CEOs: Wake Up and Smell the Social Media Coffee
I was chatting with a great friend of mine, probably one of the IT industry analysts I respect the most in Asia Pacific, and we got onto social media. I won’t mention his name, l’est I get him in trouble, but he told me he wanted to launch a professional blog in his name, discussing issues around business value and IT. He has great knowledge in this area, is often advising IT companies to be more value focused on a daily basis, and he understands business because he’s been in that world too.
I was chatting with a great friend of mine, probably one of the IT industry analysts I respect the most in Asia Pacific, and we got onto social media. I won’t mention his name, l’est I get him in trouble, but he told me he wanted to launch a professional blog in his name, discussing issues around business value and IT. He has great knowledge in this area, is often advising IT companies to be more value focused on a daily basis, and he understands business because he’s been in that world too. His all round knowledge and vision is superb and of great value – business people would gain so much reading a blog by my friend.
But he is being held back. Why? Recently, he mentions his plans to his CEO and what does the CEO say? Oh no, we leave stuff like that to marketing.
It’s definitely time to wake up and smell the social media coffee CEOs. Marketing can’t write a blog for this guy; unless they are extremely good content writers who can get inside his head and “speak” in his voice. But writers like this are rare, and a blog is almost always better when it comes from the “horse’s mouth.” The personal touch is extremely important, as personality must be prevalent in a blog. Not something you can always effectively outsource.
I believe that the CEO is missing a couple of key things here. First of all he isn’t recognising the enormous benefits a blog like this will bring to his company – it will probably generate more success and more revenue opportunities than any marketing activity they are currently doing. Businesses pay a lot for analyst mindshare, and if he’s willing to share that knowledge in a short, punchy and powerful way, the benefits will be enormous to his company.
Secondly, the CEO is not valuing his employee. This is someone who really wants to do this – build his profile more broadly across the business and IT space – so when CEOs don’t make that connection, well they’re going to lose good people. This is the time when personal and professional profiles are merging, so encouraging employees to engage in these opportunities is going to be a very important measuring stick for employee satisfaction in the future. I really believe this. People want it so if you won’t allow it, they’re going to do it anyway – behind your back or elsewhere.
When people are committed to “going social,” set some loose guidelines and let them rip. If it’s great, it’s great for your company, if it’s not so great, well you don’t need to feature their blog on your Website. But let employees be free – it is time to decentralise the marketing voice, because it’s happening anyway.
Encourage your employees to embrace the opportunities that social media marketing deliver for themselves and for your company. Show them you are serious by reward those who are successful, but guidelines are important. It’s up to you how defined they are, but the reality is don’t be too strict because it will limit creativity. I’m talking about things like:
- Don’t criticise our company publicly
- Always remember you’re an employee of… and we expect you to handle yourself with professional aplomb
- We need you to stop and think about everything you post – just make sure it feels right before you hit the publish button
- Be committed to this – it can’t be ad hoc. If you want to publish a blog, you need to post something at least every week to really build a profile – you need to be committed to this for the long term to make an impact
Good luck CEOs. I know it’s a bit of a weird time because you really don’t understand what social media is all about yet, because the reality is most people don’t understand the opportunity… but they soon will. It’s happening, the time is now, so get on board, do your research, set your guidelines and let your employees free. You won’t look back, although there’ll be a bit of turbulence along the way, but that’s life.
Andrea Edwards is managing director of SAJE, a Singapore-based strategic communications consultancy focused on professional writing and content development, messaging and positioning, and high class boutique events. You can check out SAJE’s blog at http://sajeideas.wordpress.com