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Read this before you invest in social media

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A strong mindset for company leadership always begins in the C-Suite.

Unfortunately, conviction is lagging when it comes to how business benefits from social media as a corporate strategy. “Only 52 per cent of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social business. The path to 20 per cent more revenue and 60 per cent higher profit growth is being held up by the head honcho.

McKinsey and Company – named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders – says decision makers must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Here are four scenarios I regularly come across now when it comes to implementing social media for the benefit of most organizations. Recognize anyone?

The Pretender. This CEO saw a major sales initiative fail at his mid-sized manufacturing company. It needed a CRM installed to support lead generation and track sales engaged through social media. Management requested that he demonstrate strong support for the project and provide visible leadership. The CEO refused, saying: “I haven’t got the time. Who else is willing to take on this responsibility?” The CEO is a pretender. He reluctantly accepts the importance of social enterprise but would not make it a personal priority.

The Pessimist. A CEO recognized that social media was increasingly central to his sales department. But she also was extremely cautious. “Don’t ask me to invest in training our employees; they can learn on their own time,” she would say. “I need to see ROI when it comes to social media.” Many CEOs appreciate this common-sense approach to such initiatives. Unfortunately, she concedes social media may be important but is not prepared to back his instincts.

The Champion. This CEO reviewed his competitors’ strategies. He found his rivals were all using social media in similar ways. For him, social media became a rallying point for employees. Over time, he espoused this belief in management meetings, seminars, and company conferences. This CEO had faith in social media as a source for competitive advantage and committed his time and attention to making it happen. He championed the move into social enterprise.

To reduce risk when it comes to rolling out your social media plan, consider these recommendations:

  1. Set priorities. Decide in favour of managing social media instead of controlling messages in the way of “Old School PR”. Traditional methods streamlined corporate messages through a single company spokesperson or the CEO. All other comments by staff were forbidden for fear of dismissal.
  2. Review Like it or not, many of your employees are talking about your company on every platform. Networks are changing fast and frequently, which means that policies cannot be written up, carved in stone, and put on the shelf. Why not collaborate with your employees? Connect with staff on the networks . . . teach them how to use the platforms…and give them good social media polices.
  3. Set aside quality time. Champion CEOs study rather than avoid change in the market place. They devote time to scanning new and emerging technologies while reflecting and talking extensively to others on how social enterprise might impact their own industry and business.
  4. Train everyone. Educate employees on social media culture, language, and rules of engagement. “Would you rather have a trained or untrained employee?” asks Sharon McInrosh in Empower Your Employees To Become Your Greatest Brand Ambassadors.

Will you be hampering their rights to freely post whatever content they see fit for their social networks? Should you just ban them from accessing their social media sites at work completely? What exactly is the proper way to go about this sensitive issue?

Communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a print business magazine for 21 years. She now works to assist clients in digital marketing.

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