CxOs and social media : knowing is not doing

In short : CEOs and corporate directors are aware of the importance of social media, of what’s at stake and even use these tools in their personal lives but that does not lead to a mainstream corporate use. A Stanford survey analyzes the gap and concludes that social media use is a systemic issue.

There are books that make deep impressions. Their logic is so undisputable that that whatever their topic or age, their message stay valid for years for any matter or industry. Among these books one of my favorite is The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action by Robert Sutton. As a matter of fact it deals with a double-sided issue most businesses are facing today : being aware of a situation and not being able to react accordingly, having knowledge to deal with problems and not being able to harness it. A the time Sutton wrote his book no one was talking about social business or enterprise 2.0 but the levers and barriers identified by Sutton are exactly those that prevent businesses from making the most of their social/2.0 initiatives. What proves that it’s not a matter of technology but of structures, systems and managerial and behavioral models.

Leaders and social media : behind acknowledgements, waiting games

Let’s step back to today’s topic : a Stanford survey on leaders and social media. It tells us that :

-90% of businesses say they understand the impact of social media on their activity but….only 32% monitor them and 14% defined metrics

-8% of top mangers have reports on these metrics

- most managers and directors have LinkedIn profiles, what shows they are familiar with these tools (even if I find such a conclusion too hasty : there’s a bid difference between having a profile and making a good use of the tool).

But behind this promising picture (except for what’s about metrics), there’s another reality¬† even if tools are familiar, the stakes and challenges acknowledged, businesses cant’ make a systemic use of them (yes.systemic, not systematic).

For the rest my analysis will diverge from Sanford’s because they mainly focus on external use while internal use is at least as complicated.

Social media use has often been considered as an individual issue : each person should individually do efforts to use them in the context of their work. But why ? That’s the answer to this question (or lack of) that makes the approach successful. The “why” should be consistant with one’s objectives, the collective way of doing things, the enterprise’s rules and policies.

The sum of individual adoption is not collective adoption

In one word : the sum of individual adoptions does not mean a collective adoption and the emergence of enough collaborative synergies to sustain and reinforce the dynamic.

So that’s a matter of system and structure rather than adoption. That’s about what makes someone adopt a way of doing and a behavior that seem logical and natural to him in a given context and adopt opposite manners that seem as obvious to him in another context.

Why dit I mention Sutton in my forewords ? Because what he wrote in the late 90s perfectly applies here. Why don’t we do what we know we should do ? Irrelevant indicators and performance measurement, management by fear, endlessly repeating things the way we’ve always done before, favor internal competition and even fight rather than collaboration.

A good understanding of how to make a good use of social media relates to anything but social media. It’s about everything around.