Domo’s Josh James: We’re Making Every Employee Embrace Social Media, And It’s Paying Off

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Back in May, Josh James, the co-founder of analytics company Omniture and now CEO of business intelligence startup Domo, announced an eyebrow-raising idea: He was kicking off an eight-week initiative that would require every one of Domo’s 130 employees to become active on social media. Now James says the initiative is paying off, and he has numbers and anecdotes to back it up.

James admits that he had some worries at first. After all, this isn’t just an optional side project — he says that if people want to keep their jobs, they have to complete 20 different tasks designed to acquaint them with social networks and other consumer Internet products. Those tasks include upgrading their Facebook account to include Timeline, creating three circles in Google+, and creating a playlist on a music service like Pandora or Spotify. There was a chance, James says, that people would feel “we’re infringing too much on their personal identities and personalities.” To alleviate that problem, employees were told they didn’t have to use their personal accounts, and could instead create new ones specifically for work.

Still — why do this at all? Especially when you’re selling enterprise products? James says that he’s always trying to build a company culture that’s ahead of the tech curve, something that can be a particularly challenging when you’re based outside of Silicon Valley (Omniture was based in Utah, as is Domo). Omniture seemed to be “more tech savvy than most of the big tech companies we met,” James says, an opinion that was confirmed after it was acquired by Adobe. As for Domo, he adds, “If we’re going to be consumerizing IT and consumerizing BI, our people better know the best of consumerization.”

At the beginning of initiative, dubbed “the #domosocial experiment”, James says the whole team was tweeting an average of 80 times per day. Now that number is more like 400. And where Domo employees previously had about 100,000 connections across sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, they now have 150,000.

James says he can see a difference in the way the team operates. He recalls tweeting out some company news, then seeing it retweeted by more than 50 percent of the workforce. Another time, he says he tweeted about a feature that he was really impressed by see in another product. James didn’t mention it again, but two weeks later an engineer proudly demonstrated a way to add that functionality to Domo’s product. And it’s not just about watching the boss’ Twitter account and keeping him happy. James also says that when he walks through the company’s cubicles, he’s more likely to see (or hear) consumer apps like Pandora or Rdio in action.

“It’s given us a common language,” he adds.

You can track the team’s progress yourself on Domo’s social site, where you can read blog posts from team members and also see the stats on how close the team is getting to completing all of its goals. James says he’s trying to be transparent about the whole process, in part so that other companies can follow his example.