When it comes to social media, the majority of CEOs seem to be moving slower than climate change – which creates a distinct opportunity for those of you prepared to stake your claim quickly.
IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study
IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study (PDF) revealed that, currently, social media is the least utilised of all customer interaction methods among 1700 companies whose CEO’s were interviewed for the project. “However”, the report says, “CEOs predict it will push past websites, call centers and channel partners and become the number-two way to engage customers within the next five years”.
Let me just repeat that: Social media will “become the number-two way to engage customers within the next five years”.
The Report’s Three “Key Findings”
Ironically, the three “Key findings” the report’s authors draw are actually three of the most compelling reasons that CEOs should be driving their organizations (and themselves) to become more active, more visible, more connected and more engaged online:
- Winning the unending war for talent
- Engaging customers as individuals
- Extensive partnering to drive radical innovation
1. Winning the war for talent
Top performers research, target and prospect potential employers online – through search and by tapping the networks they’ve built for themselves online. As you know, pay is rarely their top criteria – and never their only consideration. People want to be happy in their careers. They don’t just seek employment: They seek fulfilment. They join cultures. They join teams. They join companies that fit with their values and lifestyles.
We recommend you make the time to get answers to these questions:
- Is your organization even on the best talent’s radar?
- How easily can top performers find you online?
- What are people saying about your company online?
- How visible and transparent is your corporate culture?
- How accessible are your teams?
2. Engaging customers as individuals
Tomorrow’s greatest brands are already driving loyalty through wholly integrated social organizations. Research from eMarketer concluded that “Top executives need to be involved in social media. 77% of buyers say they are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media. 94% said C-suite social media participation enhances a brand image. And 82% of employees say they trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team communicate via social media.”
Simply having a website and a broadcasting via social media channels doesn’t constitute engagement. Engaging with customers as individuals is a strategic priority, perhaps you should consider doing it online yourself – on their turf, and on their terms. Increasingly you’ll find them on social networks. B2B organizations, in particular, should spend less time on Facebook, and more time on Linkedin.
- Implement a customer-centred social media listening program. The “Voice of The Customer” has never been so readily available. Embrace it.
- Use what you hear to form the basis of your optimized content strategy
- Plan and launch a blog for publishing engaging content, from your point of view.
- Welcome, encourage and reward dialogue
- Amplify your content through social media
- Continue to listen and engage with customers
3. Extensive partnering to drive radical innovation
The web is an incubator for radical innovation – from radical new technologies, to disruptive business models. You can search and you can listen – and you might just identify some prospective partners.
Strategy: Get found by seeking
Finding and engaging innovators online isn’t all that different from finding and engaging top talent and customers. If you aren’t already, you can and should be actively listening for discussion or announcements, from within target industries or technology clusters. Weekly alerts from Google Alerts or Talkwalker provide a quick, easy way to start.
When you discover prospective partners – or even interesting innovators – follow them. Share their content socially, whenever appropriate. Wherever you can add value, engage in discussion with them and their communities on social platforms – including commenting on their blog. Getting to know them socially makes initiating conversations easier and doing business more enjoyable. In the process, you’re also raising your own profile (yours and the company’s), appearing accessible, and innovators may well seek you out.
If you share the CEO study group’s strategic priorities, it’s worth pointing out that they each target a group of people: Future employees, customers and future partners. Each social group has its own motivations for being online – using digital technology to network, research, evaluate and make decisions that will affect your business. From this perspective, it is increasingly difficult to understand why CEOs continue to postpone the inevitable. Now is the time to take your digital leap – while your peers are still holding back.