I Don’t Have Time For Social Media!


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The other day I was having dinner with a close friend.  He’s the President of a division of a company.  Eventually, the conversation got around to social media (is it something about me?).  He said, “Dave, I just don’t get it, you keep talking about social media and how important it is, but I just don’t get it, I don’t have time for it, my customers aren’t using it.

As we continued our conversation, he started saying, “I don’t have time to blog, I don’t have time to read blogs—even yours—and I really like your stuff (my ego was bruised a little), I don’t get twitter, Facebook is for kids….,”  he went on, “I’m overwhelmed by information, I don’t need more….,” the litany went on.  I just let him vent.

He is not unusual, I hear this from many senior executives.  I think it’s a result of not understanding what social media is and how they participate.  I think some of what causes this confusion is a caused by some of us who are relatively active in social media.

One of the problems with social media is there is too much of it… and there is too much junk.  I can see how executives and others get frustrated when they dip their toes into the social media pool.  There is a bit of a learning curve to figure out what you should be doing. 

However social media cannot be ignored—primarily because customers aren’t ignoring social media—not just consumers, but B2B customers.

Let me go on with my conversation.  We spoke a little about information overload.  I asked him, “How do you learn what’s on your customers’ minds?”  He jumped all over that, “It’s important to me, I talk to our sales guys, our applications engineers; I try to talk to customers as frequently as possible.”

“That’s great, “ I replied, “How many customers do you talk to a week?”

“Maybe 2-3, if I’m lucky,”  he responded.

“What trade events do you attend and publications do you read?”  I asked.

“Well, I try to make 1-2 of the key shows, every once in a while I skim one of the trade rags, but I really don’t have much time for them,” he responded.

I started to see a problem—and a potential for demonstrating the value of social media.

This executive is like many others I meet.  Somehow, everyday problems and events overtake us.  As much as we want to, we don’t get to spend as much time with customers, learning about customers, immersing ourselves in the industry and our markets, as we should.  We are overwhelmed with information, much of which does not increase our knowledge and understanding.

Nothing can take the place of getting information directly from customers, either in meetings or in calls.  The sales organization and others involved with customers on a daily basis are important sources of information.  The reality, however, is this ultimately provides a very limited perspective.  Top executives need to cast a wider net.

In the “old days—remember way back to the turn of the century—2000,” I would consume as many trade magazines I could.  Since I was on planes a lot, I always carried a bag filled with them.  I’d skim them on the plane and leave them in the pocket of the seat in front of me for the reading pleasure of the next passenger.  In those “old days,”  I’d subscribe to these specialized clipping services—they’d aggregate news and stories, based on my criteria.  I’d attend conferences and trade shows, I’d do everything I could to be listening to the markets, industry, customers.

Every executive needs to “listen” as much as possible—understanding what’s happening with customers, their problems, where they are going, what’s happening.  Every executives needs to make time to listen.

However, this is where social media comes in, there are so many powerful tools that help you listen.  There are tools to that help fit your information consumption needs to your own personal style and time commitments.  There are great news consolidators like InsideView and Hoovers.  There are numerous blogs—covering every topic imaginable, some consolidating industry and market information, others by industry thought leaders.  There are all sorts of readers that enable you to consolidate much of this information, presenting  a custom, real time clipping service.  Even tools like Twitter, searching on certain topics, key words, give an interesting snapshot of the conversations happening among your customers and competitors.

What about the issue, “my customers” are not there—using social media?  I think this is really wrong!  In this specific case, I had an unfair advantage with this client.  I had spoken to his marketing, product management, sales, and support people.  They said all their customers were all over the web.  They cited all sorts of discussion groups, news sites, activity at their own web site, and other things.  Their customers are technical people who leverage the web for gathering information on issues, solutions, suppliers….  While my experience base may be limited, I have not found an industry in which similar things are happening.  It may not be the CXO blogging, writing, or being interviewed, but in every sector I look, people are leveraging the web as a primary source of information and to screen potential suppliers.

Listening to customers is critical for every business professional—first we have to make the time to listen and immerse ourselves in our customers.  Social media provides a tremendous tool to leverage your listening—but it’s just a starting point. 

My advice to this executive and all others in the same situation is social media is critical in leveraging your listening productivity.  There is a bit of ramp up time in discovering the credible sources and sorting through the junk, but once you’ve done that, it gives tremendous insight.  Start with listening, over time you will also see more that social media can do.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Amazing Post!
    I agree to you, Listening productivity would be time saving for those who can’t spend time on reading but many people cannot listen especially those at offices then in that cases reading would be beneficial.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I actually meant “listening” figuratively–clearly we use social media primarily for reading.


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