When Key Executives are Social Media Holdouts

Most people will agree that practical experience is a good thing.  In fact, if you’ve been around the block a time or two, the old adage “experience is the best teacher” is probably anchored in your mindset.  When I reflect on my lessons learned through practical experience I always find Will Rogers’ perspective insightful, but also at times, troublesome:

The trouble with using experience as your guide is that sometimes the final exam comes first, then the lesson.”

Why troublesome?  After all, at one point or another we all start out as greenhorns. And let’s face it; there are situations we occasionally experience that are really not possible to prepare for. What I find troublesome is the negative impact on organizations when key executives continue to scoff at the lessons offered, or worse, they refuse to acknowledge they were even handed an exam.

Are senior executives in your organization still scoffing at social media? In today’s environment your customer’s are testing your organizations ability to interact with them on social platforms in the same way you communicate with them through email and over the phone. In fact, you’ve probably seen the following factoids in several recent presentations:

  • 25% of social media users are more likely to look into a brand advertising on social media – Adology
  • 15% of these users are more likely to purchase from social media advertisers – Adology
  • 46% of Internet users worldwide interact with social media on a daily basis –TNS
  • 78.6% of consumers have joined a company’s community to get more information on the company – Universal McCann

And yet some of your peers are still hesitant, or openly against implementing social media strategies into your organization. I suspect some are hesitant because they are not personally using social media, and if the truth were known, they’re still not concerned with learning.  Even so, it’s time to let go of the notion that social media is just for kids and has no business value. In short, you don’t want the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” to begin to be associated with your personal brand.  Here are some brief observations to share with your leadership peers that might motivate them to sign up for a lesson or two.

  1. Your words and actions are magnified by your position.  Most of your actions will seem more important to your employees than you intend; merely teasing about the use or value of social media on your part may become dangerously distorted by your workers.  It’s a critical time for you to provide executive level support for this high growth engagement channel.  Keep this in mind; it’s not about you, it’s about your customers.  If your customers want to communicate through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook who are you to stop them?
  2. No need to boil the ocean. There are scores of social media related platforms and applications, so don’t be afraid to narrow your focus during your initial learning process.  It’s too early to declare with authority the platforms that will remain standing, those that will be absorbed, or the ones that will fade away.  For senior executives I would recommend focusing on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, in that order.  Sidebar applications that help with efficiency and effectiveness (for example, TweetDeck for Twitter or various mobile applications for Facebook, etc) can wait.
  3. You can’t learn to swim without getting wet, so jump in. If nothing else, just commit to spending 15 – 20 minutes per day learning the ins and outs of a single platform.  Once you develop a comfort level move to the next platform or application.  If you have a trusted friend or colleague who is already social media savvy consider asking them to breakfast or out for a beer.  Use the opportunity to pick their mind on the platforms they like to use, and how they strategically leverage those applications.  If all else fails, hire someone to help you with your social media education.  Based on my faculty, and consulting background I kind of like this idea!  However, you may want to start out by making an author happy and simply purchasing one of the many social media related publications on the market.
  4. The clock is ticking. We’ve moved from a time of mass communications to one of masses of communicators; your customers are sharing their experiences through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms at a rate that will continue to accelerate.  As a result, social media should become a part of every organizations risk management and customer engagement strategy.  That means the entire leadership team (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO, Sales, Legal and HR) will feel the impact.  You know from experience that it always takes more time than expected to secure cross functional support.  So, it’s time to start building bridges.

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Alan See is a senior marketing executive and currently ranked as the 3rd most followed CMO on Twitter by Social Media Marketing Magazine. He is a published author and blogger with over 25 years experience helping companies develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives that power profitable growth.