Tag Archives: executives

Social Media is Scary – How to Address Senior Executives

February 2, 2009

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Part 2 in a series of posts responding to my original post, “Social Media is Scary

Image courtesy of Flickr user chelmsfordpubliclibrary

Image courtesy of Flickr user chelmsfordpubliclibrary

So, what can you do to address the myriad reasons for social media being scary?  This is the second (the first one addressed the junior employee) of four blog posts tackling each of the demographics that I brought up in the original posts one by one and illustrate how I handle the “social media is scary” line.  The second group is the Senior Executive –

For Senior Executives– “What happens when people start using these platforms to just complain about everything?  Why would I want to give everyone a place to whine about every little thing that’s bothering them?  I can’t possibly keep up with every comment, question, and suggestion that goes up – I don’t have the time to do that!”

I’ve already talked about how to justify social media to the big-wigs.  This post expands on that. Here are the three key messages I find myself telling my senior executive clients regardless of what tools I’m showing them.

  1. Social media isn’t about the tools – it’s about what the tools enable.
  2. Social media cannot exist in a vacuum.  Social media has to be integrated into your organization’s overall communications strategy.
  3. The tools that you want to use are dependent on what you want to accomplish.

While it’s good to show an executive a tool that can be used to improve their processes, it’s often more important for them to understand the bigger picture.  That it’s not just about the benefits of the tool, that it’s about the open, transparent, authentic communications and collaboration that these tools allow.  They have to justify the time, money, and resources required to move a particular tool’s use from the micro to the macro level.  To do this, they have to understand that a blog isn’t just a way for them to communicate better with their employees.  They have to understand that a blog is about creating a culture of open and honest dialogue within their organization.  They have to understand the bigger picture.

I also tell them that social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  The executive has to realize that to effectively use social media, you can’t designate somebody or some group as “the Web 2.0 guys.”  There’s nothing worse than your public affairs officers receiving a call from reporter asking a question about one of your blog postings and they have no idea what they’re talking about because “the Web 2.0 guys” handle that.  When I meet with a senior executive, I try to make sure that there are at least four groups represented – people who “get” social media, representatives from the communications or public affairs group who can speak to the organization’s communications strategy, people from the IT department who understand the technical architecture, rules and policies of the organization, and someone who really understands the organization’s mission – the person who is deeply involved with the organization’s overall strategies.  One person could take on one or more of these roles, but every part should be represented.

The last point seems to be the most obvious.  There’s no social media tool continuum that lays out all social media tools from least beneficial to most beneficial.  No chart that says blogs are the best tool to use when you’re first starting out with social media.  The tools that you use (and how you use them) are entirely dependent on what you want to accomplish.  I can’t tell you what tool you should get started with until we determine what your goal is.

However, the absolute most important (and most effective) approach can be summed up in two words – BE PASSIONATE.  I can’t tell you the number of times where I briefed a senior executive about social media and the biggest takeaway that he/she had was, “well, I’ll tell you what – you obviously believe in this and are extremely passionate about its potential so let’s give it a try.”  When a senior executive sees someone, especially if it’s one of their own employees taking the initiative to spend hours of their own time developing a briefing or writing a white paper developing something they truly believe in, they can see that.

Above all else, be passionate about what you’re talking about, whether that’s social media or something else.  Believe in your ideas.  Believe in their potential.  And believe in yourself.

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