Many times I have come to talk with/to a group of senior executives about digital marketing and new tech and, in my pre-work, discover how poorly represented they are on social media. As some of you will know, I’ve long advocated that executives ought to have a strong social presence, as a condition of doing business. The chief arguments I use for top executives are usually for the benefit of the business and leave out the personal advantages (even though these are the most forceful reasons, actually). The “business” reasons include the fact that having a social media presence will help:
- to understand the digital/social media
- to make the right decisions in digital marketing
- to listen to customers
- to engage with customers directly
- to set the right example for the rest of the company
- to show your personality to customers, stakeholders and employees
Making a Social Presence Overnight
Despite all these strong business reasons, most executives continue to be, at best, modestly present on social media. And these are the same executives who say they are frustrated about the slow pace of change in the organization. Opening a Twitter account or having the Communications Team set up a LinkedIn account is not what I mean by having a social presence. The CEO of L’Oreal, Jean-Paul Agon, for example, has this LinkedIn account:
Does Jean-Paul Agon even understand the message he is sending out with such an account? I would suspect not. Shame on his counselors (read: the Chief Digital Officer) on not alerting him!
And yet… the best reasons for senior executives to develop a social presence are eminently personal. Social media provides a fantastic way to stay up-to-date with one’s personal passions, not to mention one’s friends and family around the world. Social media is a wonderful way to continue to learn and stay curious. It is, moreover, a way to test and/or validate one’s knowledge of the changing markets. And,when it comes to changing jobs, having a well-developed social presence is immensely important, not to say indispensable.
The personal reasons that trumps all…
Some days I laugh to myself when I get a Linkedin invitation to connect from older businessmen (virtually always men). Often, the connection request is followed, after only a short period, by an email “out of the blue.” Almost inevitably, the message revolves around some kind of change in career … And the problem is that they have no social presence, no social proof and are rather disrespectful of the social media mores (not to say comical) in their efforts. A strong social presence cannot just be invented overnight.
One day you will all be on the market. For Mr Agon, his time will come, and surely he won’t need a social presence. However, the issue remains hyper true for his colleagues and underlings. I say:
To take a parallel with the old-fashioned push marketing mindset, you just can’t buy an audience and a network.
Your thoughts and reactions?