Are your key executives still scoffing at social media?


Share on LinkedIn

Most people will agree that practical experience is a good thing. In fact, 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? After all, at one point or another we all start out as greenhorns. And let’s face it; 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 customer’s are testing your organizations ability to interact with them on social platforms in the same way you communicate with them through email and over the phone. In fact, you’ve probably seen the following factoids in a dozen presentations over the last six months:

· 75% of all active U.S. Internet households visited a social networking site.

· 22% of the time spent online is attributed to social networking sites.

· 20% of U.S. adults online publish or own a blog.

· 55% have at least one or more social networking profiles.

· 70% of consumers want to interact with businesses using social media while less than one-third of companies have the strategies, policies, and processes in place to meet this demand.

And yet some of your peers are still hesitant, or openly against implementing social media strategies into your organization. I suspect some are hesitant because they are not personally using 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 brand (personal or corporate). Here are some brief observations to share with your leadership peers that might motivate them to sign up for a lesson or two.

1. 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 new and emerging 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?

2. 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 the ones that will fade away. For senior executives I would 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.

3. You can’t learn to swim without getting wet, so jump in. If nothing else, just commit to spending 15 – 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 them to breakfast or out for a beer. Use the opportunity to pick their mind on the platforms they like to use, and how they strategically leverage 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 today.

4. The clock is ticking. We’re quickly moving from a time of mass communications to one of masses of communicators; your customers are 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 organizations 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
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. I’m training Chapter Chairs for the Women Presidents’ Organization on 8/5 — 60+ smart, savvy business owners from 4 continents. This piece is perfect for them! Thanks so much!

    Anne Messenger

  2. Alan:

    Great line: “The trouble with using experience as your guide is that sometimes the final exam comes first, then the lesson.”

    Experience and future vision are the best combo!

    Appreciate the article.


  3. Hi Alan,

    Great article. I like how this is geared towards executives. I love the line “it’s not about you, it’s about your customers.” I see businesses not wanting to participate because of their reluctance, not because of their customers. Listen to your customers, they will tell you what they want. If they hang out on Facebook, then it may be useful to have a presence on Facebook and connect with them.

    Look forward to reading more of your stuff!

    Thanks, Dave.

  4. The predicament then. Have a great theoretical strategy in social media recruitment together with terrific insight in how it would work and be implemented even alongside the traditional revenue stream and without a big bang theory. Cool. But now, herein comes the problem in how to influence the key executives?

    I found your blog helpful in this respect Alan. My favourite line here “We’re quickly moving from a time of mass communications to one of masses of communicators “. That is indeed the moving from the web1.0 outbound mindset to web2.0 inbound mindset!

    The same quandary exists for the UK and especially in the recruitment industry at least. Now I always advocate that tomorrow’s leaders need to think about tomorrows strategy and technology today and most leaders would readily agree. But when that approaches the social media topic it can be a taboo subject and indeed fiercely scoffed at! Yes, we are in a business as many businesses, that have had several shifts in technology that has been even a gift over time and uptake has been slow but uptake does happen. But for social media, whilst it is the biggest gift ever on the horizon – especially for recruitment ~ the people attraction and conversation businesses [in fact putting the conversation back into the recruitment business] is met with such fierce reluctance.

    Fortunately, I have to say I am with a company always innovating. But from my experience [of the exam!] I could only summate that this is either because of fear of the unknown, are in denial, no longer want to learn [because they have met their aspirations and also may not intend to be around for the ‘tomorrow’] or is some protectionism instinct against what is seen as a threat to where the 100% of existing revenue stream exists. In all cases, they are not willing to enter the mindset. They don’t understand LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. It’s nothing to do with them. Their kids might use it but that’s nothing to do with them. They do business as it should be, face to face, on the phone and no doubt liquid lunches and maybe some press adds and outbound interrupt marketing campaign now and again.

    I also see that where there is an inkling of interest, this is perceived as some possible cost saving exercise and wanting some solid examples of ROI. Really they just haven’t got it! So to accountants – no it is not a cost saving exercise!

    A business then will innovate or die more so today than ever and if all else fails, the older ‘reluctant to change’ mindset may retire soon in any event and certainly being client lead, I’m sure near 100% of those that are age 30 or so today are tomorrows clients and are certainly expecting nothing less than ones ‘signal’ to be in social media space and not in the inbox and letterbox along with the spam.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here