Business bosses fail to grasp social media

Don’t tell your boss at work, but almost certainly he or she is living in the past, unable to grasp the modern world. They want it to be “like it used to be” and mutter things like “it was never like this in my day”. They thump their fist on the meeting room table demanding that Facebook be switched off in the office and they can’t understand why people are constantly emailing each other when they could be meeting face-to-face. All  this technology lark – well, it’s just not cricket is it chaps?

New research from the PR firm Weber Shandwick shows that the vast majority of Chief Executives have yet to do any kind of social networking. Only 36% of CEOs engage online, it seems. But what they call “engage” is still very old-fashioned – most of their “engagement” turns out to be “writing a letter” to a corporate website. Oh please…!

These people are – supposedly – the best “leaders” we have of the world’s top corporations. Really? The top corporations of which planet..? Does the word “dinosaur” come to mind?

But get this…the authors of the report explain why CEOs are so poor at online social networking. The reason? Because, a CEOs time is “better spent with customers and employees”. Sorry, run that past me again…! The reason they are poor at social networking is because they spend their time – er – being social…?!!

There is another reason, highlighted by the report: lawyers. They advise CEOs not to go social networking online. After all, people could sue the company if the CEO said something in Facebook or Twitter which was “off message”. But these people could also sue if the same material was delivered in an offline social engagement. So perhaps the lawyers ought to be telling CEOs the safest thing to do to avoid litigation is to never speak to anyone, never say or write anything down and to isolate yourself from the entire world. Perfect…nothing anyone can sue you for….!

Here’s the real reason why the typical CEO is not social. It is because the online social world largely relies on typing. That engages a different part of our brain to speaking. We associate speaking with being social – we do not make the same link when we type.

But there is a way out of this – and it is the rule by which the world’s best writers do their work. They say, type the way you would speak then read it out loud to be certain it sounds right. That will trigger your brain into social mode more easily. Or get something like Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance and speak your social networking content directly into your computer. This will help you feel as though you are speaking to someone.

The real problem for CEOs is that they are disassociated from people because they are typing rather than speaking. Simply change that activity to speaking and they will become more social online. And so will you too, if you find online social networking difficult. Either use voice-to-text software, or type as you would say something. Either way, you’ll get in the right frame of mind for being more social.

That’s important, because if you read the Weber Shandwick report you will see that the more social CEOs are the ones that are working for the companies with the highest reputation scores in “admired companies” listings. In other words, being social online has a clear business benefit. But you already knew that. Can you pass it on to a few of those CEOs? They need to know because at the moment they are not being leaders at all. Just dinosaurs.

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