What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two)

17 08 2009

Continued from an earlier post. Part One is here. Here’s my take on some of the other fears a CEO may have.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: So much of what’s discussed online is shallow and we have real work to do

BE FEARLESS: Opportunities aren’t always where we think they are.  Encourage the passionate people in your company to find time to learn about social media, without neglecting their current duties. Ask them to report back what they’ve learned.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We don’t have the time/resources to contribute and moderate

moneyBE CAUTIOUS: There are ALWAYS a lot of things a company can do, and NEVER enough money and attention to do them all well. Leaders have to choose which activities they believe will have the strongest payout, and focus on those.

Sometimes the fun, sexy stuff is the PERFECT place for a company to focus their efforts. Sometimes not.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: Our customers don’t use it/It doesn’t fit into current structures

BE FEARLESS: Listen and find out if your customers use social media, and how they do it. Once you know more, you can decide whether it’s smart to overhaul your current structures or not.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We are in B2B and who wants to hear about our boring product on a blog or twitter

BE FEARLESS: I think Social media may be stronger for B2B than for B2C, because it’s typically a more intimate sale and the needs are more clearly articulated. Listen first — you may be surprised by what you hear.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: Traditional media is still bigger, we will use Social Media when it is more mainstream

BE CAUTIOUS: A recent Forrester report says that 80% of the ad spend in 2014 will still be in traditional media.  tvWe’ve been trying to bury TV since the early 1990s, and it refuses to stay dead.  Why?

From a consumer POV, it’s because it’s still pretty good. Have you seen “30 Rock” lately?

From an advertiser’s POV, it’s because it offers scale and message control that social media can’t possibly provide.

It doesn’t mean social media isn’t important. But it’s important to keep its size and role in perspective.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: No guaranteed results/tools to measure and analyze Social Media aren’t mature enough yet

madoffBE FEARLESS: There are no guaranteed results in business anywhere. Beware of Madoffs who promise you there are.

Also, tools to measure and analyze will NEVER be good enough.  I believe we’ll ultimately learn that it is as difficult to prove ROI for social media as it has been for traditional PR.

But just because something can’t be quantified to the micro-penny doesn’t mean it can’t add value. All business is a bet on the future, and not all bets pay off.

We can’t steer the world by sitting in front of Microsoft Excel. Our what-if scenarios must meet the real world at some point, if they are ever to deliver results. If your gut says social media can help you reach a goal and you understand the risk-reward equation clearly, go for it.


SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We will lose control of our brand and image

BE CAUTIOUS: Gurus love to preach about how “the consumer is in control”, and in many important ways that’s true.  But a company’s brand is a precious asset, and not something that any company can afford to simply turn over to a mob that will seek to damage it just for LULZ.

CEOs and CMOs still have a very real responsibility to grow and protect their brand’s image. There’s a difference between understanding that the customer is boss and abdicating your responsibility for protecting the brand.


The Bottom Line: Balance

All real growth comes from trying something new and different. But, that’s not the same thing as taking a flying leap into the darkness.tide-loads-of-hope

Companies and brands need to find a way to balance the need for learning with the need for appropriate caution.

I think companies like P&G are doing a good job of immersing their execs in digital culture and testing the waters.

You may not be as big as P&G, but there’s still a lot you can learn from watching how they have approached social media.

How are you finding your balance in social media?




7 responses

17 08 2009
Chris Walbert

As always, I appreciate your balanced and level-headed approach.

In 2004, I was working in-house for a weight loss company and we were starting to really see some tremendous growth on our e-commerce site. Sales were moving from 60/40 (call center/web) to near 30/70, and this was happening very quickly. With the basic idea that web customers deserved the same ability to ask questions and get support that phone customers had, we implemented some extremely simple discussion boards on our e-commerce site.

Within a few weeks, there was an almost overwhelming number of people posting to these boards multiple times a day. The interesting part was that they weren’t posting questions for the company to answer. They were asking each other about results, what products they liked the best, and encouraging one another to stick with the plan. What we thought would be helpful to a small number of customers ended up being the most popular part of our site, by far.

Once we saw how desperately our customers wanted to connect with each other, we decided to build an online community with all the tools they would need to follow the plan and support each other. While convincing certain people in the company that online communities were important in ’04/’05 was sometimes difficult, it was never hard to convince customers. They loved it from the very beginning and, at least in part, due to the support they received from other customers, were extremely loyal.

All of this is to say that if you provide a platform for your customers to talk and you actually listen to what they say, they will tell you what they need. I know telling companies to “listen” has been done to death, but it really is true. But don’t just listen to the most vocal customers and the ones that may be outliers, listen to all of them, get a sense for what they need, and then give that to them.

17 08 2009
John Clapps

“There’s a difference between understanding that the customer is boss and abdicating your responsibility for protecting the brand” – well said.

Social media should be the single best way to monitor what people think of a product or service. It shouldn’t be feared but embraced.


17 08 2009
25 08 2009
Walter Adamson

While a certain sector of the enthusiasts, gurus, and experts lament that the CEOs and CMOs “don’t get it” we find that’s often not the case.

They get that there is something big going on. What they don’t get, and don’t get from their agency experts and others, is how they can approach this in a business-like way across the whole company. So they DO get that there is a lot of thinking needed, and a good plan, and good execution and monitoring, and it involves more than pushing out messages from marketing.

They lack somewhere to turn for education and training and for robust business processes. That’s causing hesitation because it shoots the risk sky high to rush into the unknown.

I think it is in this area of helping facilitate the education and the understanding of the organisational changes and ongoing management processes that real social media practitioners are making their mark.

Walter Adamson, @g2m
Social Media Academy, Australia

25 08 2009

Walter, thanks for the comment. I think education, understanding, and — especially — thoughtful execution are very much needed. Hopefully your Social Media Academy can offer good guidance.

Which brand marketers (in Australia or around the world) would you consider best-in-class at getting these right today? More important, what are they doing well that others should emulate?

26 08 2009
Randall Garcia

Interesting and poignant. Luckily, we’ve had great success with initially resistant clients. There was a definite fear factor at first. But then when we showed them the incredible volume of data we were able to dig up (sorry, no pun intended — we use a service called WebDig now), the fear turned into fear of NOT doing something. Not to say its all fear tactics. When you can translate what it all means and how it relates to supporting their brand or changing their consumer dialog strategy, it becomes a tool to really get in the trenches with them.

26 08 2009

Randall, you’ve hit on the critical success factor when you talked about getting in the trenches with your client.

It is disingenuous for would-be “gurus” to preach about authenticity and relationship-building in one breath and then Tweet and blog that “clients are idiots” in the next.

The clients worth having aren’t the ones that can be terrorized into trying social media. The clients worth having are the ones who think.

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