C-suite has no more excuses for avoiding social media use

Many organizations' reluctance to embrace social media is likely caused by C-suite inertia.

Many organizations' reluctance to embrace social media is likely caused by C-suite inertia. As examined in this month's corporate analysis, senior-level executives are skeptical of the value of their own use of social media platforms on a professional level. They worry about the time commitment, saying something out of turn, or worse, damaging, and losing control of an already established corporate or brand reputation.

But look to those organizations implementing social media at a high level, and you'll likely see a social-media savvy CEO or CMO, or at least a willing participant. Both Ford and GM have put their CEOs in front of recent social media efforts; Virgin's Richard Branson and Sun Microsystems' Jonathan Schwartz come to mind as CEOs who “get” the value of social media.

While it's understandable that the C-suite took an initial cautious approach to social media, monitoring their competitors, researching, and waiting for better measurement tools, it can't afford to drag its feet any longer. As Forrester Research's CEO blogged on consumers' surge to technology recently: “The 2009 customer is unrecognizable from the 1999 customer. Consumers in every age group are quickly moving from offline channels to online.”

Recent studies and anecdotal evidence points to 2010 as the year when marketers' budgets will put top dollars into social media – its trial period long gone by then. But it will be unfortunate if those unsure C-suite members are convinced to put their money into simply advertising on social networks, rather than using these platforms for engagement, reputation monitoring, and feedback.

Those surrounding top-level executives must supply them with the education and tools to make informed decisions about brand strategies. For communicators, this means they must make sure that the time-starved CEO has quick and easy entrée to social media. Your CEO need not tweet all day, but a one-hour customer/media Q&A via Twitter might be feasible. Don't try to win over the C-suite by suggesting a brand can live on buzz alone. Bring real examples, with real results. Lastly, don't take no for an answer. They will thank you for it.

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