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When Key Executives are Social Media Holdouts

By Alan See
Chief Marketing Officer at MindLeaders

Most people would agree that practical experience is a good thing. If you've been around the block a time or two, the old adage "experience is the best teacher" is probably anchored in your mindset.

When I reflect on my lessons learned through practical experience, I always find Will Rogers' perspective insightful, but also at times, troublesome: "The trouble with using experience as your guide is that sometimes the final exam comes first, then the lesson."

Why troublesome? At one point or another, we all start out as greenhorns. And there are situations we occasionally experience that are really not possible to prepare for. What I find troublesome is the negative impact on organizations when key executives continue to scoff at the lessons offered—or worse, they refuse to acknowledge they were even handed an exam.

Are senior executives in your organization still scoffing at social media? In today's environment, your customers are testing your organization's ability to interact with them on social platforms the same way you communicate with them through e-mail and over the phone. In fact, you've probably seen the following factoids in several recent presentations:

  • 25 percent of social media users are more likely to look into a brand advertising on social media, and 15 percent of those users are more likely to purchase from social media advertisers (via Ad-ology Research).
  • 46 percent of Internet users worldwide interact with social media on a daily basis (via TNS Global).
  • 79 percent of consumers have joined a company's community to get more information on the company (via Universal McCann).

And yet, some of your peers are still hesitant about—or even openly against—implementing social media strategies in their organizations. I suspect some are hesitant because they do not personally use social media, and if the truth were known, they’re still not concerned with learning.

Even so, it's time to let go of the notion that social media is just for kids and has no business value. In short, you don't want the adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" to begin to be associated with your personal brand.

Here are some brief observations to share with your leadership peers that might motivate them to sign up for a lesson or two:

  • Your words and actions are magnified by your position. Most of your actions will seem more important to your employees than you intend; merely teasing about the use or value of social media on your part may become dangerously distorted by your workers. It's a critical time for you to provide executive-level support for this high-growth engagement channel. Keep this in mind: it's not about you, it's about your customers. If your customers want to communicate through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, who are you to stop them?
  • There's no need to boil the ocean. There are scores of social media-related platforms and applications, so don't be afraid to narrow your focus during your initial learning process. It's too early to declare with authority the platforms that will remain standing, those that will be absorbed, or those that will fade away. For senior executives, I recommend focusing on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook—in that order. Sidebar applications that help with efficiency and effectiveness (for example, TweetDeck for Twitter or various mobile applications for Facebook, etc.) can wait.
  • You can't learn to swim without getting wet, so jump in. If nothing else, just commit to spending 15 to 20 minutes per day learning the ins and outs of a single platform. Once you develop a comfort level, move to the next platform or application. If you have a trusted friend or colleague who is already social media savvy, consider asking him to breakfast or out for a beer. Use the opportunity to pick his brain about the platforms he likes to use, and how he strategically leverages those applications. If all else fails, hire someone to help you with your social media education. Based on my faculty and consulting background, I kind of like this idea! However, you may want to start out by making an author happy and simply purchasing one of the many social media related publications on the market.
  • The clock is ticking. Your customers are already sharing their experiences through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms at a rate that will continue to accelerate. As a result, social media should become a part of every organization's risk management and customer engagement strategy. That means the entire leadership team (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO, Sales, Legal, and HR) will feel the impact. You know from experience that it always takes more time than expected to secure cross-functional support. So, it's time to start building bridges.

Alan See

Currently the CMO at MindLeaders, Alan See is a senior marketing and sales executive with the rare ability to speak Web 2.0 and Sales 101 in the same sentence. He has also served as an associate faculty member at the University of Phoenix, where he facilitated several courses in e-business, marketing, and management theory. Alan has more than 25 years of industry experience helping companies develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives that power profitable growth. He has performed in senior marketing, analyst, management consulting, and sales management roles at AT&T, Seapine Software, Aberdeen Group, Teradata, SAS Institute, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and NCR Corporation. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University in Texas.