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The right business conversation about social media

Organizations have become more and more aware of the need to address social media in some way. It is a rarity today to find executives who have not considered the impact of social media on their organization and what options may be available to them. However, it is still a challenge to ensure the right conversation is conducted within the organization. Too frequently the social media conversation is directed to either the wrong level in the organization or to the wrong function. Let me illustrate.

Social media is not a sideshow

Not so long ago, I was working with a business in the services arena that was growing rapidly. It had a dynamic leadership team strongly focused on gaining market share. In a conversation with the CEO, I asked about their social media strategy and how they viewed this as a strategic opportunity. The answer was that they thought social media was important and that they had asked the so-called young people in the business to develop the approach and how this could be implemented. On one level, it was admirable to have the so-called young people involved, and this gesture was appreciated within the business. Furthermore, it was also seen as a very contemporary statement by embracing the new joiners in the business, especially those fresh from university.

But on the other hand, this approach defied logic in so many ways. In fact, it sadly highlighted a virtual abdication of responsibility on the part of the leadership of the organization. Yes, the young people have a role, and their ideas and experiences would add much to the discussion, but the key point that I emphasized with the CEO was that the social media strategy and its approach are crucial business issues for the CEO and C-suite executives.

In another situation, I was speaking to a group of executives at a breakfast briefing and their view was also somewhat off the mark. They espoused the virtue of their decision to let their IT community come up with some options and really drive the social media agenda. The IT function of course has a key role in the development and the execution of the social media strategy, but it is only one factor in the mix.

C-suite ownership and involvement are crucial

The above conversations are not uncommon and, sadly, miss the mark. Moreover, they could be costing organizations lost opportunity in the marketplace or with their stakeholders. The conversation around social media is one that affects the entire organization and therefore must involve the C-suite. This is the case whether the business is B-to-B or B-to-C as outlined above, but it is particularly the case for a B-to-C organization. It also applies equally to government organizations, especially those dealing directly with citizens.

The business conversation needs to take into account a number of points.

First, the social media activity will have an impact on all aspects of the organization in some way. For many organizations, this will be a very direct interaction with customers whereas for others it will be more around brand reputation and stakeholder management. But the point is that it is a business issue that needs to be considered as a whole and not just palmed off to one part of the organization to address.

In addition, the execution of a proper social media strategy will need the allocation of resources, and so the involvement of the C-suite is essential to ensure that the full business perspective is provided for these decisions. This is also important to ensure that the return on investment process is monitored and managed over time.

Finally, the social media strategy may need to change over time to respond to changes in the marketplace and to the actions of competitors. Earlier chapters have already highlighted the fast-moving nature of social media, which in turn underscores the importance of C-suite involvement in this journey and engagement in the changes that will inevitably occur.

Key questions to consider

  • What plan does your organization have for engagement in social media?
  • What type of business conversation do you propose to have with your executive team regarding social media strategy?

The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at https://www.createspace.com/4678871

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