Intel's Kaplan: "Social media is not something to fear but to embrace"

IMAGE_055.jpgThere were three other sessions at BlogWell, an event dedicated to Corporate blogging which was organised by Andy Sernovitz in San Jose on October 28, 2008 (please refer to this other article if you want to know more about session number one on blogging, at which the speaker was John Earnhardt from Cisco). All the sessions were devoted to real-life business cases and they all brought compelling examples from the field -- hence my decision to commit these minutes to paper in this blog. These notes were taken during the meeting, I hope that there won't be too many mistakes; should you spot one or two of them, feel free to comment and I'll be happy to correct my text. This particular article will be about session 2 and Intel's Ken Kaplan's presentation on how to develop a Social Media initiative.


Ken's presentation was entitled "from grassroots to global scale" and was dedicated to describing the four steps towards a fully fledged adoption of social media as per the feedback from the initiatives launched at Intel. Here are some of the key messages that I was able to capture on the fly during the conference:

1. "Social media is not something to fear but to embrace" (I think we should frame that quote, it's so true and tale-telling. At a later stage on this very blog I will comment on a recent TNS survey which was carried out in Europe and describes that state of fact)
2. Who owns the brand? Ken's take here is that it should be (in that order)

c.not brand managers

I suspect that Ken - or I for that matter - has nothing against brand managers though. What he means by that is that they should be facilitators as opposed to Ayatollahs.

Ken went on describing Intel in a few bullet points:

  • 80,000 employees as of October 2008,
  • strong culture of innovation,
  • Intel's mission is to "keep Moore's law up and running".

The next part of the presentation was dedicated to the four phases necessary for a big logo to develop a "social media" initiative (for those who weren't listening, social media is the new terminology replacing "2.0"; 2.0 has probably been used to the core and ended up meaning all things to all people. Social media is really about the appropriate usage of the collaborative web for communications).

According to Ken, there are four stages in the development of social media initiative:

  • stage one is the age of "pioneers". Pioneers are a core group of 30 to 40 people who endeavour to initiate the social media initiative, mostly internally,
  • stage two is that of the "settlers". They are enthusiasts issuing guidelines, launch an experiment and implement external blogs. Stage one is usually rather inward looking,
  • stage three is that of the "shift to online" with "significant advertising dollars",
  • the last and final stage is that of the global scale; the Nirvana of social media.

Pioneers start with the launch of internal blogs, they tend to be easier to launch for "you can let things out and be harsh". Intel's CEO started blogging internally in 2004 (he indeed was a true pioneer!) and he now blogs monthly. The leading pioneer at Intel was a Josh Bancroft. Josh moved from IT to become the social media Guru at Intel (check for details).

Settlers are the ones who started external blogging. Intel's audience being in IT it was a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas. They went on setting up 15 blogs, and 60 bloggers embarked on that project. Five different languages were covered (!). Audio podcasts were added (dubbed "chip chat"; the pun is intended or so it seems I believe). Flickr and YouTube were also used to "break down silos" hence enticing people from across the organisation to work together pro-actively. The "open port" IT community was opened in 2007 and "it started off as mostly Intel, now it's 20% Intel, and 80% non-Intel".

The "shift to online" occurred at the beginning of 2008 (how amazing after all this time that I am still surprised that in web terms, one year is already history; it's probably because it's not really true though). That's about the time when Intel "Exited direct TV ads in mature markets" and subsequently Intel shifted "1/3 of its 'Intel inside' programme to its online activities. The challenge was -- surprise surprise -- the cultural differences across regions.

the last and ultimate stage of development of social media usage within Intel is that of a global scale. At that stage, Intel users started using twitter and Yammer and other micro-blogging platforms to communicate better internally and externally. There was an awful lot said about micro-blogging at the BlogWell and Blogcouncil (un)conferences, and the emphasis seemed to shift very much to this kind of new technologies for spreading the word aka word-of-mouth marketing. I wouldn't probably venture to call it a better means of communication though as Ken did, but it's certainly is a different means of communication.

Questions and answers session

A person in the audience asked about what kind of metrics Intel was using to measure its success: Ken Kaplan replied by saying that Intel had created something people wanted in order to engage with them. Ken would "love to create a benchmark. Right now [he is] still collecting the data". Another question was about whether all this was looking like chaos: Ken's response was that the tools are all out there. But the global scale is about educating; and yes, "it does get chaotic!"

Another question was about the blogger ecosystem, and whether external bloggers were required: Ken explained that the "'open port' community is about Vmware etc. that sessions were planned and that they wanted to do more of that.

External blogging and legal compliance was another important question which was asked in this questions and answers session: Ken insisted that there was "no moderation at all within Intel, and that all the emphasis was on educating the lawyers" (and not the users).


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