When it comes to incorporating key social network platforms into marketing, branding, customer service or outreach efforts, senior leaders say they realize consequences of lagging behind, and yet research conducted by Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance and its Center for Leadership Development and Research clearly indicates otherwise.
Sure, 90 percent of the nearly 200 CEOs and other senior executives surveyed acknowledged the relevance of integrating social media into their overall business plans of action. But, a look at their actual business practices in this arena were far from convincing. Most notably:
- Less than one-third in the survey stated that their companies use social media to monitor risks to their corporate reputation or brand.
- A paltry 14 percent include social media metrics in measuring their organization’s performance, while only 8 percent of directors and only one in four senior managers receive any reports summarizing their companies’ social media performance. (In fact, nearly half of the companies in this study still do not collect this data at all.)
- Despite study after study pointing to the social media expectations of customers, fewer than 60 percent of the executives in this survey said their companies use social media to engage with or service customers.
- More than 50 percent still don’t use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest in their marketing, and 70 percent don’t tap these platforms to research competitors, interact with employees or stakeholders, or explore new product or service ideas.
“We know that executives and board members are using social media. However, familiarity with social media is just not translating into systemic use at their companies,” explains Professor David F. Larcker of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “The majority of those we surveyed don’t have social media guidelines in place at their companies, haven’t had a social media expert consult with their company, and don’t have systems in place for gathering key information. They are putting themselves at serious risk by not taking action.”
Fortunately, the authors of the study didn’t stop at compiling statistics. They also provided action steps for business leaders to take in order to ramp up the integration of social media into the risk assessment, operational and marketing aspects of their organizations. The recommendations included developing formal social media policies and guidelines for senior management, implementing a system for capturing and reporting data about their companies on social media, making social media an integral part of their business model and using social networking tools to gauge corporate performance.
That we have seen little improvement among larger corporations in tapping into the potential and reach of social media is, to me, mind-boggling. How much more evidence it will take for corporate leaders to embrace the powerful digital tools that are, quite literally, at their fingertips?