It’s not often something comes along that is so powerful it can change the rules of your game entirely. But, with social media, it’s happening to us right now – and most CEOs are slow to keep up.
How frustrating is it when you go into the local supermarket you frequent every week, only to find they’ve changed where everything is? Now you have to hunt for the things you could previously find in your sleep. You have to pay attention, and possibly even ask someone to help point you in the right direction. When you’re in a hurry, such changes can be very inconvenient.
However, every so often, that supermarket makes changes in an attempt to refine their business. They change it up to ultimately improve the flow and efficiency of how people move through the store and (after you’ve got over the fact you couldn’t find the damn milk as quick as you’d like) you can understand why they’ve done it and not only that, you begin to get used to it. It’s no big deal.
As we all know, things change in business every now and then and whilst it can be somewhat inconvenient initially, you adjust, learn and accept the change as progress.
A good CEO knows to keep up; we understand things move on and evolve over time – we do this in our own businesses. But what if when you went to that supermarket one day and this time you couldn’t wander around the store anymore at all? Instead, you sit at a desk and things are brought to you with other items the store recommends to you based on your original choice. Not only that, every time you make a decision, the store's loud speaker announces what you’ve bought to your fellow shoppers whilst simultaneously also showing you other peoples' choices too.
I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t yearn for the way they shopped the previous week. And, frankly, I wouldn’t blame them.
When you’ve been running a business perfectly well for years, growing year-on-year to become an expert on your process and your audience, why would you ever want to throw out that rule book and start communicating and operating in a completely different way? Why would you make these changes when people already seem to be a few steps ahead of you with new methods and you doubt they will even work in the first place?
Studies show that the biggest single reason for organizations failing at social media or not engaging at all is from a lack of buy-in right at the top of the tree with the CEO and senior management team.
Why are CEOs and other top executives not buying in?
The top three reasons for the lack of buy-in are:
- Lack of control
- Lack of understanding
- A concern it won’t last
All three of these concerns are credible and justifiable. You can’t control it, you may not understand it (yet) and it won’t last (for all we know) for long. It will continue to evolve at an incredible pace.
So why can we no longer control our brand?
I read a few weeks ago that a large airline had publicly requested of their customers to kindly not complain using social media because that is not where their customer service department personnel are currently resourced. A fair request? What do you think happened? And where do you think their customer service department is resourced now? That’s right, they now have people dealing with issues, complaints and questions on social media channels because their customers demanded it.
I wonder, if you were to speak to this airline, whether they could tell you when their brand first entered the social space. The fact of the matter is, it was when their customers started talking about them and not when they started to listen.
We can’t control our brands like the good old days any longer; our audience is doing that now – the best we can do is to proactively manage our brands’ reputation and influence our brands’ perception.
The biggest social media risk to businesses today, therefore, is the risk of not being there to talk to the people that are already talking about you. It is these people that are single-handedly shaping your brand – like it or not. So the least you can do is be there to listen if not engage.
Those CEOs accepting these facts and using social media to their advantage understand that it’s actually the biggest business gift we’re likely to see in our lifetimes. The only reason you should worry is if you’re not doing a very good job and your customers don’t get value from you. You might have to pull your socks up in a few areas but is that such a bad thing?
Here is a means to implicitly understand exactly what your customers want most, what they appreciate most and, more importantly, what they don’t like. It’s a tool that, once you’ve provided a good service to a customer, you don’t just get a thank you from, you get a public broadcast of affection and recommendation to many new like-minded prospects. And you’re not sure about it? Are you crazy?
When you look at it like this, it’s easy to understand why social media engagement has been proven to directly affect the financial stability and value of an organization. Financial analysts use levels of social media activity and performance as a key indicator of growth, success and stability for the future.
“Brands that are more deeply engaged with their consumers through social media like Twitter and Facebook are performing better financially.”
“Brands rated the most socially engaged saw revenues grow 18% those rated the least connected saw revenues drop 16% during the same period.”
The fact is social media isn’t just a marketing channel.
Social media is a primary means of communication that has quickly become a fundamental requirement to businesses just like the telephone, the website, or the email. You could choose not to use any of those communication methods too, but it would be a brave person that tries to succeed without them.
As a forward-thinking, open minded CEO, how can you embrace social media in all of its glory to enhance your brand perception and be more effective in your leadership role? Here’s some practical advice to make you look great.
CEO Cheat Sheet for Improving your Own Brand and Reputation.
- Start to blog about your area of specialty in order to leverage your reputation as an expert. You never know where it might lead.
- Follow other CEOs and industry experts that you admire and make more connections with others you’d like to know.
- Find best practices and share them with your management team – keep your team on their toes and show them you’re staying up to date with what’s going on.
- Follow your employees and keep in touch with people throughout the ranks – a great leader that acknowledges all of the work force.
- Measure the public sentiment of your brand against what you’re being told internally.
- Answer the occasional question from a customer – make someone’s day with a reply.
- Use a very public forum to affect change in your industry by challenging or influencing influencers and key decision makers – if people respect your opinion, it may just be enough to tip the balance when it counts and at least people will see you care.
- Ask your audience questions to get valuable feedback on your brand. – it will build your audience and you might be surprised at the response you get.