In Forbes – why decision-makers should take social media seriously

Nearly 2 billion people use social media; evidence shows online engagement converts to sales; yet up at the top, leaders are still lagging when it comes to using or resourcing it. Only 15-30 percent of CEOs have a presence, but most just sign up and don’t use it, a bit like going to a business lunch and standing in the corner.

Why, given its importance for the way we do business, do they hold back?

Many decision-makers are caught up in early myths about social media and if you want to position social media with the boss, you need to bust them.

MYTH: Social media is a fad.

If so, it’s the longest fad with the highest number of listed companies behind it in the world. LinkedIn LNKD +0.32% is 12 years old and has nearly 300 million users, Facebook is a decade on with a 1.25 billion base and even newcomer Twitter TWTR +4.17%, synonymous with breaking news and managing crises, is now eight. Enough said. It’s here to stay.

MYTH: Social media is where kids post photos of food.

Imagine you break for lunch after a 3-hour strategy meeting, turn to your colleague and say “I love these pies.” It’s human, it’s appropriate, but it’s not what the meeting is about. The difference? What you say evaporates into thin air; what you snap is forever searchable. See all of this photo sharing (and there’s plenty of it) for what it is—people connecting with other people.

MYTH: Social media is for geeks.

Do you need to know how to make an electronic circuit board because you watch TV? No. You’re interested in what it delivers, not how to construct it. Social media platforms are the same. All you need to know is that they help you do what you love the most—build relationships, the backbone of business. Because these platforms are global they help you reach deeper, further and into new territory. Be engaged, be connected, help your business grow.

MYTH: Social media is for kids.

The fastest growing social media demographic is 50-plus. In the US, 70 percent of 65-74 year-olds are on Facebook. We’ve all heard stories about teens leaving Facebook because their parents were there. But they were moving from Facebook to other social media platforms like Snapchat, not leaving social media. It’s interior decorating—choosing the right mix of platforms in the same way as you might prefer one kind of smartphone over another brand. Social media is the given.

MYTH: Social Media is a soft skill.

In 2012, a fake tweet on the hacked AP Twitter account caused the stock market to plummet—billions of dollars changed hands. In the same year, Netflix NFLX -0.31% waspinged by the SEC for making a market announcement on Facebook, even though it had 250,000 followers, including influential bloggers and financial journalists. In 2013, the SEC said social media was a legitimate form of communications. Whose responsibility is social media if in minutes it can impact the share price of a company? Arguably not the marketing intern.

MYTH: Social media will die down.

The billion new consumers currently emerging onto the market have never lived in a world without social media. They are a Facebook-first generation who will expect to find you there, not because you’re savvy and cutting edge, but as people once expected a shop to have inventory and a front door. Make sure you are there to be found when they reach out.

Here are the facts on social media that should underpin any new business narrative.

  1. Social media is an established, multi-trillion dollar industry that is here to stay.

  2. It’s about connecting people with people.

  3. We use it to build relationships—the backbone of any business.

  4. Social is the “given” and used across every age group.

  5. It impacts business reputation and share price and must be managed at the highest level.

  6. And its use will continue to grow and cement itself as the new normal.

Enjoy my work? There’s more in The Social Executive – how to master social media and why it’s good for business. This article first appeared in Forbes.

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