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Social Media Gives Execs the Willies




ScaredThe Center for Media Research has reported on a paper that reaches the conclusions that executives in many companies are worried about social media in some form or another. If it’s not how employees are wasting valuable company time as a result of their Twitter and / or Facebook fetishes (51%) it is about how their companies and brands are being represented in the social media world (49%). Legitimate concerns for sure but it is probably high time that executives stop wringing their hands about this stuff and just jump in with the rest of the sharks people.

About the study itself

The study providing a foundation for the white paper, “Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risks,” was conducted by Minneapolis-based Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law in July 2009. A total of 438 randomly selected management, marketing and human resources executives within companies across the United States completed the online survey, providing a statistical reliability of +/-4.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

So what other tidbits of information came along regarding executives and this terrifying animal known as social media / marketing / networking? Basically, there appears to be an understanding that putting their head in the sand will not be a good solution to the social media conundrum faced by many companies today. In other words, execs don’t seem to like the idea but they realize that they are going to need to face the reality. Some data for you

• 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients
• 81% agree it can build brand reputation
• 69% feel such networking can be valuable in recruitment
• 64% see it as a customer service tool
• 46% think it can be used to enhance employee morale

Most are reactive rather than proactive as it relates to social media. Despite the head nodding about how it can help their business, the upper echelons of executives are just plain scared of what social media can do to their companies. As a result they are not really getting involved despite the recognition of the potential upside.

Those surveyed who are not using social media on a corporate basis say non-implementation is primarily due to concern about confidentiality or security issues (40%), employee productivity (37%) or simply not knowing enough about it (51%).

This may be why many organizations continue to prohibit workplace access to social networking sites. The study found that 40 percent of companies technically block their employees from accessing social media while at work. At the same time, 26% of companies use social media to further corporate objectives and 70% said they plan to increase the use of these new opportunities.

Ok, so which side of the fence are they playing on? Do they get it enough to do something or are they just saying it to look good? While these people seem to get scared about their employees wasting time less than 1/3 have put a formal policy in place around the use of the various social media outlets of which Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn etc etc and less than 10% have done any employee training around it.

Well, like anything else in the fast paced Internet world that we live in (in parallel with the stalled and fearful economy that the rest of the world is stuck in) there is no stopping the progress. It will definitely be a ‘kill or be killed’ environment that all business will play in eventually regarding the online world. The following numbers, however, don’t say much about anything actually being done about what is being said.

Even though social media communication is growing, only one in 10 executives say they have staff who spend more than 50% of their time on such efforts, and only 13% have included social media in their organizations’ crisis communications plans.

So all of you executives in the C-suite go ahead and wring your hands while saying that you get it. Social media won’t allow you to say one thing and then not act on it though. Nope, sorry. What is more likely to happen is that you will be exposed as someone who said all the right things but then let everything ‘go to you know where in a hand basket’ because it would be too hard or risky to actually do something. Good luck!