C-Level Leaders: Don’t Get Carried Away by Social Media

By: Guest | October 26, 2010 | 

Guest post by Hollis Thomases, author of the book “Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day.”

WARNING: What you’re about to read might sound like heresy coming from someone like me, who others have described as a “social media expert”: As a CEO or business leader, don’t get too sucked into or carried away by social media.

To explain what I mean, first let me set the record straight: Though others may call me a social media expert, I have never labeled myself as such. It is because of what my company does – I started working in online marketing back in 1998 as founder/CEO of an agency, Web Ad.vantage, which I still own and operate – that I am even involved in “social media” as we know it today. And yes, somewhere along the way I also wrote a book on social media subject matter.

Ironically, from day one, I’ve never espoused that one single online tactic, let alone online all by itself, should be the be-all/end-all of a company’s marketing strategy. I believe in an integrated approach – one that involves both online and offline marketing, advertising, public relations, and business development. With this in mind, any marketing tactic just becomes another tool in the toolset, all given fair consideration.

When I consider my own social media activities, I first try to adhere to our own agency’s social media strategy (I am my own client after all), but I also give myself permission to not always be able to accomplish these goals on a day-to-day basis.

As the company leader, I see my responsibilities in this order: #1 – To my employees; #2 – To our clients. Our business development and marketing efforts, of which social media is a part, fall below these two.

In the course of any given day, my best intentions for tweeting, checking all my LinkedIn connections, creating content, or conducting a podcast interview may fall by the wayside, usurped by something more important in running my company. (And don’t get me started about generating more videos, which is still on my wish list.)

Is my attitude setting me up for a competitive disadvantage? I don’t think so. Am I being realistic and managing my time wisely? I’d like to think so. Do I feel disappointed or guilty if days go by and I haven’t demonstrated any social media activity? Truthfully, yes, but I get over that pretty quickly.

What I am reminded of and why I do have conviction in social media is that, as the business owner, I am most likely to have success in selling for my company (Brad Farris has empirical data on this), and putting my personal brand out there is a big part of that sales process. So I happily “bear the burden” of representing my company by “being out there,” but I also try to put things into perspective. In order to be successful, I have to stay focused on my priorities.

Author of the book Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, Hollis Thomases is president and founder of Maryland-based, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing and analysis.

  • Good advice, Hollis. Though, to be honest, I don’t think we need to worry about too many C-Level leaders getting carried away by social media. Most leave it to others on the team (often juniors). Or, they just ignore it altogether…

  • Chaostroll

    @dannybrown Nice reading, anyway i will agree with Danny as for my part in France i never met a CEO using social media…

  • alanbr82

    Great write up, I like to take a page from the military when discussing social media/networking with C-level leaders. First I tell them social media is a tactic in a combined arms marketing strategy. There are a lot of C-level leaders that get laser focused on the latest marketing tactic and forget the simple things, like their website. The real question to junior staff is how does this fit in? and Should we or Can we do it all?

  • Great stuff. I fall in line with the other comments that it is highly unlikely that exec’s will get carried away and spend too much time on SM. Successful biz owners and execs usually understand using tools as tools not shiny new playthings. As an addendum, I think execs should be warned to not view SMM as an “easy button’. Like anything good, it grows over time and needs the proper resources (including human) to be successful.

  • Techally

    I agree with Danny. In my experience, I haven’t come across too many C-Level leaders getting carried away by social media. As an advocate of social media, I think this is rather disappointing, though I also understand that they do need to keep their priorities in order. What I have been seeing more of lately is the hiring of internal and external community managers to take on the social media role for them. Social media marketing is just one tool in the toolbox of a successful marketing strategy, however it is very important, and one that is gaining more attention daily. Although I understand that many businesses leaders aren’t too focused on keeping their Twitter accounts up-to-date, I do believe that agencies that tout social media expertise need to practice what they preach. Perhaps the answer for business leaders isn’t slacking on their social efforts, but instead tapping into their internal and external marketing resources to develop an active presence on social media platforms for their customers and online audiences who are expecting this more and more of their favourite brands.

  • DanielHIndin

    Thanks for this engaging post, Hollis. I came across another post called “C-Suiters Out of Touch With Social Media” that I thought was relevant both to your writing and to the comments below. Food for thought:

  • ginidietrich

    @dannybrown I was JUST talking to johnheaney about this…I would venture to guess that upwards of 80 percent of the business leaders I speak with while on the road really believe their customers aren’t buying any differently than they did 10 or 20 years ago. They believe their customers aren’t using the web or smart phones to buy anything. It blows my mind.

  • @GiniDietrich johnheaney We just took on a Fortune 300 company yesterday, and one of the things that sealed the deal was our social audit of their industry. It’s a very “traditional” one, and they didn’t expect anything to come back.

    After 15 solid pages of Excel reports with more than 1,200 examples over a two week period, they soon saw the value. 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @dannybrown johnheaney The very idea of 15 pages of Excel reports hurts my head! No wonder you’re working on a Saturday morning! Me? I’m off to ride my bike.

  • @GiniDietrich @dannybrown johnheaney Gini, your choice of verbs here was also revealing: “I was just talking to…” even though I don’t believe we’ve ever actually spoken to each other, we’ve had conversations for months. In fact, I’m confident that I know more about you from your posts, tweets and personal exchanges than I know about the majority of people I deal with regularly in my professional pursuits. So, do we “talk” or will someone coin a new verb to describe conversations carried on entirely in the digital ether?

  • hollisthomases

    @Dannybrown “Or the just ignore it altogether.” Sad, but true and a little frightening because it reveals just how out of touch many C-level execs are with the people they’re trying to sell to.