Let go of your 3 old-school success tactics that are hindering social adoption

Let go of your 3 old-school success tactics that are hindering social adoption

I often talk about how important it is to educate professionals on the business benefits of social media if we want to close the leadership gap when it comes to using it (almost two billion people use social but only 15 – 30 percent are CEOs).

But I believe the reason for the lag is more complex.

In many cases the qualities that made professionals successful in the old world are what have kept them from leveraging opportunities in the social era.

Let’s look at how three old-school success skills can thwart us and what we need to do to turn them around.

They are –

1. Show me the data.
2. This is how we do things around here.
3. I’m accountable.

In all these cases the original driver is still the right one, we just to update our tactics for how we apply them in hyper-connected times.

1. Show me the data

Traditionally, being able to make data-driven investment decisions and manage risk gave companies a strategic edge. A rigorous business case underpinned by strong data was required before new initiatives could be funded.

Unfortunately this sort of business intelligence was not available when social media first erupted. Social media platforms were where people went to talk to other people. Who needed to measure that? Or so we thought.

Of course, many did not reflect at the time that people speaking to other people pretty much underpins everything that happens in life.

Conversations are –

– How we hear about products.
– Learn about the coffee or service at a particular café.
– Share our views on the latest movie and encourage or dissuade others from seeing it.
– Express how we feel about a particular political policy.

These conversations matter enormously. They can change how we vote or what brand of jeans we buy. But the data came after the fact.

Although platforms like LinkedIn emerged over twelve years ago the gap between social as a fringe interest and core business tool seemed fast. Many professionals initially believed it was a fad where kids shared meaningless cute kitten videos.

Unfortunately, as data became increasingly available on the importance of social media for business this narrative, although inaccurate, became more entrenched.

It has been difficult for many professionals to let this go of this even in the light of business intelligence that shows the importance of social media. Although we now have more data than you can poke a stick at many professionals have not returned to review the data, because they are anchored to an earlier view.

Flip it around

– Your desire for data is business sense, go back to the data we have now.
– Remember that the ROI on some aspects of the social cycle, like the value of a relationship, are hard to quantify.

2. This is how we do things around here

Twenty years ago companies who kept a tight reign on staff and provided scripted customer and media responses were the best practice examples in how to manage your brand. Nowadays, the socially savvy prize goes to those who trust their employees to have good judgement, be open and inject personality into the business brand.

It’s easy to see why the approach that made a professional successful in one era could work against them in 2014.

It’s also a larger issue than any one individual. Many professionals who saw the writing on the wall and were willing to take a more open approach were often held back by the culture of their companies. While agile players were able to drive straight in and get their toes wet when social erupted not all organisations were suited to experimenting.

The location, size, infrastructure, risk appetite, culture and leadership of a company all influence how willing it is to change and how quickly it is capable of adjusting.

It can be particularly hard for professionals in regulated industries to adapt if they require guidance from regulatory or membership bodies, many of which remain out of touch with social media themselves. For example, in the financial services sector in Australia the ASX only provided meaningful guidance on the impact of social media for communication (as it relates to disclosure) in 2013.

Flip it around

– Your desire to protect your brand and play within the rules is still right, rethink the ‘how’ by providing strong social media guidance that allows staff to be engaged while protecting your business interests.

3. I’m accountable

In the past a head of function could run a successful business in some ways independent of other areas.

Although a big leadership challenge has always been getting different business areas to talk to one another to prevent duplication and identify synergies, it meant great performers could step up, be accountable and stand out.

It was, for example, possible for the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to run out a computer refresh without the approval of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It was possible for the CMO to be a star performer and the CIO to be a dud.

Nowadays with marketing so IT-dependent and IT solutions driven by the need to create a great end-to-end customer experience, such siloed thinking is a problem.

Social media is about connection and interconnection – it’s a mesh. A customer can reach you at the call centre but also though a comment box on an advertising campaign, complain about you on Facebook, or recommended you through a B2B sales channels you’ve never heard of. It’s not linear.

Roles like the CIO and CMO are become increasingly merged. Decisions about how to serve the customer sit across all areas rather than with a particular officer.

For companies who still have a bounded management mindset managing these multiple touch points could work against them.

Flip it around

– Your desire for accountability still sets you apart, think like the customer and work on how to get all arms and legs of the business along.

We still want to excel as professionals, we have the skills, it’s about rethinking the way in which we apply them.

Dionne Kasian-Lew is the author of The Social Executive – how to master social media and why it’s good for business (Wiley). Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter @dionnelew, email

More reading:

Why trust is the new bottom line & how social media drives it
6 damaging myths about social media and the truth behind them
The ticking time bomb that sits at the heart of today’s ‘disconnected’ companies
3 reasons you can’t avoid social media (even if you wanted to)


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