In a study from the Stanford Governance Program, the question was asked whether senior management receives reports containing information and metrics from the company’s social media presence. The inquiry received an eye-opening answer: 55.5% answered no, 23.6% said yes, and the remaining 20.9% didn’t know. Those companies that answered no explained that their company doesn’t collect that kind of data, and explained that they felt it was too low level for senior management to deal with, and most interesting of all, they explained that they felt it was not valuable for making business decisions.
The Catalysts at AdHocnium disagree. On this AdHocnium Catalytic Podcast, Chris Heuer is joined by Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology, Redg Snodgrass of Stained Glass Labs, Bill Sanders of Roebling Strauss, and Bill Jensen of The Jensen Group, to discuss how senior executives can (and must) come to understand and become more involved social technologies and how they impact their markets and their companies.
There’s no doubt that senior executives often have a tremendous amount of responsibility across a wide variety of areas. As a result, social media is often glossed over by executives as either purely a marketing responsibility, or as something that is immaterial to their work, and their company’s position in the market. Delegation is an important part of any workplace, but today, many CEOs delegate most, if not all, of their responsibility for keeping up with social media, resulting in executives that sometimes fail to understand the competitive advantage that can be found in social media channels and the insights it can provide.
Shel begins the conversation by recounting his recent discussion about social media and social business with a number of executives. Overall, executives are interested in expanding their businesses into the social sphere, but often shrug their responsibilities as the CEO in bringing about that change. They often see social media as a “marketing responsibility,” and are rarely aware of the wealth of data that is available, if you only have the right systems and tools to surface it. When attempting to derive value from networks, a lack of understanding from executives can undermine those networks and the company’s ability to develop its capabilities in those areas.
Perhaps one of the reasons executives shy away from using social media is simply prioritization and time management, leading to a mindset of delegation and simplicity. But by delegating this task, an understanding of how the market is changing and its potential impact on their company’s competitive position never reaches the CEO. As Bill Jensen says, “To many people, it’s just another channel.” He goes on to explain that social media shapes both consumer and employee behaviors, and what is crucial isn’t understanding the specifics of how to use social media but rather how it shapes culture. Through social media, stakeholders rightfully feel they have a greater voice in execution decisions, and that is what senior leaders need to recognize.
Bill Sanders furthers the conversation by exploring the history of technological change. When computers were directed towards business accounting, the time it took to close the books for a quarter was reduced from thirty days to less than ten hours. However, many companies continued to use “30 day later” reporting, without recognizing that their ability to address this challenge strategically had shifted. In social media, the true nature and thereby potential, is still often misunderstood as simply a siloed marketing tool. Companies are just now beginning to see the impacts of social media now, and even then not the majority of its true potential.
Redg Snodgrass expands the discussion by introducing a conversation he had with a major CPG company. Despite an impressive budget, the team he worked with understood that implementing social media was a major priority. “I’ve got this weird belief that technology was actually created to bring us together,” says Redg, “[and] the more that this technology brings us together, and gets us closer to the ideal, the better it is for society and for businesses.” At the same time, however, there remained some ambiguity as to how involved the CEO was with the transition, as social integration is often seen as a way to simplify communication rather than enhance it.
One of the most troubling consequences of what Chris Heuer refers to as “Spreadsheet Management,” where a CEO emphasizes only the financial numbers of their company instead of the true value it creates in human terms, is that they become detached from their employees and customers. In his experiences with several large technology companies, Chris continually heard the phrase “Give me the one number.” Essentially, they asked “What’s the one number I can show to the CEO that says we’re doing well or not doing well with social media.” Chris’ response was to explain that there a multiple things to take into account depending on strategies deployed and activities undertaken. But the fact that he needed to explain this illustrates some disturbingly commonplace misunderstandings when it comes to the maturity of social and digital technologies in business.
To hear the full discussion between AdHocnium’s social and digital business leaders, listen to the conversation above. After listening to this podcast, please share your thoughts on this topic below, providing us with further insights on how executives can expand their understanding and participation with their company’s social media outlets. How do you break through the “care barrier”?