Can You Really Let Employees Loose on Social Media?

At Mitel, the only rule for employees on social media is to use their best judgment.

The Ontario business communications company Mitel is a $1.2 billion business, but you’re excused if you’re not familiar with it — yet!

“Although we’ve been around for 41 years, our brand is not well known,” says Martyn Etherington, the company’s chief marketing officer and chief of staff. Mitel offers services in business communications, voice-video collaborations, business phones and the like, and its website boasts, “We are the business communications experts behind 2 billion calls, chats and social messages every day.”

It has gotten big fast: In the past two years, Mitel has acquired four companies and doubled its revenues. “We want to be the consolidator versus the consolidated of our market space,” Etherington says, “but most importantly we want to grow by being relevant to our customers and the markets we serve.”

Etherington is out to boost the company’s profile. “We’re really starting to transform the brand from what was considered a very old, telephone [-oriented] PBX company to where our market is today and where our focus is — that of a customer-centric software company positioned in the cloud and contact center markets.”

In a conversation with Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s Social Business Big Idea Initiative, Etherington explains how he thinks social media will help the company with customer engagement, and why he considers the company’s current efforts to be “a massive trystorming exercise” with the end goal of helping Mitel understand its customers better.

Your bio says that you’re responsible for Mitel’s digital, social and mobile programs. Clearly, you’re out to move this business into the spotlight.

Absolutely. We have low brand awareness, and we have very low brand preference. That’s both a challenge and tremendous opportunity for us.

I’ve been passionate for digital for many, many years, and one of the things that I saw when I first came to Mitel was that we’re competing with the likes of Cisco and Avaya. These guys have have very, very strong brands.

I knew that with a David and Goliath story, we could punch way above our weight if we started to invest in digital and started to leverage digital and social.

1 Comment On: Can You Really Let Employees Loose on Social Media?

  • Mark Burgess | February 5, 2015

    Jerry,

    I enjoyed reading your story about the power and impact of social employees at Mitel. Great to see that our book has had such a positive impact on Mitel’s business. As the co-author of The Social Employee, with Cheryl Burgess, we believe that our message and the success stories we wrote based on interviews with several great brands: IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, Southwest and Adobe, signal a new era in employee engagement. We call this ‘branding from the inside out.’ I would like other companies who read your impressive story, to know that not only did we write the book on creating and activating social employees, but we offer the training, content marketing, and the social leadership expertise to help companies to succeed.

    Mark Burgess
    President, Blue Focus Marketing
    Co-Author: The Social Employee, McGraw-Hill, 2013.
    @mnburgess | @SocialEmployee

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