The CEO’s Top Five Misconceptions of Social Media10.26.2010
By Yvonne Tocquigny
In more than 60 speaking engagements addressing a total of more than 1,500 CEOs over the past two years, I have repeatedly bumped up against a set of common misconceptions on the topic of social media.
Many business leaders view social media as a young person’s game and a waste of time for a serious executive whose calendar is already overbooked. As a CEO myself, I understand how much competition there is for our attention. Social media can seem like a very low priority. It’s important to understand where these misconceptions originate and how to guide a busy executive toward a rewarding plan of action.
Many CEOs are holding back to see what becomes of social media before committing to a company-wide strategy that requires the allocation of some serious resources. As a stopgap, some executives have identified a young person within their organization to set up a Facebook page or Twitter presence. And with this, the CEO has mentally checked off the social media box and moved on to focus on other things. They don’t realize that their company is exhibiting a social presence that hurts their business more than it helps. This approach gets a company the presence of a “twenty-something” individual (who most likely set it up), rather than the presence it needs or deserves.
Social media has become a required component of almost every company’s marketing mix. It should be considered an important part of every media plan. Each component of social media has a different purpose — any one social media outlet in and of itself isn't enough.
Misconception 2: “Someone on my staff” can write social media posts for me.
Most executives I speak with are delegating their social media. In the best cases, where this works, it looks like the executive is involved and sharing ideas even when he or she is hands-off in the process. The executive may or may not be reviewing this content prior to the posts. At any rate, executives often miss out on the action and settle for content attributed to them that is usually less insightful than what they might have generated. And they’re missing out on the responses from their audience.
Many executives point to the fact that they get no response to their social media blogs, tweets, posts, etc. as a justification for not allocating their time to it. The reason their posts get no attention is because they lack the true personality of the executive. This situation is difficult for the executive and the staff members who are beside themselves trying to drum up yet another pithy bit of content. Or staff members work themselves into a frenzy trying to imitate thought leadership beyond their personal scope of experience.
I recommend that CEOs genuinely participate in one social media tactic. Stick a toe into the water and give it a go for six months. See what can be learned. A marketing firm can provide direction, instruction, encouragement, and support. I see that this usually pays off for everyone. In the worst-case scenario, if the executive decides to revert to delegating the social media contributions, he or she will be much better at providing direction and support in the future.
Misconception 3: I can’t learn anything I’d value from social media.
“Who wants to hear about every time someone gets a cup of coffee or turns on the TV?” That’s the response I’ve heard from many CEOs to the topic of social media. They have taken a peek and saw little content that they value. They see it as a haystack of junk with a needle of wisdom buried somewhere within.
Once CEOs know where to go online, many are actually overwhelmed with information that is useful and beneficial to them. The key is to pick an area of interest or expertise and focus on a specific topic. Learn. See who the thought leaders are and engage them. Then, proceed to network and play with the big boys.
Misconception 4: The people I care about aren’t on social media.
Executives wonder why they should spend time participating in social media when their peers and customers aren’t there. They often hold the belief that it’s just the twenty-somethings and kids who are using social media.
Yes, young people are there. And so are the media. Investors. Analysts. Professors. Prospective employees. And customers. You name it. There is a group of influential, highly informed movers and shakers of every ilk on social media. And it’s growing.
Misconception 5: My life and business activities are private, not public.
Executives are averse to allowing their thoughts to go public. It’s the practice of holding their cards close to the vest. They are uncomfortable leaving traces of interactions with their contacts on quasi-public sites like Twitter. Executives often prefer silence and secrecy when pursuing potential clients or new business strategies. CEOs experience enough public scrutiny without opening themselves up to more from utter strangers.
Even so, there is a place for discretion while using social media as an opportunity to monitor and learn as well as hold a conversation on selected topics.
All of these CEO misconceptions point to the need for a social media strategy that is integrated into a larger marketing picture that includes more traditional initiatives such as email marketing, search, and even direct mail. Once the tactics have been integrated to fully support each other, a measurement strategy is crucial. When CEOs receive regular data to understand how social media is helping to meet the company’s business goals, you’ll see a completely different attitude and willingness to play the game.
Tocquigny is nationally recognized as a top-tier interactive agency serving global brands with creative branding and A Measured Approach™ to interactive. With an extensive breadth of services, Tocquigny can harness the latest trends and technologies in social, interactive, direct response and mobile marketing. Founded by Yvonne Tocquigny in 1980, the agency is propelled by innovation, proven methodologies and hands-on leadership. Tocquigny has been named the “No. 2 Interactive Agency in the Nation" by BtoB Magazine and a “Top 20 Interactive Agency” by Adweek.