A CEO’s Guide To Social Media In 2012

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As I jogged down Wall Street in New York in October through the barricades, police horses, and thousands of activists, something became clear. The masses had self-organized and social media had added yet another social movement to its résumé. At the same time, something else became clear to me. Much higher than street level, in the boardrooms of America’s largest companies, social media expertise was far from entering the résumés of most C-suites.

Why is there confusion inside these glass fortresses around the world? Senior executives are struggling to get a grasp of what to do about the social opportunity for their kingdom. But hey, it’s new, right? The kids only started signing up eight years ago. For lots of people, the biggest concern with technology is figuring out how to operate their BlackBerry in the post-trackwheel era.

But with 2012 and the New Year upon us, countless strategy and planning sessions are likely on the calendar. I’d like to take the liberty of answering the most recurring questions I hear from executives of the world’s leading brands and share my predictions, with the hope that doing so will reduce the need to answer these questions by 25% in 2012.

"Every department is telling me they own social media so it feels like it has 12 owners. How do I think about it?"

Thinking of social media as a separate effort will lead to failure and you’ll lose a year. Social media is simply an overlay that must be applied to existing business functions including marketing, customer care, e-commerce, search, HR, internal systems, legal, etc.  CEOs should understand this and ask to see specific plans to achieve business results through collaboration and smart planning. Being "good at social media" shouldn’t be your goal. Weaving social media into the fabric of your company and making your business truly social in nature will be much more valuable.

"I get pitched by 5 gurus a month. Do I need a social media leader for the business?"

Many companies have accelerated success by creating a funded internal group to lead social media across all business functions. Early adopters including Dell, Intel, and Coca-Cola are good examples. This group should be centrally funded for a minimum of 2-5 years depending on the size and complexity of the company. Part watchdog, part consultant, part teacher, and part project manager—the center of excellence should work with various business lines, bringing best in class partners to the table to ensure that all social media activities drive business results.

"My PR team is in my office constantly telling me that they own social media and wanted to be involved in everything—that doesn’t seem effective. Or does it?"

In the early days of social media, one perspective often takes hold. Usually it’s the strongest voice or presenter in the room from PR or marketing. Companies that want success will need to move past thinking about social media as solely a marketing discipline, and mandate a presence from other departments in a Social Media Center for Excellence. A multi-disciplinary approach is the key to success. The social leader for the company should have a solid business background, a strong handle on technology, a flair for engaging consumers, and must work across the business to build a killer team.

"It doesn’t seem like there’s any point in measuring results until we’ve figured out the basics. Should I even bother?"

Most companies wait too long before asking how each potential opportunity will be measured. Don’t be fooled into believing that social media "listening" is the same as program measurement. Ensure your CFO understands what is being spent, why, and what the benefits are. Different business functions, including marketing, PR, sales, and customer care, are all measured differently.

At the end of the day, the mass confusion is unwarranted. Social media doesn’t change the basics of running an organization or its functions. It simply provides a new (and often more efficient) way to deliver on objectives that are as old as mass demonstrations pitting the haves against the have-nots. 

Author Michael Scissons is the president and CEO of Syncapse

[Image: Flickr user wallyg]

[Image: Flickr user Joe deSousa]

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  • Slinky

    CEO's kill me. They get their jobs by working hard as a base, then spend a lifetime of politicking, scamming, scheming, taking credit for the hard work and idea's of other's and sometimes by being downright nasty. Then they want to tell you how they used to be at the bottom, blah, blah, blah. You were NEVER at the bottom. Your uncle is in the company, your aunt is the AA to the current CEO, its family run, you have clout outside the company for something or other and usually know NOTHING about the day to day hard work put in by those who actually, legitimately meet the Earnings Projections. You are there to make sure that those numbers get shuffled, scammed, people get fired, change a number or two, push something into the next quarter and THERE!!!! You beat the projection by a penny. So, when the CFO drops that report on your desk, you get up and maybe email the company or, if you have some itty bitty integrity, give a speech about the company, and report to Wall Street, taking all the credit about how you did this and that. Then you cut yourself a 50 million dollar check, grant 500K options and on to next year of scamming. 
    This is corporate America my friends. While your raise was $250 for the year, the executives got 300K bonuses, CEO took home 25% of the profits, just enough to beat the estimate by a penny. 

    America is busted because Corporations have too much power. 
    WE HAVE ALL THE POWER but use it. SHOP at the little guy/gal. Use your money because it is literally the most powerful thing you will come across. Control groups of money spenders and you will get things ethical and helpful done. 
    DON'T EVER look up to a CEO. EVER. They are nothing that you think they are. Sure, there are a bunch of real good ones out there but are they in your company? Do they give out an extra 5k at the end of the year to all the high performers? If not, they gave it to themselves and used it to fill the tank of their Luxury Sports car so they can just barely make it home near the filling station by there house to fuel up for another day. 


    The U.S.A. better wake up

  • russell sparkman

    I find that the absence of any reference to content and content strategy, as it pertains to social media, is a major weakness of this post. Of the past 8 years, the vast majority of companies "doing social media" have more or less placed a 20-something in charge of their Facebook and Twitter accounts and called it a social media strategy. This has been fast, cheap and ... largely ineffectual.

    What's stunning and often times perplexing is the failure of really smart people to recognize that social media is little more than a network of channels. A firm with a need to market or promote that does not take the time to plan content, or makes plans to fund the creation of content for these channels, as the basis of engaging with its prospects or customers, is going to "fail" at social media.

    This is something that the CEO and the CFO absolutely have to get in tune with, so that he/she understands the value today in investing in original content as a marketing/PR/customer service activity.

    I can almost guarantee that in almost every product or service category there is one company that gets this and is investing heavily into content -- creative, relevant, useful content -- as the focus of its social media strategy.

    If you're a CEO, this means that there is a competitive imperative to step up your game, in this regard, otherwise you'll see your competitors "own" the product or service category you compete in, in Search, in Social Media channels, as well as offline.

  • AJ Perisho

    This is a nice article. It doesn't really answer questions, but give you things to think about and ask.
    It's a good start.

  • Teddy

    Social media has become one of the fastest ways to create a promotion for a business.  Just like any type of promotion it takes time to see results.  Even though some companies seem to have instant success, but most take a lot of effort and time.

    Patience is the key to social media excellence.

  • Courtney Shelton Hunt

    I like the idea of a cross-functional "Social Media Center for Excellence." My own "Who owns social media?" essay is probably long overdue... 

    Courtney Shelton Hunt
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community
    Founder, Global Center for Digital Era Leadership (GCDEL)

  • MCC Code

    Social Media is all about being a point of reference on your targeted topics, now days helps with SEO, it should not be replacing PR, marketing, ads and other current trends, is one more channel