Sunday, December 5, 2010

Are Leading Organisations Effectively Using Social Media?

A 2009 study found that the CEO’s of top U.S. companies tend to avoid social media, according to The study found that most of the Fortune top 100 CEO’s were markedly absent from the social media community, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Wikipedia. The study specifically revealed that;

1) Only 2 CEO’s had Facebook accounts;
2) Only 13 CEO’s had profiles on the professional networking site LinkedIn;
3) Three-quarters of the CEO’s had a Wikipedia entry, but nearly a third of these had limited or outdated information; and
4) Not one Fortune 100 CEO had a blog.

But what is social media? Professor Nora Barnes highlights six prominent social media tools, (2010, p.9);
1) Blogging;
2) Podcasting;
3) Online Video;
4) Social Networking;
5) Message Boards; and
6) Wikis.

This list includes the micro blogging service of Twitter and the popular social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

Looking at the Fortune 500, research has shown that 16% of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging in 2008, double the figure for 2007 which was only 8%, (cited in Barnes, 2010, p.10). Yet, Jose Esteves writes in the 2008, Business Strategy Review, after analysing the blogging strategies of the companies in the Fortune 500, that “blogs have moved from being sales support tools to becoming essential elements in brand advocacy and communication. There is no longer any question that corporate blogs have become a channel to engage brand enthusiasts (rather than simply engaging in light dialogue with consumers: ‘thanks for your feedback’ and the like) and a communication tool for stakeholders and potential investors,” (p.65).

Barnes highlights how “the adoption curves for different social media technologies are not the same. Interestingly, while social networking and blogging have enjoyed growth in actual adoption, the use of message boards, online video, wikis and podcasting has levelled off or declined. The addition of Twitter (considered both a micro-blogging site and a social networking site) in the latest study showed that 35% of the Fortune 500 are already using this tool for their business. In addition, as they ramp up their usage, companies are also seeking to protect themselves legally with 22% of the Fortune 500 companies having implemented a formal policy concerning blogging by their employees,” (p.13).

Some still believe that CEO’s aren’t embracing social media enough and Sharon Barclay states that “it’s shocking that the top CEO’s can appear to be so disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating. They’re giving the impression that they’re disconnected, disengaged and disinterested. Barclay said many CEO’s are cautious about social networking because of regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. However, she says the ones who are not involved in the rapidly growing form of communication are missing a great opportunity to connect with customers and raise their company’s profile.” (cited in IM, 2009, p.10).

In her 2009 article Lyne Noella, gives 10 simple tips to raise your visibility in social networking (p.17);

1) Join several networks;
2) Get a great head shot;
3) Create a compelling message;
4) Make invitations a habit;
5) Join special interest groups;
6) Update your profile regularly;
7) Share knowledge;
8) Use you network as a resource;
9) Stay alert to opportunities;
10) Engage.

Though maybe considered obvious by many, the tips above also highlight the need to invest quality time in developing ones social media activities. The underlying business principles are similar to talent management, in that you want to attract and retain the ‘best talent’ to your social networks, where this talent should be both current and future focused.

Finally as Barnes mentions, “the continued steady adoption of blogs and the growth of Twitter among Fortune 500 companies demonstrates the growing importance of social media in the business world,” (p.13). “In his own blog, Jonathan Schwartz, President of Sun Microsystems says that we’ve moved from the information age to the participation age, and trust is the currency of the participation age,” (cited in Esteves, 2008, p.65). Esteves concludes that “at best, corporate blogging is about leadership, visibility and conversion in the digital world. It is an excellent way for CEO’s to express their opinions and visions about their companies and about topics such as corporate social responsibility, diversity, market sector evolution and even crisis management,” (p.67).

So how social media savvy are you and your organisation?


Barnes, N.G. (2010). Tweeting and Blogging to the Top. Marketing Research. Spring, p.9-13.

Editorial. (2009). CEO’s Cautious About Social Networking. Information Management, Vol. 43 Issue 5, p10-11.

Esteves, J. (2008). Where is your blog? Business Strategy Review. Vol. 19, Issue 4, p.62-70.

Noella, L. (2009). Ten Tips to Raise Your Business Visibility Through Social Networks. Financial Executive. Vol. 25, Issue 9, p17.

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