Ah yes, social media. We love it. We hate it. We’re somewhere in between. Regardless of which of the three aforementioned buckets you happen to fall into, one thing is for sure: social media is here to stay and while some companies/businesses/brands are still resisting as if they’re being drug into the dentist chair to have 5 cavities filled – without Novocaine, the smart ones know that social media is not painful and in fact can be quite pleasing, AKA beneficial and profitable.

And is truly essential to its long-term growth.

The title of my article speaks directly to one such company – Domo, the business intelligence company headed by former Omniture CEO, Josh James. The words are in fact verbatim from their website – taken from the section that deals with the Domo Social Media Experiment – hashtag #domosocial

In case you missed this story, hang on to your Tweets for it may surprise or even shock you for the experiment mandates – yes mandates, that every Domo employee get social – literally. Realizing the importance of social media, James informed his employees back in May that in order to keep their jobs (aghast!) each and every one of Domo’s employees needed to complete 20 social media and other online tasks over an eight-week period.

The tasks range from updating their Facebook to reflect the new Timeline feature, creating three circles in Google+, creating a blog, creating a playlist on one of the music services, Pandora or Spotify and more.

As a reward – in addition to keeping their jobs that is, the staff receive badges plus there are rewards for individuals who accomplish the goals and of the entire company meet its collective goals, everyone gets a free day off from work.

Now I’m sure of you out there are either wondering to yourself or flat out saying aloud “Why would a company force its employees to use social media? Isn’t their time better spent on other things?”

While I would not agree with such thoughts – I happen to be a big fan of this experiment – I was curious to learn how this whole thing got started and I also wanted to know what some of Domo’s employees thought about it, too. So I reached out Josh James to hear from him directly why he started this, what the results have been to date and so on. I also asked Josh if I could speak to some employees and he willingly granted me full and complete access.

James told me he had reservations about launching the experiment telling me he was “concerned that employees would feel overwhelmed” by the experiment and also he had concerns about those employees who were already very active in social media and thus “not learn as much from the tasks and technologies with which we were asking them to experiment.>

As for what he would say to any C-level suite folks who would look at this experiment and offer one of the aforementioned concerns, James turned it around a little “I would say it’s a good concern, but maybe the wrong one.  I think the right concern is, “What are you risking by NOT having your employees using social media?”

James said the effects of the experiment are very positive even going so far as to tell me the “impact on our brand has been priceless.” He also said the experiment has actually brought his employees closer together and also brought his company closer to its customers – always a good thing.

As for other companies following in Domo’s footsteps, James is all for it but can foresee some companies in some industries being reluctant “I think there will be companies – such as those in the financial services industry – that will be fearful and resist the transparency and closeness to customers and employees that comes along with being a social organization.”

And as for what the employees thought, I was able to speak with three Domo employees – Whitney Rosenberg, a Quality Assurance Engineer, Hondo Seitzinger, an Implementation Engineer and Scott Jackman, a Senior Software Architect.

I asked each of them a series of three questions below, along with a sampling of their responses to each:

What was their initial reaction upon learning of the experiment?

  • “The idea of amplifying one’s influence to reach a wider audience always interested me and I was excited to spread that influence even further as I completed the experiment.”
  • “Oddly enough, in the weeks before the experiment was introduced, I had recognized my ignorance in this field and started wondering how and when I would be able to understand this more.”

Were they already “active” on social media prior to the experiment?

  •  Before the experiment started I had used more than half of the applications on the list, but I would only consider myself as being “active” on a few of them.” 
  • “I’ve tinkered with it a little here and there. Most of the time I was looking solely for utility in the use of these tools. I used Facebook fairly extensively. I had a twitter account, but didn’t really use it.” 

What was the reaction they received from others outside of the company in regards to the experiment?

  • Most of my friends couldn’t believe that we would “waste” so much time engaging in social media applications at work.  To use a familiar adage, they couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  The perception was that we were spending all our time posting on Facebook and figuring out how to game the Klout scores, instead of actually building a product to ship.  In reality we were spending time on social applications to better understand our own product.” 
  •  “As time went on there were two main reactions from the experiment outside the company. First was, “where are you going to find time to do that?”; and second was, “condition of employment? Really?” Yes, it will take a lot of time to complete this experiment — more than I have, but the value is well worth it. Requiring it as a condition of employment is a bold move, but it essentially forces people to a recognition that user experience is important, which most engineers aren’t going to stumble upon on their own.” 
Let the Debate Begin

Ok, let’s hear it.

Let’s what you have to say about all of this.

Should a company mandate the use of social media?

Are you in the C-suite? If so, what do you think of all this? Would you ever want your company to follow in Domo’s footsteps?

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review, Steve Olenski is a freelance writer/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via email,TwitterLinkedIn or his website.