executive use of social mediaEarlier this year a study revealed just how few senior executives have any kind of active profile on social media.  Whether this matters or not depends on the purpose of your social media work.  For instance, if you\’re currently just using social media to push out marketing messages then it probably isn\’t all that important that your CEO posts the odd tweet here and there.

Things change however if you\’re using social media tools to improve how your business operates.  Then it becomes less an activity performed by the marketing team and more an organisation wide initiative to change for the better.  I argued earlier in the summer that in these circumstances it\’s crucial that your leaders show that they understand the importance of this, and actually do some leading.

The importance of purpose

Some Stanford research this autumn revealed that many senior executives are still failing to really see how social is helping their companies.  They\’re not seeing any impact on bottom line, and they\’re not seeing any impact on how the organisation behaves.  That\’s a pretty major hurdle to overcome, and it underlines the importance not just of having a purpose for your social work, but having a purpose that is both tied into key organisational goals, and that is measurable.

Getting leaders to help you cross the chasm

Executive time is precious, so they aren\’t going to waste time on things that aren\’t making a difference.  In the early stages of your social business project you won\’t need them, as you\’ll be flying under the radar and trying out things in a small skunk works style project.  Doing it this way means you can fail safely without it jeopardising the entire thing.

Once you\’ve found something that works however you\’ll need help turning your skunk works into something that shifts the organisation.  In the words of Geoffrey Moore, you\’ll need to cross the chasm.  This is where your leaders can be invaluable.

Show me the money

There are various guides out there on how to coax senior executives to use your social tools.  Whilst these strategies may provide some short-term results, and may even change the habits of some of your executive team, by far the most effective method for changing behaviour is to show them how what you do is producing results.  This is where your skunk works comes in because you\’ve proven the merit of what you do and can provide evidence that it is working.

Sure the executive might want some coaching on how they can join in the fun, but if you can produce measurable and tangible impacts in areas that matter to them, you have a great chance that they will be beating a path to your door.