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In May 2012, Josh James, CEO of business intelligence startup company, Domo, and co-founder of analytics company, Omniture, announced that every one of Domo’s 130 employees would be required to become active on social media sites over the course of an eight-week initiative, which was titled, The Domo Social Experiment.

So, what did the Domo Experiment entail?  The initiative outlined a requirement for every employee to undertake 20 different tasks. Of these, three consisted of upgrading their Facebook profile to the new Timeline setting; creating three circles in Google+; and making a playlist on a music service such as Pandora or Spotify.  They set out guidelines for how employees should do this and policies for messaging and behaviour, applicable at all times.

It’s a radical approach but is it one, perhaps, UK businesses can learn from?

In any business there will be people that will not want to create a variety of social media accounts.  They may, quite simply, not be ‘people, people’… creating a LinkedIn profile for their CV, tweeting company news and even reviewing music may not be their thing… and don’t get me started on the confusion that Google+ brings!  Just think… if every employee in your company had to create a Google+ profile, surely they would just have each other as contacts, which would go against the whole ‘marketing networking’ idea.  Well, the same applies for the other social networks.  It could be argued that if you force unconfident people to jump in then they simply create social media platforms for colleagues or personal friends, just like Facebook.  Added to which, this enforced social media becomes rather like corporate team-building (or ‘enforced fun’ as I used to call it).  Employees feel that the company is infringing on their own personal lives and identities, by being expected to be professional and adhere to the company policies at all times and, all in all, forcing people just translates into cultural resentment, rather than the intended cultural change.

However, saying this, on this occasion, despite our British cynicism, the advantages seem to have far outweighed the cons of the initiative.

To get around the personal identity infringement problem, James said that his workforce could create new professional and business-based company profiles, in order for them to keep their personal lives to themselves online.  As a result, employees did not have to merge work and play on their social networking sites; which proved a better solution for all, all round.

Before the Domo Social Experiment, the team in total was tweeting about 80 times a day; now that number has increased to around 400 tweets a day.

Previously, every employee each had about 100,000 connections across LinkedIn and Facebook; now they each have 150,000.

James says that he can see a difference in the way the team operates, and he says that it has given the company ‘a common language’.  Once, when James tweeted some company news, more than 50 percent of the workforce had retweeted the post. After that, he tweeted about a feature that he was really impressed by seeing in another product.  He didn’t mention it again, but two weeks later, a fellow tweeting engineer proudly advised James on how to add way that function to one of Domo’s products.

In their case the initiative has helped to draw a disparate business together and for everyone to understand that marketing is their responsibility.  By setting out clear guidelines and policies they have spread the word that it is serious… but they haven’t neglected the need for people to feel that they are empowered and have freedom to be themselves. The material benefit to the business, as a result of this is still being measured but it may be something businesses in the UK want to draw some inspiration from, as a starting point to social media-related cultural change.

Written by Elephant Creative Associate, Tara Behan.