Posts Tagged ‘IBM’

News Alert: CEOs Climbing on Social Bandwagon… Finally.

CEOs social mediaWell, what do you know? CEOs are finally getting jiggy about social media…or so it seems.

According to an IBM survey of 1,709 CEOs in 64 countries and 18 business sectors, social media will become the second-most popular way to interact with customers, behind face-to-face meetings. Right now, social media is sixth behind face-to-face, Websites, channel partners, traditional media and advisory groups.

“It’s all part of this move towards openness, both with your customers, with your employees, your business partners, and engaging them all together in what I call this redefinition of the organization—more broadly defined,” said Saul Berman, a partner in IBM’s global business services organization and one of the study’s two executive leaders.

What I want to know is what too CEOs so long to get on the social bandwagon?

Heck, we’re at least five years into the social “revolution”, and most brands see social media as table stakes, so you’d expect the people at the top of the corporate foodchain would have, in theory, embraced social media already.

The reality, however, is CEOs can be creatures of habit, which makes it difficult for them to get excited new and exciting trends and movements. The last thing a CEO wants to do is jump on the bandwagon too early amid the fear they’re one of the few people on it.

There is also the issue of demographics. In general, most CEOs are older so their understand and use of social media is likely, at best, modest. For many of them, their exposure to social media is limited to their PR teams and their children.

According to the IBM study, only 16% of CEOs use social media, although that is expected to climb to 57% within the next five years.

While the survey is eye-opening, it isn’t terribly surprising. The reality is many companies are using social media to some extent even if their CEOs aren’t enthusiastic about it yet. The bandwagon is already rolling at a high clip so it’s just a matter of time before CEOs decide to jump on for the ride.

The Importance of Social Media Policies

Within the social media landscape, perhaps the most uninspiring part is corporate policies that provide guidelines about what kind of activity is acceptable and what isn’t. These policies are important but they’re far from sexy and often viewed as an after-thought as opposed to a necessity.

For companies questioning the need or importance of social media policies, the issue was thrust into the spotlight last week when CNN fired its senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, for a tweet she made about Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

While CNN was criticized in some corners, it stood by the decision based on the fact Nasr breached the company’s social media policy.

Social media policies are nothing new. IBM, for example, introduced its “Social Computing Guidelines” five years ago, which features 12 basic rules.

Coca-Cola attracted a lot of attention earlier this year for a new social media policy that features 10 principles for online spokespeople.

  1. Be Certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
  2. Follow our Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
  3. Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
  4. Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
  5. Keep records.
  6. When in doubt, do not post.
  7. Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
  8. Be responsible to your work.
  9. Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
  10. Know that the Internet is permanent.

With the attention given to CNN’s decision, there is no doubt it will cause more companies to seriously explore the need for social media policies, or re-examine their current guidelines.

For companies looking at getting into social media, corporate policies are as important as the strategic and tactical plans being implemented because they represent a major pillar in the overall program.

Without social media policies, employees have no insight or information about what they’re allowed to do, and what can get them in trouble.

The Need for Corporate Social Media Policies

In a recent blog post, we talked about the different ways that companies can scale their social media efforts. One of them is “outsourcing” your social media activities to employees, rather than having a social media team responsible for everything.

In theory, this approach makes sense because a lot more social media territory can be covered without having to hire more people to do it. It can also be a great way to harness the passion and enthusiasm of employees, particularly those excited about the Web and social media tools such as blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

In practice, however, bringing employees into the social media fold can be a challenge. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is establishing a corporate social media policy that provides clear guidelines to employees about best practices and acceptable behavior.

For employees to be effective social media evangelists, educators and ambassadors, it’s important to have policies in place that lay out the rules of engagement. These policies can be extensive and in-depth, or they can be succinct and straightforward. IBM’s social computing guidelines, which were established in 2005, consist of only 12 rules.

One of the most important considerations when creating social media policies is trust – employers trusting their employees will do the right things, and employees respecting that trust by behaving well and doing the right thing.

If fair and equitable social media policies are established, they can go a long way in addressing the second major challenge in “outsourcing” social media – convincing employees that getting involved is something they want to do. Unless employees buy in, scaling social media activities can be a difficult goal.

Despite the growing interest in social media, most companies have yet to establish social media policies. But giving the important role that social media is going to play in the future, it’s a matter of when, not if.

Update: Seth Godin has an interesting blog post about why social media is so difficult for many companies.