How Executives Are Using Social Media

|   Oct 6, 2010

The time constraints on today’s executives are more numerous than ever before. Between the economic downturn, ever-changing industry regulations, fast-moving information and simple day-to-day management tasks, corporate executives are trapped in the virtual jail cell that is today’s business climate. The unintended result of executive “information-imprisonment” is a workplace where they may have little insight into employee morale, culture, and general goings-on during the workday. Blinded by the reflection of their own to-do-lists, executives are turning to consumer social networks to stay connected to the people that execute on daily tasks inside their organizations.

According to The Society for New Communication Research (SFNCR), 92 percent of executives are users of LinkedIn, 51 percent are on Facebook, and 41 percent are on Twitter because these tools are “a great way to keep track of peers and colleagues.” Even more interesting is that 76 percent of executives check these social sites at least once per day. This demonstrates that busy executives want to keep up with their staff, but simply don’t have time for in-person meetings, calls, and other time-consuming activities. Using social media helps executives stay on top of what their teams are doing, giving them a convenient snapshot of their company happenings and work without having to learn about them around the conference table.

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Ironically, the same types of social networks used by executives for understanding employee work are often shut down when employees try to bring them in-house. It’s relatively easy to prohibit employees from creating and accessing internal social collaboration tools, and oftentimes executives are quick to stop their proliferation. According to Erik Qualman of Socialnomics.com, executives shut down these social networks for the following three reasons:

  1. Concerns over control: Social media is an inherently open and transparent medium of communication that leaves open how and when someone will post and respond to messages
  2. Lack of understanding: In today’s rapidly changing landscape, some executives don’t have time to understand exactly how certain employee-led tools work or fit into a communications hierarchy
  3. Fear of a “Fad:” Without a clear vision of the future direction of social media and how it can be strategically and sustainably utilized to benefit the company, executives opt not to put energy into such uncharted waters

What is clear is that busy executives want open communication with their employees, but can’t risk performance slow-downs or potentially hazardous liability issues surrounding data. The high executive adoption of consumer-facing social networks indicates a growing acceptance of and reliance on social tools for communication, but there are still many hurdles that internal social networks must cross before they’re as widely accepted by executives. For each company exploring their options, it’s critical to evaluate a social tool’s impact on productivity, culture, and the peace of mind of busy executives. The shift toward open, rapid communication is clearly here, but is your organization’s leadership ready to unlock the doors to a freer information economy?

Sources: Socialnomics.net, SNCR.org, UBERCEO.com, The Society for New Communication Research

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