Why CEOs are afraid of social media

Jeff Bullas has a great post on his blog that outlines many of the reasons that companies aren’t using social media. The post showcases many of the points that we, at AHA, have heard from senior communicators and CEOs. What I also found quite interesting are the comments. They put forward a range of perspectives and are worth a read.

In the world of a communicator or marketer, there is a great deal of focus on social media. It’s important for those of us who work in this area to keep in mind that not everyone has embraced social media the way that we have. We have had many senior executives talk to us about their fears about using social media and their concerns are valid. We’re facing a culture shift and change isn’t easy – even change for the better.

One of the most effective ways we have of educating, informing and engaging our clients in the use of social media (when it is strategic for their organization) is to provide case studies of both successes and failures. Showing what can be achieved and what that takes is important. I believe that showing the challenges and failures is also important. No matter how well planned your social media campaign is, you need some room to experiment, to try things, to ask for feedback and to adjust in response to the feedback from the community you are hoping to connect with.

Some of the big examples of social media campaigns that have failed may be because of a misguided strategy or not understanding the audience. It’s easy to look back over a campaign and critique it when it is done. You don’t have the luxury of that knowledge in the planning. However, the campaigns that didn’t live up to expectations are a huge learning opportunity for the organization and for those of us who follow social media. Understanding what went wrong is key. If a campaign was launched and the community that the organization was targeted flat out rejects it, there is something important to be learned there. Most major campaigns are thoughtfully and strategically planned out, so if they don’t connect, understanding why is at the heart of what to do next.

With social media (and all PR campaigns), our role is to connect with people. These are individuals with their own unique perceptions and viewpoints. Prior to social media, there probably was the same type of reaction to certain campaigns, but we didn’t get to hear directly from the people – now we do. And going back to the topic of this post, that scares many CEOs. Our role is to help the senior team reframe that fear and to evolve it into viewing any social media feedback as valuable information that can be used to improve the product or service, to create a better approach to reaching your target market and to more fully understand how your specific community wants to be communicated with.

It’s not a quick process when you are assisting a CEO or senior executive in understanding and accepting this new approach to customer/client feedback. It takes time, effort and transparency. Showing the successes is important. So is showing the failures and how they can be used to move an organization forward.

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