10 Essential Social Media Tips for Senior Executives

May 17, 2012
Author Steve Nicholls on what executives must know in order to effectively implement social media into their businesses.

In today's business world, it is impossible to compete without a strong web presence to support you. In recent years, this has meant building a robust social media platform to maintain this digital presence by effectively engaging with clients or potential clients.

While integrating these critical tools into their businesses, many high-level executives are tempted to defer to the experts -- those young techies reared in the digital arts -- to implement and maintain their social media strategies.

However, Steve Nicholls -- author of "Social Media in Business" -- maintains that this approach probably isn't as sound as it may seem.

According to Nicholls, the rapidly changing nature of social media makes it critical for top level executives to understand how to implement social media into their business to maximize results and take an active role in the process.

This means, at the top level there can be no deferring to the experts -- digital implementation must come from the top down. So to some degree, executives must become the experts.

To help them do this, Nicholls has composed the following list of 10 essential social media tips for top level executives.

1. Be the Architect: As the CEO or leader you need to create a vision of what social media looks like for your organization -- just like an architect has a model of the building that is going to constructed. This is crucial so that everyone knows their part and what they are trying to achieve. Create a common language so that everyone can participate in the discussion, not a just a few experts who know the jargon.

2. Create the Model, Bring Everyone Together: Develop a model of how to bring social media into your entire organization. Organizations that have a social media program in place - likely in the marketing department -- but to truly maximize results a company needs buy-in from the entire organization.

3. What are the Business Goals? Create social media goals in the context of how will they achieve the business goals. The organizational goal could be, for instance, to increase the repeat customer percentage in order to increase revenue by X%. One marketing strategy could be to have a more effective customer relationship management strategy, depending on what you already do. You would then select the social media program that would support those goals. That would be around customer service and the ways you interact with the customer to provide information.

4. Conquer the Inside First: Social media can create diversified channels of communication both within a companys internal organism, amongst staff, departments, divisions and other parts of the company, and externally, between a company and its customers, suppliers and other businesses. Also, social media can be used for both formal and informal communication, the former owned by the company and the latter by the employees. Social media also allows the company to reach out to customers or businesses beyond geographical limits, providing an alternative to face-to-face meetings.

5. Expand Reach in Online Communities: Social media can create and provide access to online communities and your target markets: it increases brand awareness, builds overall trust, taps into global and local markets, increases visible market presence, generates leads, helps to have higher rankings on search engines and increases search engine optimization (SEO).

6. Improve International Communication: Social media makes it easier for employees to work together, improves communication between departments, can overcome geographical boundaries, and offers a softer way to interact with upper management. This will result in better relationships and increased productivity.

7. Collect Intelligence Effectively: Insight, just like wisdom, is much talked about but very seldom-practised. In social media, the Holy Grail is making insight as a part of the way you work. Content generated by the global online community becomes business intelligence that can help you gain insight on your customers, your products, your services, your competitors, your industry and other aspects of interest. Collect the intelligence and learn!

8. Be Interactive, Hold Online Contests: This shows how social media can truly generate real value. Here are two great examples from Cisco (IW 500/28) and Coca-Cola (IW 500/133):

  • Coca-Colas Freestyle' vending machine has more than 100 options of flavors, which customers can mix to their taste, before sharing their new product with their friends using social media. This supply and demand information is then transmitted to Coca-Colas main office, and this business intelligence is then turned into new products answering market demand.
  • Cisco held a competition in 2010 to come up with billion-dollar ideas. The competition generated 800 ideas by 3000 participations in 156 different countries, and the best idea won 250,000 dollars. So for 250,000 dollars, the company got at least one potential billion idea for their business.

9. Keep the Culture in Mind: Social Media is linked with corporate culture. The more open the culture, the more social media will flourish in your organization. A more closed culture will seek to control social media and will enviably fail; this is to be avoided at all costs. Organizational culture typically falls somewhere within this continuum, and social media projects will be crafted according to the type of culture your company has.

10. Have a step-by-step formula: This is crucial. Executives need to avoid going enthusiastically in the wrong direction, and in order to prevent this from happening, the social media model should consider how to integrate the already existing conditions of an organization but also adopt a staged approach. This is crucial in order to both keep in perspective business goals as the project moves forward, and to alleviate any risk the organization may face along the way.

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