What top business journalist Alan Kohler can teach business leaders about social media

If you know that social media is mission critical yet are still having trouble convincing the executive, take some cues from how business journalist Alan Kohler thinks.

With his finger on the pulse of business, his questions mirror those you can expect so use them to pre-empt concerns and provide answers about enterprise and personal use.

Talking to Alan Kohler on the Qantas Talking Business Show

Facebook is not something executives have to use

True – executives don’t have to use Facebook personally but their marketing teams need to know it inside out and the leadership must understand the business impact and invest adequately.

Facebook is a giant with 1.44 billion active users, almost 90% of marketers say its generated exposure and 67% directly attribute sales increases to social and digital efforts.

Facebook –

— Increases sales – 50%.
— Generates leads – 50%.
— Reduces marketing costs – 62%.
— Increases web traffic – 78%.

That’s just the start.

Conversations on Facebook influence behaviour, from increasing voting turnout to influencing voter sentiment or deciding what doctor (41% said social media affects their choice of a specific doctor) or lawyer to use.

A leadership team that doesn’t get that is putting the business at risk.

Personal use is a choice but you can think of Facebook as the new lounge. We used to have friends around for a cup of tea and to see our holiday photos, now those friends are spread around the world so we share on Facebook.

How open you are depends on your personality. If you want a private space set privacy to high but there are highly social professionals who open their lives to the world. It’s up to you.

Twitter is dangerous

Twitter’s not dangerous, nor is it without danger. It’s impactful, that must be managed.

For example, in 2013 the share price of Whitehaven Coal fell in response to a hoax tweet. $314 million was wiped off the share price and it was placed in a trading halt. The activist was later sentenced for misleading and deceptive conduct but shareholders lost money.

That’s the power of Twitter, love or loathe it you can’t palm responsibility for it to the marketing intern.

By the same token Twitter has enormous benefits.

For one it’s essential to crisis management in producing real time maps, coordinating people, places and resources when things go wrong – I can’t even think now how we would manage real-time disasters without it.

It also allows a company to tell its own story, strengthen its brand, and build a strong and engaged community that is responsive to company information. And with Twitter you can go direct to your customers, you don’t have to rely on 3rd parties to broker the information on your behalf.

For example in the finance sector 46% of investors who used social media did not have a financial advisor but 52% said they would connect with an advisor through social media. There’s a business opportunity and one that applies across all sectors.

Twitter has to be on the agenda.

Who should ‘do’ the social posting – the minions or executive?

CEOs are time poor like the rest of us but should show up personally, the business benefits are there.

A social CEO positively impacts perceptions of trust, reputation, and engagement:

  • Weber Shandwick – in 2013 found 76% of executives want the CEO to be social, up to 81% in 2015.
  • Brandfog – two thirds of customer’s trust companies more if the CEO is social.
  • Statista – 82% of employees think a social CEO helps shape reputation.

Support teams can help with admin, set up, maintenance, and research but when you’re on social people expect it to be you. Social co-management uses experts to do the grunt work while professionals show up to share views, build relationships and add value.

CEOs don’t have much time but they make time to do what counts for the business – time in social counts.

What should someone say on Twitter?

That depends on your personality, interests, and industry.

CEOs constantly talk in public — think of Twitter as an extension of that public speaking platform. Whatever you would say to investors, customers, suppliers, and staff at a business lunch – that’s what you say.

All the normal rules apply. Commercial in confidence is commercial in confidence, on and off line. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a listed company or in a regulated industry you can be social and stick to the rules.

People aren’t in businesses forever so there’s a risk using them personally

Businesses need to think about dual branding.

One of the easiest ways to manage dual branding is to run two accounts – one in a person’s name and one for work where that’s possible (on LinkedIn for example, an account must be in a person’s name however you can have a company page.)

That way your business has a personal front but owns the channel so that if that person leaves, a new name can step in.

What’s LinkedIn about?

Most professionals have a LinkedIn presence — it helps you profile your skills and be found. There are now nearly 7 million Australians on board and over 364 million around the world.

This is the new lunch where you go to network, find synergies, and do business together. Just putting up your CV then walking away is like going to a lunch then standing in the corner — not helpful.

Grow your professional brand by using the powerful publishing platform to put content in front of users.

For example, we know content found on LinkedIn influences investment decisions. Use a company page to profile your business. It can also be used to tap into the global talent pool for ideas and recruitment and for advertising to highly segmented audiences.

The social infrastructure of life

In closing Alan made the observation that social media is no longer a fad but part of the ‘infrastructure of life’. I could not have said it better. If all else fails, take that to the boss.

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