Building A Modern Sales & Marketing Machine

The CEO's Guide to Social Media

Posted by Phil Harrell

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Apr 11, 2014 1:19:04 PM

Take-the-PlungeAs CEO, I'll bet you're having a hard time keeping up with the dizzying pace of innovation in social media and trying to understand the potential impact of these various social media platforms on your business.  

You're not alone-according to a recent study, 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs are not currently using any social media platforms (2013 Social CEO Report- This is a shocking statistic, but consistent with what I hear from Enterprise CEOs that I meet with everyday.

The main reasons that your CEO peers cite in the report for their lack of social media presence are:

  • Not enough time
  • Uncomfortable with transparency
  • Risk
  • Resistance to change

I would add to that list that many CEOs don't understand what social media is and don't fully appreciate the potential impact that social media can have on transforming their businesses.  So how does a CEO learn about social media...and what is the CEO's guide to social media?

CEOs need to realize that social media is simply a new, powerful communication channel that allows people to do online what they've been doing offline-with much more efficiency and a much broader reach than ever before.  Wikipedia defines social media as, "the interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks", which will "introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals."  What distinguishes social media vs. traditional media is how easy and cost effective it is for people to generate and contribute content and ideas to a huge audience-to join in and participate in the conversation as they would in an in-person gathering rather than be "talked at" by more traditional forms of media acting as the authoritative voice. 

Many Enterprise CEOs are thinking about social media too narrowly-associating the term "social media" with what their kids do on platforms like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest-and viewing social media as just another marketing channel for their organizations.  However, in a broader sense, social media is a fundamentally new way to communicate and allows businesses and organizations to have conversations with their internal and external stakeholders on a much wider scale then ever before.  Companies can leverage social media to become more efficient in how they communicate with their employees, recruit talent, receive product feedback, solve customer problems and do market research. Viewed in this context, companies can leverage social media to not just to market and to sell, but to transform their business processes and models and make their companies much more competitive and efficient.   

The opportunities to those businesses that are able to learn how to capitalize on these new social media platforms are enormous, as are the risks to those that move too slowly. Here's why:

  • Your customers, partners and employees are spending more time on social media.  The growth of social media platforms is truly mind blowing-consider that a few of the most well known-Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Youtube-have grown at a breakneck pace over the past 10 years. As of August 2103, Twitter had 232M active users who put out 500M tweets per day, Facebook had 1.2B active users who spent on average 8.3 hours on the site per month and LinkedIn had 259M members and YouTube had 1B unique monthly visitors.  The bottom line is that your key stakeholders are all using social media in increasing numbers and your company must be there to engage, listen and learn from them.

  • Competitive advantage.  Social media is an incredible platform for listening to your key stakeholders to learn what is happening externally so that your company can respond quickly. Companies can accelerate their innovation cycles, quickly respond to changes in market demand and to customer problems if they're able to figure out how to integrate social media into their operations. Twitter has risen to increasingly be to go to site for customer support over email. 

Here's what you need to do as CEO immediately to ensure that your company doesn't get left behind:

  • Identify a leader within your organization who can own the company's social media initiatives. Choose an executive to ensure that the social media initiative get the visibility and resources it requires.  Encourage that leader to also recruit internal champions within the organization to help drive change.
  • Agree on what data you're going to use to measure the impact of your social media investment.  Ensure that your team has the tools to collect the data and report on it.  Choose data that measures more than just social media's marketing impact, like bottom line financial and operational measures as well.

  • Open accounts on various social media platforms and begin to use them so that you can start to understand the implications behind the social media revolution.

The bottom line is that social media puts your key stakeholders at the center of everything your company does and represents a huge opportunity for companies that invest in it in the form of faster innovation, operational improvements and increased revenue.

How do you see as the key barriers to social media adoption by your company?


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