Executives Love Social for the Wrong Reasons

Filed Under Mind Mapping

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June 25, 2012

Contrary to the popular belief that business executives are less than likely to be inspired by network-y platforms, a recent Core Values and Beliefs survey from Deloitte revealed much greater enthusiasm for social business among these bosses than their employees. Numerically speaking:

  • 45 percent of executives say social media has a positive impact on workplace culture vs 27 percent of employees
  • 41 percent of executives believe that social networking helps build and maintain workplace culture; 21 percent of employees agree
  • 38 percent of executives say social media allows for increased transparency; 17 percent of employees agree
  • 46 percent of executives say social media and online collaboration tools are critical to building and maintaining relationships with colleagues; 27 percent of employees agree

While these numbers might seem a tad off to social business fan kids, there are a couple reasons why they make sense. “Our research suggests executives are possibly using social media as a crutch in building workplace culture and appearing accessible to employees,” explained Punit Renjen, chairman of the board, Deloitte. And it’s true — in the enterprise world, social platforms have largely been treated like plug-and-play solutions for leaders looking to effect change. This approach has spawned a lot of back and forth from experts, including an article from Business Insider writer, Jim Whitehurst: “You can’t buy your way to collaboration. If employees are not already working that way, tools become nothing more than a high-tech version of the never-used suggestion box.”

Meanwhile, another set of enthusiastic CEOs are turning to these platforms in search of the latest buzz. “I think there’s a huge danger that every CEO can get cocooned and people just tell them what they think they might want to hear,” said David Sacks, founder of Yammer. “This is a way of breaking out of that and getting information from the field, from the market. It’s just much closer to the ground with a lot more sources. I don’t know any CEO who doesn’t want to know more about what’s happening in their organization, who doesn’t want to get more detail on what’s happening in the market.”

Socializing the C-Suite For Real

While utilizing social tools to boost both external and internal communication is certainly a wise move in today’s world of business, the wrong approach won’t yield the right results. At the end of the day, people follow leaders because they lead. Plain and simple. Externally, no other type of employee can so reliably provide data in a way that will be listened to and acted upon by investors, employees, customers, regulators, media, etc. Internally, no other type of employee can so effectively influence the rest of the team.

In other words, it’s great that business leaders are loving these platforms, but when they decide to go social without actually being social, it does a major disservice to the company as well as the tool.

Earlier this year, the Chief Strategy Officer of Dachis Group, Peter Kim, published 101 Examples of Social Business ROI. Among them:

  • AT&T. Community: 21,000 customer issues resolved, driving 16% improvement in call deflections year/year. (Lithium Technologies, 2011)
  • Burberry. Social microsites secured 1,000,000 fans and a 10% increase in same-store sales. (Barnraisers, 2010)
  • Dell. @DellOutlet on Twitter generated $2 million direct sales, influenced $1 million addt’l (2007 – 2009). (Direct2Dell Blog, 2009)
  • NetApp. The NetApp community has impacted $500 million in sales and drives 28% of all NetApp web traffic. (Jive Software, 2011)
  • Sephora. Community users spend 2.5x more than average customers, superfans spend 10x more. (Lithium Technologies, 2011)
  • Yum Brands. Community helped new product launch internationally in 4 months instead of 18. (Jive Software, 2011)

So trust me. You want to get it right.

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