By now, everyone within reach of a newspaper or web site has heard about the rise of the social web. You might have heard other terms used, like “Web 2.0,” “social networking” or “consumer-generated media.”
Millions of people are now using the social web to spout off on every topic you can imagine—and some you’d rather not imagine. Or to build networks of hundreds or thousands of “friends” and share photos and videos with them. Or to read and exchange information about what they like, or don’t, about all kinds of products and services, from books to restaurants.
These are exciting times for the many newly empowered people. Yet most of what’s been going on has passed CEOs right on by. Solid statistics are hard to come by, yet it seems that few CEOs are personally spending their time on the social web, especially when the subject turns to blogging in larger corporations. Just try to find them!
If your business is struggling or you are newly in charge, blogging could be just the ticket to help you communicate your turnaround plans with all stakeholders.
If you’re one of those who are staying on the sidelines during this most important phenomenon, you’re missing a unique opportunity to engage on a personal level with all your stakeholders: customers, employees and partners. So what are your reasons for not personally diving into the rapidly rising and swirling social web waters?
Whatever they are, in the following 10 points I’ll explain why these imagined obstacles are really just poor excuses for not leading this revolution.
Excuse No. 10: You don’t have enough time.
Seriously, would you accept this excuse from one of your employees? Last I checked, everyone has the same number of hours in the day. It’s all in how you decide to use them. So, what you’re really saying is that the social web is not important enough (yet) for you to invest your time in it. But consider this: Some very busy CEOs are blogging regularly, like Bill Marriott of Marriott International. You can, too.
Excuse No. 9: You don’t know what to write about.
If this is your excuse, then I have an idea of what you could write, instead: your résumé. As a captain of industry, you’re called upon to communicate frequently, to everyone from employees to shareholders to conference attendees. What are you discussing with them? Blogging is a good way to reinforce some of things you’re already talking about, except that, unlike typical one-way pitches, you can really engage with people. Quick tip: Get a blank sheet of paper and write down 10 topics that you are personally passionate about. That’s your blogging plan for the year. If you’re really stuck for ideas, then ask your readers periodically what they’d like you to blog about.
Excuse No. 8: You don’t like criticism and negative comments.
Who does? Yet we all have relationships with family, friends and colleagues, where feedback is par for the course. Leadership is not just about telling, it’s also about engaging with others. If you run a big company, there’s a very good chance that some of the bad news you should be hearing is being filtered by middle management. Would you rather hear about it on a “Dell Hell“-like blog posting that hits CNN or in comments on your own blog? One way or another, customers will have their say on the social web. As a last resort, you could consider starting your blog with comments disabled, but I don’t recommend it. That’s like saying “no comment” to the media, which just means that bloggers will comment on your not allowing comments. You don’t want that.
Excuse No. 7: Web 2.0 technology is immature, so it’s better to wait.
Maybe your CIO has been whispering in your ear that this new-fangled “Web 2.0” is not ready for prime time. Not true. Major software vendors like Oracle and SAP are introducing collaborative features into their software suites. As I mentioned in Web 2.0 Powers Up People, my recap of a 2007 Web 2.0 conference, well-known technology brands like Adobe, AOL, IBM, Intel, salesforce.com and WebEx are embracing Web 2.0 concepts and providing more integrated solutions. And there are many other market-proven solutions that provide great function and ease-of-use, at a low cost.
Excuse No. 6: The chief marketing officer should be the one blogging, to promote your company.
If you really believe this, then for heaven’s sake, don’t blog. (And tell the CMO not to blog, either.) By promoting only the company line, you’ll do more damage than good. But it’s still a dumb excuse because marketing is not just about promoting. Anything a business does helps to build a brand and is, therefore, part of its marketing efforts. Your open and transparent communications could help create a more positive and authentic image about your company. That’s marketing without marketing, if you catch my drift.
Excuse No. 5: Your writing style makes the dictionary seem entertaining.
Hmm. Thought you had me on this one, didn’t you? Well, it’s true that, if you can’t write so good … er … well, then your blog won’t be a big hit. But before you give up, take a look at your emails. Are they short, chatty and engaging? Then you, too, can be a blogger! Check out Success & Motivation: Don’t Lie to Yourself from Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks National Basketball Association team) for a good example of a message likely to “go viral” in the blogosphere. All that said, if writing is not your thing, then try podcasting: Record an audio message and post it on your web site. You may need some help with this one, but it’s not difficult.
Excuse No. 4: Your lawyers say you can’t blog because you run a public company.
Then fire your lawyers. Yes, you have to be careful about “forward looking” statements and SOX compliance, but that’s not a good reason for leaving a vacuum in what should be your space on the social web. Jonathan Schwartz, president and CEO of publicly traded Sun Microsystems, is a prolific blogger. Somehow he’s managed to keep his job, and, more importantly, blogging has help spread the word about the new Sun. If your business is struggling or you are newly in charge, blogging could be just the ticket to help you communicate your turnaround plans with all stakeholders and give the press something to read, too. And that’s not all. Comments from your readers could help clarify and improve your business plans. That’s how Dell realized that it should continue to offer Windows XP. Tell that to your lawyers.
Excuse No. 3: Bloggers have to post every day.
Says who? Perhaps this myth was started by bloggers with no life. What’s important is consistency and quality, not frequency. Find a schedule that works for you. I’d suggest a monthly blog post to start and a weekly check-in to answer a few questions. And then add a new post occasionally during the month when you’ve got something to say.
Excuse No. 2: Only the kids are using social networking.
Did you know that 148,000 executives sign in to LinkedIn every day? Maybe you’d like to connect with some of them. Or, they with you. My own LinkedIn network is modest (less than 100 connections), but still, without breaking a sweat, I found 500 CEO contacts that I could potentially contact directly or as “friends of friends.” As head honcho of your business, you got to your exalted position through relationships and networking. Maybe Facebook is not your style (especially if the numnuts running it continue to abuse user privacy), but you can expect that LinkedIn and other industry-specific business networks will be springing up to serve executives like you.
And finally, …
Excuse No. 1: Setting up your own blog is too much trouble.
Then don’t. Get involved in online community sites where you can network and communicate with others with a shared interest. It’s more fun than blogging solo, and all of the technology “heavy lifting” is done for you. At CustomerThink, for example, anyone can set up an account in just a few minutes. You can add comments to other posts to get your feet wet and then blog when you’re ready. If you’re passionate about customer-centric business, we’d love to hear from you!
Many of your customers are already on the social web; the rest will be coming soon. Even if no other CEO in your industry is blogging or using social networking, it’s an opportunity for you to be a leader.
Isn’t that what CEOs do?