Why the "Social CEO" Debate Is All Wrong

ListenLogic
Mark Harrington Vice President of Marketing, Clutch

Posted on August 26th 2013

Why the "Social CEO" Debate Is All Wrong

social CEOIn recent weeks you’ve likely noticed the amassing opinions on the latest buzz term “social CEO.” Opinions ranging from ‘CEOs absolutely need to become social’ to ‘CEOs should completely avoid social media,’ most of them, like with many debates, attempt to make the issue formulaic by taking a one-size-fits-all approach for every CEO in every company across every industry in the market.

This simplistic approach ignores the fundamental concept that CEOs, just like the general human population they're derived from, have very different, contrasting personality types; those who are technical and those who are not. Those who are extraverts and those who are not. Those who feel comfortable broadcasting their thoughts and opinions to the masses and those who do not. In other words, getting “social” is not for everyone and particularly not for every chief executive.

While, according to CEO.com, 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs reportedly have no social media presence, most corporate captains are also not the public face or spokesperson of their company in the mold of Walt Disney, Steve Jobs or Frank Perdue, and for good reason in most cases. Placing these executives outside their comfort zone, particularly with limited social understanding, can become a massive threat to the organization’s reputation, financial state and shareholder value. One mis-tweet can blowup into an all-out crisis for the enterprise. Conversely, those chief executives who do have a genuine social savvy and a personality driven by engagement can create great value and opportunity for their organizations.

Social’s Executive Value

Debating whether CEOs should be tweeting is an interesting topic, but misses the mark on how social media can actually deliver significant, multidimensional value to chief executives devoid of massive pitfalls and risks. Every CEO, regardless of their “social state,” can become engaged in the deep, ongoing, real-time social conversation around their business simply by becoming an active listener to open social universe. Doing so can provide unprecedented understanding on variety of levels to grow and protect their business.

The value of advanced social intelligence through active listening is tremendous, particularly to C-level executives. This delivers advanced insight from across the open social universe (well beyond the limits of Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest), providing intelligence on a wide array of strategic fronts, including:

Opportunity Identification: Unveiling strategic market insights, trends and tipping points on brands, products, shoppers, customers and influencers provides incredible visibility to drive growth, innovation and identify market opportunities.

Competitive Tacking: The ability to keep close tabs on the decisions, actions, reputation and attitudes surrounding traditional and emerging competitors, helps set strategy and guide major corporate decisions.

Risk Mitigation: From industry issues to regulatory pressures, framing and mapping the shifts in the growing number of risks facing the enterprise allows for effective strategic response to minimize impact to protect the organization.

Threat Detection: From protests and lawsuits to extortion and sabotage, corporations are facing multi-front social wars. Gaining an edge on identifying these threats in real-time helps facilitate effective executive response.

The Bottom Line

So while it interesting to debate the impact of an executive “getting social,” the case for which and the related impact to the enterprise will differ dramatically from industry to industry, corporation to corporation and executive to executive. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in this situation. However, on a universal basis, corporate officers across the C-suite can gain tremendous insight, understanding and perspective to set strategy, guide decisions and drive innovation with social intelligence.

The key to unlocking this value is to first getting a holistic view of the entire open social universe to uncover relevant, actionable insights, opportunities, risks and threats facing the enterprise. This is accomplished through advanced big data processing and complex modeling to discover veiled intelligence from the far-reaching corners of the open social universe, well beyond the mainstream social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Achieving this also requires an executive commitment to adopt this social intelligence to listen and understand what the market is saying on an on-going basis. Doing so delivers unprecedented value to CEOs, their boards, shareholders and management teams to grow and protect the enterprise like never before.

(Social CEO / shutterstock)

ListenLogic

Mark Harrington

Vice President of Marketing, Clutch

Mark Harrington is Vice President of Marketing for Clutch which delivers advanced consumer management solutions, including strategic customer identification, understanding, targeting and engagement to the world's leading brands like Pandora, Harley-Davidson, New Balance and The Body Shop.

Mark's unique expertise spans publishing to payments and education to ecommerce, serving strategic marketing roles with leading corporations like eBay, Citi and Pearson and pioneering startups like Half.com, Ecount and Infonautics. He's excelled in Inc 500s to Fortune 500s, been instrumental in landmark exits worth over a half billion dollars and helped catapult an array of pioneering industry solutions. 

He's also co-author of Social Business Intelligence: Reducing Risk, Building Brands & Driving Growth with Social Media and Avoiding #FAIL: Mitigating Risk, Managing Threats and Protecting the Corporation in the Age of Social Media.

You can follow him at @mark_harrington on Twitter.

See Full Profile >

Comments

Klaas-Jan Meijer
Posted on August 27th 2013 at 5:19AM

Hello Mark,

I enjoyed the article and fully agree on the value of social listening for organizations and modern day Ceo's. However, in my mind saying that executive leaders' lack of social media's awareness and presence is related to their persobality types is the same as saying that some Ceo's dont have the personality for sound business strategy. A cop out in my opinion. I think it's fair to say that many modern day Ceo's are lacking in the social dimension of the companies they're leading. A gap in skill, understanding and familiarity that should be adressed first in my opinion regardless of personality type. Also, the level of understanding required to properly understand social listening in my mind requires a substantial understanding anof social anyway.

 

Regards,

Klaas-Jan

ListenLogic
Posted on August 30th 2013 at 2:31PM

Klass-Jan,

Thanks for the comment and kind words.

I don't agree that it's a "cop out," rather than a simple fact of the matter. Business strategy is the focal point of most executives classical training, education and experience. They are essetically groomed at the collegiate and corporate levels to understand strategy and make decisions (in most cases) assuming the went to b-school and climbed the "corporate ladder," as most have.

Conversely, although social media has exsisted since the outset of the Internet (remember listservs and bulletin boards in the 90s?) the current generation of enterprise CEOs were largely not "raised" or trained in social media. Most adopt it based on their comfort levels with technology and, hence, their personalities.

I agree that gaps in this skill should be addressed, but in many cases it simply is not a priority to C-level executives given their lack of interest or a lack of perceived value in what social is combined with the demands of their roles. Plus, social can pose an incredible risk to the enteprise on both and outbound and in-bound level.

My point is that the deveopment of a "Social CEO" is a case-by-case situation depending on the individual and often the corporation rather than the one-size-fits-all and "every CEO needs to tweet" answer many are trying to fit into the debate.

-Mark

SocialBen
Posted on August 27th 2013 at 11:36AM

A great read and perspective, thank you

ListenLogic
Posted on August 27th 2013 at 12:09PM

Thanks for the comment and kind words Ben.


-Mark

Warren Whitlock
Posted on August 29th 2013 at 11:37PM

Trying to tell a CEO how he should use social media is about as dumb as suggesting what car they drive or how many phone calls they need to make in a day. "Being social" is as good an idea as it's ever been and any C level executive worth his salt is a good networker already.

Great to see that pointed out here. Now let's start a conversation about the revolution in business that requires engaging customers as individuals, at every level and how we can get there.

SocialBen
Posted on August 30th 2013 at 7:51AM

Sounds like a google hangout ..........

ListenLogic
Posted on August 30th 2013 at 2:17PM

Thanks for the comment Waren.

Yes, executives are used to networking, but social boradcasting is dramatically different. The untrained or unaware executive can get themselves and their companies in dire straights with a few "mis-tweets" or attacks against them.


Aetna's CEO, Mark Bertolini was pressured by a self proclaimed "twtter mob" to change coverage policies of the corporation for a students, which impacting its stock and potentially costing Aetna hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention created a stir for customers in the other segments of their business.


Social can provide opportunity, but can also deliver and facilitate incredible enterprise risk on both an outbound and inbound level to a corporation.


-Mark

A11ey
Posted on August 30th 2013 at 1:45AM

I could not agree more! I also believe that CEO's representing their company as a spokesperson should not have other people (or an agency) tweeting, posting, blogging etc. "as" them. While I understand that workloads and other priorities take precedence, I strongly believe if they do not have time tweet for themselves, then maybe it is not a priority and they should consider choosing another spokesperson, or just a company twitter.

ListenLogic
Posted on August 30th 2013 at 2:20PM

That's a great point Allison, thanks for the comment. Trust and transparency are at the heart of social relationships and executives should defintely be mindful of this. It's certainly understandable for executives to want to have a social presence, but having it be authentic develops credibility and utimately trust from the market.


-Mark

Quintain
Posted on August 30th 2013 at 8:34PM

Thanks for posting Mark. The question of whether every CEO should be social is an interesting one. I take your point that certain personality types are more apt to take naturally to social media, however I'm not sure I agree that that is a good basis to determine whether a CEO should/should not engage. I think of social media a bit like talking to the press or public speaking. Not everyone is a natural, but a good CEO who is not comfortable with the media will get media training, and one who is not great at public speaking will get help with that. I don't see why social media should be any different, especially when you look at the data regarding how CEO involvement in social media impacts customer trust and loyalty.

We recently published a blog on this topic and it features some original research on how exactly C level executives ARE using social media - specifically Twitter. You can view it here: http://info.quintainmarketing.com/blog/bid/291075/Social-CEOs-The-Tweeting-Habits-of-Top-Executives

Best,

Kathleen Booth

Quintain Marketing

http://www.quintainmarketing.com

ListenLogic
Posted on September 3rd 2013 at 6:41PM

Kathleen,

Thanks for the comments. I think many executives and corporations look at social media as a matter of simply jumping on an posting. This is largely why so many brands have social media issues, given the lack of discipline and seriousness they take with it.

I think social media training could go far to helping executives understand the medium and craft issues. This would have to go deep to be effective to help them understand how they can be pressured and even extorted to make decisions. Aetna's CEO was bullied by a self proclaimed "social mob" into changing insurance policy with a few mere tweets. It was David vs. Goliath, but Bertolini, the CEO, was David in this case.

Social training can certainly help, but it's critical to understand the dynamics and tactics of the different social personalities than can manipulate and hurt the executive and ultimately their company and shareholders. This can be much more complex and veiled than hosting an earning call or dealing with a reporter.

Mark