The Research Studies Say NO
If you believe the data, CEO’s are not using social media; not even tech-based CEOs. The simple fact is currently social media is not a communication channel CEOs are actively participating in.
The situation will undoubtedly change over time as a new generation of executives takes on the CEO role. But, there are important challenges to that change between now and then. This post provides some great insight into the specific barriers to CEO adoption.
Despite Data to the Contrary, Nearly Half (44%) of Respondents to a Recent Poll Believe Social Media is an Effective Way to Market Their Community
I ran a quick one question poll on LinkedIn to better understand how people were thinking about social media as a place marketing tactic (note, small N). I expected the majority of responders to be undecided. I was surprised to find that only 39% were. I’ve thought about why the results did not match my expectations. My guess is the poll may be impacted by a wave of hopeful optimism. We desperately want social media to be an effective communication tool because our marketing and promotion budgets have been slashed and the low out-of-pocket cost is soooo attractive. It simply has to work, we can’t afford any of the alternative tactics.
Social Media is Just a Communication Channel
It is a great channel if your target audience participates. It is a poor channel choice if your target audience does not. It really is that simple. Like any communication channel option, you need to have a strategic reason for investing time and your limited budget. You need to be able to explain the rationale for why social media is in your communication mix, and how you expect to deliver a positive ROI. I appreciate my perspective may fly in the face of many consultants and Advertising Agencies who are advocating investment in social media. But, it isn’t the first time my perspective is different than the “conventional wisdom”. And, it won’t be the last.
Is There a Right Strategy for Social Media?
Any media channel choice starts with an analysis of who is participating. If your strategic target uses the channel for information and decision-making, then investing in communicating to them through the channel may indeed make sense. But, I believe the data to date convincingly argues that CEOs are not participating in sufficient numbers to make social media an ideal channel choice in which to tell your community’s story, if they indeed are your target audience.
That is not to say that social media can’t play a role in your communication mix. It can if you have a strategic rationale for choosing it. To illustrate the point, here are two examples. These are by no means the only strategic reasons. They are just intended to stimulate your thinking.
- Strategy Idea: Strengthen the Engagement and Loyalty of Your Citizens. The people who live in your community are participating in social media. They have friends on Facebook, are posting videos on YouTube, they Tweet and have connections on LinkedIn (just to highlight a few of the more popular social media tools). A valid strategy for considering social media is to create a relationship with members of your community. Listen to them, talk with them, educate them, challenge their thinking and let them challenge yours. One cool idea I have seen is asking citizens for recommendations on their favorite things to do in your community. The compiled list can be provided to potential capital investors as confirmation people like living in your community. Another cool idea I’ve seen is to host a photography contest and ask citizens to provide pictures of things they really enjoy in your community. You may be amazed at the passion you will see in the submissions.
- Strategy Idea: Integrate Into Your Sales Program. The voice of people who live and work in your community can be very powerful if you can get a CEO exposed to it. Since CEOs don’t participate in social media, it is up to you to bring the information directly to them. Share citizen comments about your community; send target CEOs a link to a relevant blog posts. Think about social media as a push promotional tool.
What Do You Recommend Doing?
I recommend revisiting your social media efforts and make absolutely certain you have a compelling strategic rationale supporting your investment. If you don’t, then rethink what you are doing and adjust accordingly. Don’t be blinded by the low cost and the fact that your competition seems to be heavily betting on social media. If you can explain to your Board how you expect to deliver a positive ROI, then double down and go for it. If you can’t, proceed with caution until you can. Being a fast follower in using new media channels can often be a very smart and cost effective business decision.
More Reading on Social Media
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