Categorized | social marketing

If social networking is the future, CEO’s are stuck in the past

Just a couple days ago, UberCEO published a semi-formal study of the CEO’s of the Fortune 100 companies and found — no surprise — that they were way behind the social networking curve. Money quote:

  • Only two CEOs have Twitter accounts.

  • 13 CEOs have LinkedIn profiles, and of those only three have more than 10 connections.
  • 81% of CEOs don’t have a personal Facebook page.
  • Three quarters of the CEOs have some kind of Wikipedia entry, but nearly a third of those have limited or outdated information.
  • Not one Fortune 100 CEO has a blog.
  • Of course, it could be argued that the CEO’s have real networks, as in, they include heads of state and practically every power business player in the universe, so they have no need of piss-ass networks like LinkedIn. Listen, if you’re a power-person that everyone wants to be linked to, well, you have no need to be linked to, right? And Facebook? Twitter? Why would Jeffrey Immelt want to update his Facebook friends or Twitter followers when he’s personally phoning and meeting with his network every day. And by “them” I mean folks like Ben Bernanke, President Obama, the governors of most states, Vladimir Putin, Nicholas Sarkozy, Sergey Brin, Larry Page . . . well, you get the picture. Immelt can pick up the phone and chat with Jack Welch right now if he wanted. With a Rolodex like that, who cares about all the rest of us and the videos we’re watching, the gym we’re going to, or the hamburgers and fries we’re throwing up right now?

    In addition, the average Fortune 100 CEO works fourteen, fifteen, sixteen hour days some six or seven days a week (I’ve been told by people in the know that Jeffrey Katzenberg is known for calling people at 11 PM for ad hoc meetings — even on weekends — and he expects to reach you in your office). You know why they have private jets? So they can work. With their work schedule and immense stresses, why, oh why, would a Fortune 100 CEO sit down and write a blog? I’m not even going to go into the prickly territory that a CEO has to strictly control every single thing he or she says. One misspoken word and the stock slides 40%. (One of the great ironies in the world is that power takes away your freedoms, including your freedom to say whatever you want.) So, yeah, great idea — let’s have Anne Mulcahey start a blog about how much she hates her job and her kids. There’s a winner.

    If you want a little object lesson on why CEO’s (or most other businesspeople) should not have Facebook or Twitter accounts, talk to Rusty DePass or Mike Green. Or ask Angelo Mozilo, whose undisciplined, reactive use of email will probably land him in jail (Mozilo is the kind of reactive guy who fires off emails in the heat of the moment and with pausing for reflection; even though he will change his view two hours later, there’s a fully loaded email smoking gun sitting on the server).

    Now, just imagine Steve Jobs, who’s famous for screaming obscenities and insults all the live-long day, having a go at Twitter whenever the mood hit. We’d all still be using Nokias and Walkmans.

    In other words, social networking really doesn’t seem to be for the really successful people, only us poor schmoes who are struggling to succeed. They don’t have the time and, well, too much money is on the line.

    However, this is true only to a point.

    That so many Fortune 100 CEO’s are behind the social media marketing ball demonstrates, indeed, a failure. But not with them so much as with their marketing and PR departments. The CEO is the public face of a company and can exercise outsize influence on the way customers, shareholders, and the media view the company. Just ask Steve Jobs, who, though he’s a temper-addled bully in person, is fiercely disciplined in his public persona. Just ask Anne Mulcahey, who turned around Xerox not merely through immense competence (which is quite an achievement), but by flawlessly creating an immensely powerful and carefuly crafted public image of immense competence.

    And I’m not even going to mention how much the auto companies could have benefitted from a carefully crafted, brilliantly engineered social networking campaign centered around their CEO’s could have smoothed their path to federal funding and restructuring. Instead, they ceded the entire social networking space to their critics. Outside of a few connected employees, the defenders of the American auto companies were criminally absent from the social network sphere.

    Yes, Fortune 100 CEO’s need to have Facebook profiles, MySpace spaces, Twitter followers, and even blogs. But they should never be allowed near them — the whole shmear should be under the control of the marketing and PR department as a strategic component of their branding, product marketing, and PR initiatives. Now, celebrities have already learned this lesson — they just have to learn not to be insipid. Large companies have not yet figured out how to create or leverage the “celebrity” of their leadership.

    As a blog for start-up entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small businesses, we push the social media marketing sphere as one space where even the thinnest of budgets can take on the big bullies on the block. But, like everything else, social networking has to evolve with your company and your role in your company. Once you hit a certain size, what you say matters. And once you have investors, everything you say online puts their money at risk. And once you have shareholders buying and trading your stock on the open market, then everything you say — everything — translates into real dollars.

    So social media involve not just several decisions, but a growth plan.

  • In the social media sphere, is there a “you” and “your company”? Are they different? If so, how so? And how should this change as the size and reach of your company grow?
  • What “personality” are you selling? If you’re using social media for branding or marketing, the “personality” is your branding strategy. But building a social network on a branding platform is frustrating and tedious. Many entrepreneurs have built a sizable and profitable social network on their “personality,” which involves having an attitude, humor, positions, and, yes, a bit of naughtiness. For instance, which blog entry do you think will generate more hits, one that’s titled, “Get the best logo you can” or “Logos that I really loathe”? And once you’ve decided on personality and how much of it to share with the world, how is that personality going to evolve as the company grows?
  • All social networking, including your personal, private social networking, is part of the public face of your business endeavor. You need to start by defining all the relevant boundaries. The boundaries can be fairly liberal at the beginning, but as your company grows, the list of “off-topics” and “never-say-thats” grows. Do you talk about religion? Only if you’re selling it. Do you talk about sex? Only if you’re selling it. Do you talk about politics? Maybe. But as your company grows, more and more political subjects migrate beyond the pale. These are social networking decisions you make at the very beginning and consistently revise as your network and your company grows. Eventually, if you become a Fortune 100 company, the off-limits list grows so large that you can’t be trusted with your social networking.

    And the takeaway?

    Right now you’re probably in the formation stage of your endeavor and you’re using social networking any which you can. But you’re also creating historical documents that can be used against you, your company, or your products in the future, so “where you want to be” should inform your social media tactics as much as “where you are now” do.

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