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Q&A: Assessing the Social Media Payoff

What happens when you mandate your employees' use of social media?
COLLABORATORS Josh James, Steve Olenski
How Domo motivated its employees to use social media on the company's marketing behalf
photo by Shivali Chopra

What happens when a company takes a deep dive into social media? Josh James, CEO of Domo, a maker of business intelligence software, wanted to find out. So he asked his employees (130 at the time, 150 today) to complete at least 20 social media tasks, such as updating their Facebook profiles, writing blog posts, and creating new playlists on Pandora, over an eight-week period.

His efforts were described in Forbes, but we wanted to find out more. Here’s our interview with James.

Build: You’ve said the impact of this experiment on your brand has been “priceless.” Can you be more specific?

James: Our collective followers on Twitter increased by more than 300 percent, LinkedIn by 36 percent, Facebook by 28 percent, and Pinterest by 91 percent. During the experiment, we increased our total number of employee tweets from about 80 to 350 a day, and we had close to 200,000 connections/followers across those four popular networks at the end of the experiment.

I am a big believer that brand starts from the inside out. One of our goals was to use the experiment to enhance our company culture and make sure we were as savvy as the VC-backed startups in Silicon Valley. Before the experiment we did a baseline quiz to measure our “social IQ.” We repeated the quiz at the end of the study and saw a 19-point increase in our social IQ score.

At the end of the experiment, we also asked employees what they liked most about the experiment. There were two top answers:

1. Employees said they were most excited about learning new things; and

2. Getting to know their fellow employees better and the new found sense of community inside the organization that resulted.

These answers were really the most meaningful to me. It showed that despite the time the experiment took, and getting some people to operate outside of their comfort zones, employees were truly excited to be a part of this. As a CEO, you want employees to be “all in” on the culture. I couldn’t have asked for a better response.

Speaking of culture, social has become integral to who we are as a company. A culture of transparency that’s inherent in a social organization is the best way to learn about your organization as a CEO. You see relationships that you didn’t know existed. You find pools of talent and natural alignment that you never would have discovered if you had maintained a traditional communications structure.

The industry buzz has been something that also makes employees feel proud of being at Domo, but it’s been hard to measure. We have been asked for advice by other companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. We had a graduate student in NYC reach out to us [because] she wants to include us in her master’s thesis. And the experiment has landed Domo on a couple industry lists, exposing us to audiences that may never have heard of our start-up before.

Lastly, we had one person – based at another tech company in Seattle – go through our entire certification process – tweeting about the badges he earned along the way. That was pretty cool and I think it made our employees feel good that people in other tech markets were emulating what we are doing here.

Build: The experiment also brought your employees closer to your customers. Can you share an anecdote with us? 

James: Before social media, public comments from customers would usually get vetted by a customer’s PR team before being released. Well, here’s one example of how a customer shared his enthusiasm for Domo with the world, shifting the traditional dynamic of sales rep and customer: [He tweeted.] The tweet was then something our sales and marketing teams could use in additional marketing efforts for Domo. The beauty of this tweet was its authenticity. For us, it was unexpected, appreciated, and of course, leveraged.

Not long ago Domo received this tweet from a new customer. It was one of several payoffs from the company's social media experiment.



OK, now you have the CEO’s perspective.

But how does an experiment like this make employees feel?

For a perspective, we suggest a video called “The Domo Social Experiment” on YouTube.

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Q&A: Assessing the Social Media Payoff

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