. Finding and defining the balance has been critical. How do we want employees engaging for work? Joining corporate fan pages and participating in conversations that matter and help them work smarter are two great examples of how. In fact, our employees were our biggest champions and supporters when we launched our corporate Facebook page, "So, what DOES Xerox do?" in March 2009. We generated more than 800 fans and 125 glowing wall posts within 24 hours of our official launch - largely employees expressing their excitement for the future of the company and encouraging our continued use of social media.

We recently rolled out corporate social media guidelines to help employees feel empowered to use social media in an informed and responsible manner on behalf of the company. The guidelines are housed as a resource on our Web site: http:www.xerox.com/citizenship. We know that many companies are working to define how to roll out similar guidelines to their employees, and we want to share what we've learned.

Q. What are the company's overall goals in this regard?

A. Ultimately, we want social media to bring awareness to the Xerox brand, products and services. As a global company, we also hope it will help bring employees together from different regions to share successes and best practices. In addition to various Facebook pages, Twitter handles, blogs and a YouTube channel that continue to gain popularity with external audiences, we also encourage employees to contact each other on a one-off basis via these tools.

In regards to the external tools, we've found that they're most effective in reaching our corporate goals when linked in with existing initiatives. Whether it's hosting a Tweetup at one of Xerox's major tradeshows, or using a widget to encourage participation in Xerox's Let's Say Thanks program (an initiative that collects and prints messages of hope for U.S. troops overseas) we've found that engaging audiences with social media tools generates the authentic responses we're looking for. Encouraging our employees to provide helpful responses to e-mails and posts from the public helps Xerox build its brand as an innovator and reflects our willingness to encourage open exchange and learning.

Next: Examples of success -->

Q. What is one clear example of how some of these efforts have helped Xerox to meet its company goals?

A. Our use of social media surrounding one of Xerox's biggest product launches of the year, the ColorQubeTM 9200 Series multifunction printer, is a great example of how we engaged employees and used social media. A breakthrough technology for the printing industry, the ColorQube 9200 Series uses Xerox's solid ink technology, making printing more affordable and environmentally-friendly for office workers around the world.

In the lead up to launch day, we pre-briefed an "army of employee bloggers," encouraging them to use their existing social networks to spread the word and participate in conversations occurring in social media outlets following the product's unveiling. We provided ColorQube 9200 Series resources in advance like videos and images that could be used in blog posts and answered any questions they had about the product. We also stressed that transparency is key, and required they always identify themselves as Xerox employees.

The tactic allowed direct interaction between stakeholders interested in the announcement with those behind the scenes at Xerox working to bring the product to market. In the end, we empowered our employees to act as brand representatives, answering questions and providing clarity when a misperception of the product was evident.

Q. How does Xerox manage its social programs -- internal groups, external, cross-functional, etc.?

A. We have many social media champions in various departments throughout Xerox. Social media is an important part of their personal lives as well as professional - so they're great about promoting the tools available to Xerox people and not just talking the talk, but truly walking the walk. Our social media guidelines, established by Xerox's communications team, help answer employee questions on how they should be engaging. When it comes to the guidance of employees' uses of social media, it's up to individual management teams. For social media, there's not always a clear-cut rule on what employees should or shouldn't do. But, by encouraging our employees to responsibly explore the use of these tools and provide them with best practices on how to do so, we've seen great results.

Q. How did these start - pressure from the top down, or push from the bottom up? How was acceptance obtained?

A. When we first started taking a look at how Xerox employees were using social media tools, we discovered pockets of early adapters using Twitter, LinkedIn or Second Life and using the applications for work purposes. It didn't take long to see the connections of how social media can both benefit and hurt the company if we don't stay tuned into its influence. We've gained support across the company by demonstrating the value of communicating directly with our customers, in a personal and real way, through social media channels. Do we have overall acceptance? Not yet. However we don't get much pushback either. As with any initiative at a company the size of Xerox, we continually educate in order to get everyone engaged. The social media world is transforming at a rapid pace (remember the Second Life hype from two years ago - it's now been trumped by Twitter, Facebook, and a variety of other tools) and at Xerox, we're moving fast and transforming as well. We're not playing catch up - we're focused on keeping up with opportunities and helping ensure the social media influence is a positive one for Xerox.

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