Social Media: Why Business Leaders Should Care

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I had a great discussion last week with Mike Kelly and Peter Auditore about social media and why business leaders should care.

If you agree with the premise that we now live and work in a world that is increasingly becoming more and more ‘social’ then it is easy to understand that new rules in business are being written for companies to be successful and compete.

Social media now thrives in a dynamic environment as a result of the convergence of many great enabling technologies built around the Internet, Web 2.0, and mobile along with advancements in bandwidth and connectivity (among other things).

We now operate in a world where hundreds of millions of people are seamlessly connected through devices and the Internet – sharing billions of pieces of content, information and experiences on a daily basis.  It is just amazing.

In many ways, social media has evolved to become a very powerful medium to channel emotion, context and experience.

  • Emotion: How I feel…
  • Context: What I think or where I am…
  • Experience: What I did and how I will act as a result of…

Perhaps the most important component for business leaders to understand and appreciate in a social world is ‘experience.’

A bad experience shared on the Internet can travel at a velocity that can reach millions of people over night. 

As people begin to identify with or share their own similar (bad) experiences – the impact on a company’s reputation and sales can be dramatic.  This alone should be enough to cause concern for any business leader. 

Perhaps more important though, is that every bad experience exposes a root issue (e.g. product or service quality, sales experience issues, etc.) that if ignored or not addressed in a timely manor can further expose a company to massive short and long-term business challenges.

…and in today’s social environment, the spark that often ignites the flame comes via a tweet, a blog post or a status update to a social media peer group.

As a result, many business leaders now realize the transformative power that social media can have on a business. One only needs to look at recent ‘lessons’ from Toyota, Nestle, and Dominos (among dozens of others) .

Business leaders usually start to ‘get it’ when they think about social media in the context of ‘social business’ and how principles of ‘social thinking’ can help them compete in this new environment.

This said, I have found that there are three fundamental principles of social thinking that business leaders must ‘align to’ in order to be successful in a social business environment. They must:

  1. Be open to ideas outside of their own
  2. Be flexible and open enough to incorporate those ideas into what they do
  3. Have genuine desire to achieve continuous competitive advantage

If business leaders align to these principles, then applying the process of social engagement/interaction to what they do (using social media tools to support) will open up great opportunities and help avoid great potential risks.

Now going back to the fact that we now operate in a world with hundreds of millions of people sharing billions of piece of content, information and experience…

Business leaders (at a minimum) should use social media tools now to understand how their company’s brand, products and/or services are being used and experienced by people.  Insights gained from just ‘looking through the portal’ can provide tremendous value to any business executive, by identifying: product and service quality issues; new ideas for product and service innovations (based on how people are using); new routes to market; etc.

Social media is no longer a front-line issue for just marketing and communications within a corporation.  Business leaders must appreciate and start to understand and apply the principles of social business and social thinking to their operations – now.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Don Bulmer
Royal Dutch Shell
Don Bulmer is Vice President of Communication Strategy at Royal Dutch Shell.

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