in Social Media

Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and why this is perfectly fine

I am not a big fan of the suggestion that everybody has to be to be on social media and fully understand social media before you can do anything with social media as a big enterprise. Basically it is a big lie, since how many within the enterprise really understand the inner workings or your DWH (Data Ware House) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), probably very little people. Does it mean it doesn’t bring any benefit because nobody understands? No, everybody understands the benefits it brings

And that is exactly what is important: the C-suite needs to get the benefits of something, they don’t ned to know all the details of everything, that is not their job.

The Guardian has a tear-jerking article on this topic, blaming the C-suite for not understanding social media and giving some arguments and tips that will ensure you that they will never invest in social media at all.

Arguments to hide the incompetence of the CMO or social media expert

“I have run out of fingers and toes on which to count the times a bright-eyed marketing manager within a big organisation has brought us in to pitch only to then hear the words “our CEO does not ‘do’ social” and this ignorance shows no sign of slowing,“ says Andy Barr, owner of 10Yetis social media and PR agency.

To be honest if your CEO doesn’t do social, what is the problem? How many companies will be bankrupt in the upcoming five years because of their CEO not being active on Twitter and LinkedIn? Of course this is just a wild guess, though I would say: none.

Jamie Riddell said: “Social media is not seen to be as measurable as other forms of media such as TV. In order for any media channel to be taken seriously at board level, it’s impact on hard criteria such as reach and ultimately sales, needs to be understood. Your average C-suite executive will be focused on business results that are more than brand mentions or sentiment analysis.”

Which is completely true, however if they understand the added value of TV (which is a correlation at best in most cases), than it is just a matter of thoroughly presenting your case with social media. Since with social media you can measure everything and focus on causations instead of correlations. You don’t have to assume what happens,you can show it.

“In some cases, execs are demanding a million Likes on Facebook or a million Twitter followers after they realise they need to be involved. This lack of understanding causes issues with agencies and staff who despair,” he said.

This is not a lack of understanding. This is like blaming your customer for using your products wrong. It is a lack of clear explanation. Don’t blame others for your own incompetence of explaining the added value of social media.

According to Hunt, the repercussion is that some agencies are still buying social media followers on behalf of these brands, despite the folly in doing so. This misunderstanding of social media could in part be explained by the lack of the C-suite’s personal involvement with it.

Of course the C-suite playing farmville on Facebook would have prevented this? No, it wouldn’t. Would a personal Twitter account of a C-level exec prevented this demand of being followers? Most likely not. Just for the simple reason that most people on C-level are not social media experts and given that social media is an area in which expertise is required they are hiring people with that expertise to explain it to them. If that ends up in a fan-buying game it is not the C-level not understand social media, it is C-level hiring the wrong experts (or people that present themselves as experts).

The tips from the Guardian to ensure absolute failure

1: Get them on social. Whether it’s posting from their own personal account or a corporate account, encourage your CFOs, CEOs and CMOs to participate themselves and provide support and training to avoid any faux pas.

Ok, they don’t get Social Media, that was the first thing in the article that was mentioned. So they will absolutely see the value of getting active on this? No if you still suck at explaining, you won’t be able to get them on board.

If you cannot explain the value, they won’t be onboard, no matter what you ask them to do.

2: Simulate a crisis. By simulating a potential crisis that could hit the brand, you enlighten the C-suite to the power of social media and also the potential damage it can wreak if you haven’t invested in social media listening and community management.

The science of fear, always a very positive way of getting the C-suite onboard: if you don’t this you will loose your company. The thing that could happen is an absolute lock down of social media in your company, including a heavy censorship on social media itself by throwing around take down notices. Y

You shouldn’t stimulate a crisis, maybe you should show them the added value of social media (how much additional revenue can be generated, how much money can be saved on call centers).

3: Identify the balance of your website traffic sources. Highlighting the traffic sources to the company website will demonstrate where it is over-reliant and hence vulnerable. For example, if the bulk of your web traffic comes from search, then growing your social traffic to diversify your traffic sources will be an asset when search positions fluctuate or if the company is hit by a Google penalty or algorithm update. Social media is also a significant contributor to search engine optimisation.

Given that most people in the C-suite are fully up to speed on web analytics this is a great tip. Only, most of the C-suite aren’t experts on Web Analytics, don’t know anything about search algorithm updates and most likely do’t care where traffic is coming from on the website (if they were aware of what the website is doing at all beyond being a brochure website).

Besides the direct benefits, explain the C-suite the indirect added value of social media. You can drive more traffic to your website for less costs (since for example you spend less on advertising).

Get the C-suite onboard

Don’t worry about the C-suite, start low profile with a project that doesn’t require the stamp of approval of the C-suite. Proof the value, present the business outcomes, present the required investment. Make it a highly rational decision with a clear investment and a clear return. That is how a C-suite works most of the time. They don’t need (or want) to know all the details, they want to have enough insights to make a good decision supported by real arguments and real data.