Len Devanna of EMCEMC Corp., a global provider of hardware and software solutions to help improve cloud computing, was honored recently by B-to-B Magazine for its proficiency in social media.

We spoke with Len Devanna, director of social engagement for EMC Corp, about how the company has woven social into the corporate culture. 

Congratulations on your award. What is your role at EMC in terms of social media?

First and foremost the job of my team is to educate, enable and empower EMC employees. We started our journey in 2007, our formal social journey to developing employee proficiency. We worked from the inside out, virtually the opposite of how everyone else was doing it.

We launched EMC|ONE, the online network of EMCers, in the fall of 2007. We’ve just hit our 30,000th active member – or about 65% of the entire global employee audience

We just launched this training video to celebrate Social Media Day. I’d argue it represents a turning point in how brands communicate with and educate employees. We’re particularly proud of this video.

It's been a hobby project for a few months. The intent is to drive broad awareness of the power, reach and opportunity afforded via social media.  It’s been sent out to 48,000 employees and will be seen by every new hire that joins our family moving forward.

How did you get a 65% adoption rate?

It’s a difficult question to answer. I hear so many people say, “Jeez, Len, I built my community and no one will come. Why?”  You must make a compelling environment where people want to be. Virtually everything we’ve done in social media has been crowd-sourced.

In fact, one of the very first conversations on EMC|ONE in 2007 was, “What are the opportunities afforded to EMC and our customers via Social Media?” We launched Lunch and Learns and road shows to help drive awareness for our new internal community offering.

Through these discussions, we tried to show people that Social Media is not a fad, nor is it specific to EMC. Rather, it’s the evolution of human communications, and it’s in ALL of our best interest that we understand the nuances of social and get good at it. 

Early on, we started an EMC water cooler. We found it was less intimidating for someone who wasn’t comfortable in social to come in and talk about something like their pets or hobbies rather than jump right in and have a conversation about cloud computing.

We started with “Come in and tell us what your hobbies are.” Once people made that leap, they very quickly became comfortable jumping into more meaningful conversations.

What is EMC|ONE?

EMC|ONE has been the hub in which we build social proficiency in our company. There are no private spaces. It is open to all 48,500 of us.  I’d suggest it’s helped us avoid becoming a siloed company. In other words, we avoid private spaces.

Rather, we encourage employees to have conversations “out in the open” and among one another. 

Community Managers will consistently come back thankful of this thinking, as they always learn that the more diverse the perspectives in a conversation, the more valuable it will be.

How does what’s happened internally influence how EMC conducts public social media?

For starters, it’s helped us build an incredible level of employee proficiency. Having started inside, we’ve built up the basic skills required for effective social engagement.

I’ll share a little of the secret sauce. We provide social media activation kits on EMC|ONE.  What they should look to do. Documents on campaigns. We’re a highly proficient brand as a company.

We have some 30 bloggers who get  millions of unique visits each year. We have roughly 600 employees on Twitter with 3/4 of a million followers. This is not a coincidence. They learn the tools of the trade on EMC|ONE.

When we did our mega-launch campaign in January, we did a kit. Here’s what we’re up to. Here’s the key messaging. Here’s some high-value engaging content you can spread to your social networks.

The mega-launch campaign was to promote that EMC clients were setting world records. The campaign stunt was to break the world’s record for the number of people who could be squeezed into a Mini Cooper.

Our Mini Cooper campaign’s social media activation kit had a teaser video. We didn’t show the stunt until the event itself. The video was one of many assets and we said, ‘Here you go, guys. Here’s a suggested tweet. Here’s a customized URL.’

By enabling them, we’re now in a position to measure our reach. It’s why I can say 28% of all eyeballs on that event came through social.

Where does social fit in the context of digital marketing at EMC?

I was working on the web team. My background is web. Last year, I moved into corporate communications. For myself, my peers are folks like PR (public relations), IR (investor relations), and AR (analyst relations).

What we’re trying to do is really make social a fundamental way of how we communicate. We want it to permeate thinking. Now that I’m aligned with corporate comms., I can drive influence across my peer groups.


For example, I just spent some time with EMC’s PR lead discussing the evolution of PR and social – contemplating what’s next beyond the ‘Social News Release,’ and how we can innovate together to drive further advancement.

Do you work with outside agencies?

We use a listening engine. We have a couple of small agency relationships.

How does your social team of seven work?

One group manages communities. Three people are focused on EMC|ONE and are shepherds of that internal community. Outside the firewall is the EMC community network, 80% are EMC customers, 1/4 of a million people. 

 If the EMC community network has 1/4 of a million, two or three folks on my team can’t manage that. We embrace the hub and spoke model.

My job is to put myself out of a job in five years. All work has to be distributed. We are shepherds for the brand. We are really looking for subject matter experts within the business.

The next level focuses on embassy properties (off domain). We physically own EMC|ONE and don’t physically own Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, but they’re embassies.

The next leg manages our social band and under that is FB and such and also managing listening where we are in tune with where EMC is mentioned. Three people - one listener, one embassy, and one manager – are working with customer support. Teaching them how to listen. Going to sales guys teaching them how to support.

The third piece is, for lack of a better term, the marketing programs’ front desk. Six people are keeping the ship afloat, with demand coming from 46k people. The last leg is the point of primary engagement with those 46k, who work through one front desk.

How do you spread the listening?

EMC|ONE is to share interesting things we find and serve as a conduit of conversation. If I see an opportunity, my team will get that and turn it into sales. We’re looking for a more sophisticated automated system.

What’s your goal with programs that you’re doing?

At the time of Breaking Records, we had launched over 40 products. The breaking records campaign focused on how many had an underlying theme, which was “Look at how EMC is making our customers break records.”The Mini Cooper record for example, was to play up you can do more with less these days. Look at how many people you can get in a Mini.”

To me, social media is not about looking at opportunities to push a message. I see it as an engagement channel. So when Adweek features us (as they did a few weeks back) it’s something for EMC’s corporate Facebook page.

The EMC corporate page is only one of many. Each of our divisions has their own independent Facebook page.  EMC Latin America, for example, has a Facebook page.

What are your corporate guidelines?

We’re just about to publish our new revised guidelines. At the risk of oversimplifying, they largely say: Use common sense. We’ve always avoided being highly prescriptive in the space because I think it inhibits people’s creativity.

Three years in, and we were recently humbled to be cited as the 14th most socially savvy brand, according to NetProspex, and I haven’t had a social media disaster.

Where will you intervene?

This is the problem. People don’t understand the amount of reach they have. If you don’t understand the reach, you don’t understand the contextual challenges on the other side.

An employee was talking about dissatisfaction with the internal timecard system on Twitter. I reached out to him and said, “Your reach is not limited to your audience, and more and more buyers are looking to peer discussion.

If they come across your tweet it could be misconstrued as dissatisfaction with an EMC product rather than a timeclock we outsource.”

What we do focus on is you just need to understand the power of social and the reach you have. So many just don’t see it like that.

What do you want to do?

It’s a transformation. Monetizing social and tying to the bottom line is high on my radar. Truly activating, but we have a long ways to go enabling employees. The end game for me is the fully engaged enterprise. We’re five years away from that.

I define it as really every employee having an opportunity to serve as an advocate for the brand. And put the customer at the center. I believe social does that, but we’re talking about how.

How do you deal with legal?

I have a partnership with one representative in legal. He’s my liaison to social and he and I chat regularly.

 Anything you want to say I didn’t ask you?

Transparency is key. Open is key. Everyone wants to silo conversations, but repeatedly when you say, “Let’s try it a new way, everytime they say, Thank you".

Laurie Petersen

Published 5 July, 2011 by Laurie Petersen

Laurie Petersen is Principal at LP Strategic Communications and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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