Why Do Only 7% Of Managers Consider Social Media Skills Important For Employees?

According to recent research, social media talents are not valued by managers. That, argues the author, is a big problem.

It's taken most companies a long time to incorporate social media tools into the workplace.

Many have blocked Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter so that employees can't access them at work because they believe it's a productivity drain. Social media has permeated all business functions and in some instances is being used over traditional methods of communication like a phone or email. Customers are demanding social media support and employees, especially millennials, need to be constantly connected to one another in order to function.

In a new study in partnership with American Express, we found that social media skills were the least important to managers. Only 7% of managers viewed social media skills as being the most important when evaluating an employee's performance. This compares to 61% who felt the same about soft skills and 32% for hard skills. Clearly, social media skills aren't viewed as important in the modern day organization, even though everyone already uses them whether managers like to or not. You simply can't avoid the 1 billion-plus users on Facebook and the more than 200 million users on LinkedIn. We live in a social economy where everyone is connected, all of the time.

For employees, social network skills can make them stand out at work, build a strong network, and increase their overall value to their company. "I have an employee who has taken to Twitter and interacts with colleagues in our office on this platform," says Travis Kessel, a VP of Recruitment at Edelman. "This has allowed her to network with others she would not necessarily have exposure to and her efforts in this area have made her someone we look to for special projects we are leading in the digital space," he says. By developing your social media skills, you are in effect gaining both soft and hard skills. Hard skills are developed through learning how the tools work and the dynamics behind them, while soft skills are developed through the ability to use them to communicate, build relationships and influence others.

From a business perspective, more emphasis should be placed on social media skills because that's how the new customer wants to be both sold to and serviced. "With social becoming a main mode of communications today, employees need to have a good understanding and be able to utilize these channels," explains Scott Gulbransen, the director of social media at H&R Block." "Because our clients and customers are there communicating and talking, we must be, too," says Gulbransen. Social media tools have been effectively used by companies for various purposes in order to reach customers, compete for talent, and grow their businesses.

Managers at the majority of companies don't see the value in using social media tools for promotional purposes. The study found that only 16% believe it's very important or extremely important. Smart companies, like IBM and Microsoft, have enabled all employees to blog and have incorporated those blogs on their websites, which attract about 500 million and 50 million visitors each month respectfully. IBM has over 30,000 employee blogs and Microsoft has over 7,000. Employee blogs share personal narratives and expert opinions that relate to their industries, professions, as well as products and services sold. Collectively, these posts produce a wealth of information that promote their companies.

Using your employees to recruit on social networks is very effective, yet only 13% of managers think that it's either very important or extremely important. Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com, emailed his sales team to spread a job opening on social networks. His team posted 350 status updates on LinkedIn, which were visible to 159,000 professionals from 40,000 companies. Overall, they yielded a 60% increase in sales employee referral submissions in just one week. The sales team didn't get paid more. Instead, they just leveraged their social network to generate interest.

Employees are looking for support, not just on the phone but online and they expect companies to be there answering questions. The problem is that only 14% of managers believe that social media is either very important or extremely important for customer service. The @comcastcares Twitter account is still the best example of how a company can support customers through the social media channel and save money in the process. The account now has more than 60,000 followers and reviews a few thousand tweets every day. This saves the company money from hiring more support professionals and decreases phone queues. In addition, when Comcast answers questions through Twitter, those answers can support everyone following the account, which is a scaleable solution relative to one customer service rep helping one customer on the phone.

Cold calling is on the decline and inbound marketing is becoming increasingly popular in a world in which you need to build trust with customers before you can close a sale. Too bad only 15% of managers think that social media profiles are very important or extremely important for generating leads. Ford was able to generate new business for its Fiesta car by launching a social media campaign on YouTube that generated more than 6 million views on YouTube, with over 130,000 of them showing interest in receiving more information about the car. Leveraging your employees networks to drive attention and leads for your business is important, and it's an opportunity that most companies don't take advantage of.

[Image: Flickr user Nick Harris]

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  • David Prickett

    Is social media a skill or just another tool to add to the communications toolkit? If you are articulate and know how to connect with people, bringing social media into the mix does not require much of a learning curve.

  • Jonathan Hochman

    This may be a case of asking the wrong question.  Social media is sometimes a valid marketing tactic.  But much more often, it isn't.  If only 7% of managers think social media is important it's might only be relevant to that 7%.  My auto mechanic does not need social media, but he's very good at using the Internet to find auto parts.  A chemist I know refuses to use social media, but he's a superstar at Google AdWords.  

    I'd be very interested to know what percentage of managers think Internet skills are important. Maybe we'll discover that social media has been overblown by all the chatterheads who spend their days using social media to promote their social media expertise.

  • Mrhappy

    Dan Schawbel, a Gen Y career and workplace expert, seems to think that social media is a game changer for business based on the statistic that only 7% of managers think this so-called "skill" is "the most important". I'm not sure which logical fallacy he is committing with this argument, but hec, it makes juicy copy...

    Anyway, I see the communications skills of these folks all day long, every day. When not at their desks asking to be spoon fed, they stand around the hallways, lobbies and parking lots with their faces stuck to the screens of their smartphones, completely detached from the world around them. Well, mostly, anyway. I see a lot of them walking into other people and objects accidentally as well.

    And yes, I'm being serious.

    As a technologist with a large of number of "millennial" "knowledge workers" to support, my first choice on the list of valuable skillsets is the ability to quickly the critical aspects of a given problem domain and fashion logical and cohesive requirements statements, working as autonomously as possible. This is a rare quality, and its getting rarer.
    What we are seeing instead is a bunch of thumb sucking Internet-addicts that don't think very well, and communicate poorly.

    The author of this piece offers a classic example of TSIA thinking. First, he builds a flawed problem domain, and then, using an obviously flawed metric, he broad brushes what *might* be an indication of a given individual's marketing skill (e.g. glibness and facility as a Facebook\Twitter virtuoso) into a global solution for all the business world. He goes so far as to insist such social-media virtuosity be considered a prime factor in selecting talent.

    Seriously. Its ludicrous. I'd actually be more inclined to put his blessed 7% on the next RIF list...

  • Walter Psotka

    As a slightly more mature business owner and manager...living in an "eat what you kill " world, I have wasted a lot of time on social media.
    Of course there is the promise of  a payoff...but the time spent on non-productive...non cash-generating activities by myself or by my employees makes it almost obscene. I reserve judgement  for the time being...but this reality has to be acknowledged.

  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    Hi Dan, unfortunately too many businesses are still stuck in an old marketing mind set -- advertisements and cold calling etc. The average consumer is getting tired of this. It's a known fact that a lead from great content  promoted on social media costs 60% less than a lead from traditional marketing.

  • Joelk

    Sorry, I don't buy it. These tools are often productivity sucks. And the examples cited in the article were sparse and generally come from departments, like marketing and customer service, whose job is to engage the public. Obviously they have use for these tools. However, your core people: engineers, designers  lawyers, the people your business is actually based upon in whatever industry you're in do not have professional use for these tools. They will help little and be a huge distraction. People tend to believe these tools are fairy dust -- that somehow knowing them will change the fundamentals of their business. This is false. 

  • Phil Longhorn

    Except that technical staff don't always know the answers to every problem they face, whereas peers within their (social) network may be able to help.
    This kind of collaboration between peer groups can be most valuable and easiest achieved (quickly) by using social media

  • JDeragon

    It is kind of like saying "We don't think employees with engagement skills are valuable to the organization" or "We don't want employees learning how to improve communications". or "We aren't interested in listening to our stakeholders only our stockholders and managers...everyone else doesn't matter".  Unfortunately too many managers are stuck on Management 1.0 thinking while the market isw now moving beyond 2.0.  

  • virginialaird

    The problem here is the fundamental flaw in how this information is presented. The article states that 7% of managers viewed social media skills as being the *most* important when evaluating an employee's performance. I sincerely hope we never live in a world where social media skills are valued over critical thinking and problem-solving.