I find insufferable pain in the reality that CEOs at many Global 2000 and mid-market companies view content marketing, social media and sales enablement through a dated lens. For instance, an article in the March/April issue of Chief Executive magazine entitled "Leveraging Social Media to Collaborate with Employees and Customers" makes an observation straight out of 2010: We are likely approaching a tipping point for social media in the enterprise.
Today, many CEOs believe that social media is - at best - little more than window dressing and - at worst - a distraction for already over-stretched employees. But by 2013, an increasing number of CEOs will awaken to evidence that social media is where the important conversations, internal and external, take place and that real business benefits can be realized by harnessing the relationship-building power of social media platforms.
Why is the top corporate brass such laggards when it comes to social media? Yes: there is a demographic consideration as the corner office continues to be populated primarily by middle-aged guys. Plus, there's the issue of competing priorities for time and attention, which slows the adoption of anything new and innovative in corporate environments. However, my view is that the number one reason that social sputters among the executive elite is the inability of marketers, consultants and advisors to articulate a clear and compelling value proposition.
The return on investment for time and money to be spent on social is perceived by the CEO to be middling and murky. Here are two ROI benchmarks cited in the Chief Executive article:
- According to an analysis of 4,200 companies by McKinsey Global Institute, social technologies stand to unlock between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion of value by 2016. OK...seriously? How did anyone possibly come up with those financial benchmarks? And, what the heck constitutes corporate value? Stock price? Revenue growth? Profits?
- An IBM study of 1,709 CEOs reported firms that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness - often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation - as a key influence on their organization. Organizational openness - I can't even write that phrase without experiencing a neck twinge. It's such consultant mumbo-jumbo.
I talk to corporate executives on a daily basis to understand their priorities (and pain points), and, when appropriate, to position Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) as a resource. There is an evaluation criteria most organizations employ to assess whether an initiative should be blessed with funding - will it help us capture revenue more quickly, effectively and/or at a lower cost? The writer of Chief Executive's article does cite a couple of compelling examples of ROI delivering social media campaigns from FedEx, BAE Systems and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yet, they're buried in the article.
To earn the ear of the CEO when it comes to social we need to get to a single point (and fast): when applied appropriately, it will help your company grow more quickly and profitably.