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The Year of the Social C-Suite?

2014 will be the year that the C-Suite remains unresponsive to staff, clients and prospects, again. Social Media will remain off the agenda. A non-agenda item. An item of ‘Any other Business’ that will mean anything other than business.

It’s a surprise because the objectives many senior executives set for branding investment could be more readily achieved with an active and effective social media strategy – specifically and especially within the C-Suite itself.

And it’s not as if they haven’t been advised accordingly. Marketing Managers and Marketing Directors the world over have presented the need for executive engagement within the social marketing plan. Consultancies and consultants have investigated, considered and charged considerable sums to reach the same conclusion – Sir needs to be in the game. Even B2B social media marketing Legends (ahem) have consistently and repeatedly delivered the executive message in blogs, in presentations, in videos.

Social business. It’s not a new thought. My post reflecting on the C-Suite’s attitudes to digital marketing evolution and the ‘musk-scented washrooms of executive airport lounges’ remains very popular. That was back in 2010. My presentation on the subject of ‘Bloody Important Senior Executives’ in 2012 has achieved several thousand views. So as 2014 unfolds, what’s likely to change in the ‘Social C-Suite’? Fuck-all from what I can see. Senior Executive attitudes to social remain broadly ambivalent. Their actions, involvement and participation with digital media are, with few exceptions, still negligible. How will an enterprise that broadly understands the commercial and competitive benefit of achieving social business positioning ever hope to reach the goal when there is no social leadership to follow within their own organisations?

The notion that, ‘these things take time in B2B’, and, ‘B2B is slower to adopt new practices than B2C’, are poor excuses for ignorance and complacency ultimately leading to negligence and incompetence. In a study from Marketing Profs there are indicators that the B2B community is able to achieve business advantage compared to B2C when we apply ourselves. The study shows that B2B organisations acquired more new business partnerships (56 per cent B2B, 45 per cent B2C), saw improved search rankings (60 per cent B2B, 50 per cent B2C) and were able to gather increased marketplace insights due to their social media efforts (69 per cent B2B, 60 per cent B2C).

For businesses to achieve this position and, more importantly, to take advantage of associated market insight and customer engagement opportunities, the entire organization has to have skin in the game. Including Sir. Especially Sir.

It’s evident that the majority of businesses are still struggling with the realization of a social future. They’re also going to struggle to catch up. The thought that we should be gentle with newcomers is absurd. The advantage lies with those already rolling out enterprise-wide social engagement, A to Z, top to bottom. The C-Suite ‘listeners’ waiting tentatively on the sidelines need kicking. You need kicking for allowing your marketing mix to fall into such disrepair. What were you thinking? That 1 billion (and counting) Facebook users must have made a mistake? That businesses can’t be social? That you’ll just ‘wait and see’? Get a grip.

‘Social Business’ should be the unifying thought that sits at the heart of every B2B marketing strategy. A social business requires that the business is social. The whole business – or as much of the whole as is possible. Which begs the question – if you can’t beat the C-Suite, why not just dump them?

‘Jump’ might be a better word than ‘dump’, but the outcome would be the same. In a social context, step over the C-Suite and move the rest of the business forward to delivery. If the executives simply want to FO, or IO, or OO, or EO, or whatever C-level executives want to do, let them. But place responsibility, and more importantly the authority, for the social brand and the social business elsewhere in the organisation. At least the organisations ready to progress could do so. Those stuck in a 2007 vortex of recommending ‘listening’ as, ‘a good place to start’ can disappear up their own black hole and the rest of us can move on.

Just an idea.

Scot McKee
Managing Director

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