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Society for New Communications Research Blog

Aug
24
2017

The Social CEO: What You Need to Know

By Gretchen Fox28188286432_3353c1c7ed_b

Let me start off by saying—this isn’t about tweeting. This is about the critical Social Paradigm Shift CEOs and the other C-suite need to make—and fast. Almost a decade ago, I created a “How to Tweet” graphic for distribution to CEOs and other senior executives at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Back then, it was just about tweeting, about exploring, about connecting with peers… Ten long years later and social media has gone from a bleeding-edge, cool-to-use playground for the tech set to a complete and total Social Paradigm Shift affecting nearly every human—and organization—worldwide.

This shift has built juggernaut businesses from scratch (Buzzfeed, DogVacay, Dollar Shave Club, just to name a few) and destroyed businesses in the same very short time period. And let us be clear— we are only at the very beginning of this cultural revolution. The inherently-social, inter-connected global world of digital is the new world and it’s mission critical that your leadership catches hold and doesn’t let go—ever again.

When it comes to CEOs in particular, an astounding 61 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are still not active on social media, according to CEO.com. And after consulting and training CEOs and CMOs for a decade, one of my biggest concerns is that too many still think this is just about tweeting or participating on LinkedIn. That is wrong and let me be clear—putting-your-business-in-danger wrong.

So, how does a CEO become a Social CEO? Here are the Five Steps you must take:

1. The Strategic Social-Digital Vision

First, you need to understand that your newer, younger, more agile competitors already have a clear vision for this new world. If you don’t or have left this to a CDO, CMO, CTO or worse—a junior employee, you are making mistake number one.

You need to know the answer to these questions: Where is the white space? Where is the opportunity for your company to stand out and step out of the noise and be the authority across the social web? How will your company differentiate itself? What does that look like? How will you communicate this so the public knows and feels your brand values and is able to reflect that back to their network as advocates and evangelists, leveraging the social-network effect? What does your organization look like when everyone is connected in real-time and information flows freely across every department? How will your company be structured to ensure every piece of information is ingested, integrated and cycled back out into the real world as insights and new products and services?

This vision is the foundation for which every single internal memo, Medium post and Tweet must originate. Without starting from this vision, you are merely creating more static in a sea of noise. Clarity of vision is what you need and it’s what people want—and need—from their leaders. If you don’t feel comfortable jumping into real-time, public communication with investors, media, employees and peers watching, you’re not leading in the 21st century—you are watching from behind and I’m sure we can agree, that’s not a good place to be.

2. The Organizational Social-Digital Transformation Journey

Once you have a clear vision for what’s possible, CEOs in traditional and legacy businesses need to understand that your company must embark on a journey that will require a lot of change organizationally. Unfortunately, there is no getting around this; the only solace is that your competition must embark on this journey, too. As this McKinsey article succinctly states, “Like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, (digital transformation) begins with small steps.”

Startups have the advantage to build their companies with this vision and the organizational structure that supports fast-moving, real-time dynamics from the start. Still many startup CEOs do not understand how social should be impacting every aspect of the organization.

You need to know that your brand must have a Social Identity that is mapped out not just with logo, palette and typography but with a character, voice and identity that allows it to be more human and interact in the two-way conversation required in the social age. You need to understand that marketing cannot be done by using demographics and psychographics alone, consumers in the 21st century are looking for an emotional connection and to spend their dollars with companies that share their values—especially millennials. You need to have a social good/corporate social responsibility program. You need to know every single one of your employees are on social media and they need to be educated, trained and empowered to participate safely and effectively for the brand—and themselves. You need to know that someone needs to be listening to the conversations happening online about your company, its products, services and your competition and their products and services. You need to get reports that tell you what people are saying and how that data is being integrated across the conversation. You need to weigh-in to these conversations strategically. You need to know how your customer service, PR and marketing teams are sharing data with each other and across other departments (or not). And who is integrating and managing all the new tools that don’t fit under “product,” you know, all the martech, adtech and APIs… And the list goes on.

To sum it up, you need to know the social-digital transformation plan and ensure it maps to every aspect of your org.

3. Someone Must Own the Social-Digital Transformation

The single biggest mistake I find CEOs are making is assuming the head of each department has this under control for their area without one single person leading the initiative. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Each department has their own objectives, goals and plans. Your CMO is looking at this through a marketing and sales lens. Your CTO is looking at this through a process and technology lens. Perhaps you are savvy enough to have a CDO, you are on the right track; however, I will at some point write a post making the argument that this role needs to evolve to a CSDO—Chief Social-Digital Officer (hint: Social over Digital = People over Platforms; human connection and experience design first and foremost. “Digital” alone misses the paramount human element of this equation).

Without a single person leading this transformation, social-digital transformation efforts are a bunch of disjointed and independent efforts. To be successful, collaboration is required and collaboration itself takes leadership and accountability. This transformation needs the creation of new plumbing across the org which is fraught with roadblocks both intentional and unintentional which leads me to my next point.

4. The Journey is Full of Roadblocks Created by Silos

So, you have a Head of Social or a socially-minded CDO, now what? Empower them with your support and meet with them one-on-one regularly. Allow for open conversation, ask them to tell you where the roadblocks are and remove them. This person should be a change-maker, they should be transformative and to do this job right, they’re going to need you to back them up.

People can be territorial creatures and often, unbeknownst to you, employees are hoarding data and access—and while this is how traditional companies operated in the past, this is antithetical to the social organization. It’s corrosive and it costs gross amounts of money in duplicate work and missed opportunities.

The territorialism and legacy divisions across organizations are another reason I advocate that this role be out of marketing (product won’t be as resistant to working together on the social integration of the organization if it’s not being led by their arch nemesis (you know, it’s true, engineers)).

I truly believe, the success of this mission requires a role dedicated to organizational transformation, integration, collaboration and free-flow of communication and data. I will add that I have heard anecdotes of CMOs who have taken on this task with an organizational-view (Oh, hey Vanessa Camones!) but I stand by my assessment that most CMOs are measured by marketing and sales metrics and it’s very hard to get out from under that dynamic to get this bigger-picture transformation done, in my experience. This very topic is a lively debate in the industry and I invite those interested in this topic to join that discussion in the Social Paradigm Shifters closed Facebook group.

5. Your Personal Brand/Thought-Leadership Strategy

Okay, now that you have a vision, a plan, a leader and a supportive process—you are ready to learn how to participate personally and publicly using social platforms. When most people talk about The Social CEO, they are often talking about this, step 5.

But before you jump in, please, realize there’s a dramatic difference between being authentically social and fake social. The fake kind will blow up in your face, which is why you have been right to be hesitant to get involved socially until you are ready with a personal brand/thought-leadership strategy and plan. Once you have done steps 1-4, it’s time to (a) understand the social mindset you need for success; (b) understand your audiences with whom you want to connect; (c) develop your thought-leadership messaging; (d) create your individual content strategy (hint: it should dovetail with your business content strategy. We teach this in our Social CEO course but your PR or marketing team should be able to help you with this, too); (e) You’ll need to learn some tactics.

Good news part one, this is the easiest bit of all and follows The Social System. Good news part two, you don’t need to be on all platforms, you can pick one. Whether you choose LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter or your own blog, it doesn’t really matter, people will pay attention to wherever you choose to publish because now, you will have something meaningful to say (also, CEOs can create great op-ed pieces for major publishers so be sure not to miss out on that distribution tactic).

So, now it’s time to go! Now, you have a step-by-step guide to build the reputation of your business, increase credibility in your marketplace, increase rapport with employees, customers, investors and media and attract great talent and build your personal brand and thought-leadership. It is possible to have major movement in weeks not months. But just like with anything worthwhile, you have to do the work. With that said, I will give you this promise: once you do, you’ll look back and wonder why you weren’t always here—and we’ll forget that at one time you weren’t.

Welcome aboard!

This post was originally published by Forbes.

Members of the SNCR community can use discount code “SNCR” to sign up for the Social CEO course.



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