Why The C-Suite Needs to Get Social

Why The C-Suite Needs to Get Social 640 480 C-Suite Network

by Damian Corbet

I recently gave a talk on social media to C-level executives from B2B companies. The feedback was great, but there were a lot of questions about relevance, ROI, etc. Because of that, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts about why social media is so important for B2B companies and why, without the understanding and buy-in of the C-suite, it will never really work.

I can see where the doubt and uncertainty comes from. However, I think boards are looking at things the wrong way. Instead of asking what “value” can be gained from using social media, I’d turn it around and ask, “What will you lose by NOT understanding it and, if you’re feeling bold,  actually engaging with people on social networks”?

Social media is about communication; it’s about networking; it’s about listening; it’s about gaining market knowledge and insights. And here’s the thing: social media is NOT about sales. But it does offer competitive advantage — being a company and a leader that is tuned in to the digital conversation taking place all around.

Social media is the Zeitgeist; it’s life as we live it in 2014; it’s part of us. Social networks are now an integral part of the lives of the majority of the world’s population. Yes, even “old dinosaurs” are signing up. We crossed a Rubicon some time ago, and there’s no going back.

As I tried to get across in my talk, burying one’s head in the sand is just not an option for any company executive who should not only be keeping up with current developments, but also be looking forward at emerging trends. While it’s not necessary for execs to engage directly on social networks (although I’d argue that they should give it a try), it is essential that they:

  1. Understand the significance of the social/business/cultural revolution that social media is bringing (and remember, we’re only at the start — in five years, things will be so much more integrated). It’s all-encompassing.
  2. Once they understand its significance, they should actively work to make their companies social enterprises, where social media is an integral part of the way they do business — both in terms of reaching out to and engaging with customers and other stakeholders, and internal communications and employee engagement.
  3. This requires a completely different mind-set — one that accepts that social media (and its emerging variants) is as significant as the emergence of the printing press, radio, television, the Internet and email. It’s just the latest development along the digital road, and it’s all one-way.

So, do companies, and their boards, accept that things are changing faster than they could ever imagine and decide to urgently educate themselves? Or, do they sit back and hope that their industry, their companies and their jobs aren’t affected? The danger is that when the tidal wave finally breaks, the laggards will be too far behind to gain any advantage and may actually see their companies failing.

I’ll finish with this quote:
Directors who don’t understand social media are placing their company at risk of not capitalizing on the business opportunities, as well as exposing it to unnecessary risk.” — Walter Adamson

Damian Corbet is a B2B PR practitioner who works closely with senior managers and executives, advising them on social media and digital disruption. A regular blogger on these topics, Damian recently set up The Social C-Suite, with a >LinkedIn groupGoogle+ community and Twitter account >and a website currently in development. He also hosts regular Social C-Suite meet-ups, where senior executives can meet informally (usually over a beer or glass of wine) with social media experts and learn from them. The Social C-Suite is an official media partner of the Digital Transformation Leadership Masterclass, being held in London in September. Follow him on Twitter @DamianCorbet.