Yet you’ll see people telling you otherwise all the time. So what gives?
The assertion that having your CEO tweeting or your CMO blogging as a social organization stems from two misguided assumptions:
Misconception 1: You aren’t truly “social” unless your executives are visibly participating.
Executive buy-in and enablement is different than – and many cases even preferable to – their direct activity.
Reality check: it’s often prohibitive for a senior executive to do more than token activity in social. After all, their job is not at the edges of a company, it’s at the center, enabling a culture and a mindset. That should be their focus.
Can social media be part of that? Sure, if all of those activities are aligned well with strategy AND its out of genuine interest on the part of the executive versus superficial drivers like lists and influence ‘scores’ or simply to phone it in.
Should it be the priority? Nope.
Does a shareholder care about a CMOs Klout score, or how well they’ve positioned a company to lead their market? Should the CEO divert their attention from guiding a massive organizational culture shift to be sure they tweet the latest blog post?
Not to mention the very real risks involved in having your CEO active online without proper planning and education in place to understand the implications of that. “Transparency” and “being human” are not going to cut it in front of the SEC or in a court of law.
Note that I’m not saying that C-level participation in social can’t be valuable, nor am I saying that the C-suite shouldn’t be literate in the opportunities and challenges that social engagement presents.
What I am saying, however, is that having your CEO blogging or on Twitter is not a prerequisite for a business being truly “social”, nor is it something that I think suits most of the companies out there at all given the other priorities and initiatives that are probably more important for their executive tier.
Misconception 2: Extensive social media activity illustrates and upholds the tenets of a social business.
This is why I really wish we had a different yet equally accessible word that compliments or better defines ‘social business’. (We’re working on just that, so stay tuned).
It’s too easy to make social media marketing activity equivalent in scope or intent to social business, and they’re simply not the same thing.
Social business, at it’s core, is a cultural direction. It’s about developing an adaptive mindset with supporting operations that values and prioritizes key characteristics like:
Agility: Balancing speed of response, communication and information sharing with thoughtful coordination and long-term scalability
Openness: Communicating with less friction across organizational lines, in ways that distribute and improve access to knowledge among stakeholders. Acknowledging and rewarding innovation, creativity, thoughtful feedback and collaboration.
Active Intelligence: Valuing data and measurement but only inasmuch as it provides true insights that can provide for better decision making in the future
Smart Connectivity: Sensibly integrating technology so that it removes barriers to communication rather than creating them, with a strong investment in adoption programs that put humans at the center
Empowerment: Allowing communities to self-organize within the business to solve problems and share insight, trusting that good decisions can happen at the margins of the organization
If all that is true of a social business, then social media marketing is hardly completely representative of those things. In fact, you can probably have an outstanding social media marketing approach that is incredibly siloed and heavily controlled and that is effectively nothing more than a set of new media campaigns within an existing, rigid business.
The real issue at hand is that a social business values and responds to the implications of the social web. Social businesses understand that expectations have changed not just for customer communication and service, but for how you hire and develop your employees and how you work with your partners. And they’re committed to adapting their organization to not only accommodate those shifts, but capitalize on them for everyone’s benefit.
In short, while social media marketing and community engagement can certainly part of a social business’ operations, they don’t in and of themselves define a social business.
For companies like Cemex, they’re investing heavily in all of the tenets we outlined above but with an internal focus. It would be hard to argue that a company enabling and empowering 20,000 employees through networked communication models and improving their business as a result doesn’t count as a social business.
Don’t confuse the term ‘social’ with simply visible activity.
Social is a mindset, a set of values and priorities, a way of doing business that emphasizes human networks and the potential for fluid communication and collaboration. It’s also an active state. Something you’re doing, not necessarily a finish line you cross or something you just become.
Being an adaptive organization and a social business can be achieved in many ways, and social engagement can be part of that. But ticking the box of having your CEO on Twitter doesn’t make you a social business.
Let’s keep the focus where it belongs: not on the social media activities as proof of concept, but on the fundamental culture shift of an organization that can thrive and evolve holistically in a fast-moving, connected world.