This week, Wall Street Journal columnist Bruce Nolop published an article entitled Why CEOs Should Steer Clear of Social Media. In the article, Nolop argues that CEOs of companies large and small should avoid social media for 5 key reasons:
1) It can be a colossal waste of time.
2) Unfiltered CEO postings can be fraught with risks.
3) It can take CEOs out of their comfort zone.
4) It can expose a company to cybersecurity and legal risks.
5) Impressions derived from social media are no substitute for human contact.
Let's take a look at each point to understand why Nolop's argument is so flawed:
1) Social Media Can Be Waste of Time, But So Can Anything
Of course social media can be a huge waste of time. Anything done without purpose or limit can be a huge waste of time! CEOs obviously should not spend hours trolling Twitter, looking at the latest celebrity gossip. However, a focused, limited amount of time exploring social media can be extremely valuable to better understand your customers, employees, competitors, and market. Social media is a living, breathing 24-7-365 focus group that every CEO can learn from when "dropping by."
2) Unfiltered Communication Of All Kinds Can be Fraught With Risks
How many CEOs have gotten into deep water for emails they've sent? Does that mean that CEOs should no longer use email to communicate? Of course not. Just as with email, or really any form of communication, CEOs need to be thoughtful and careful before sending out tweets or other social media communication. But the rewards of building an enormous brand and following far outweigh the risk of thoughtless communication. Just ask T-Mobile CEO John Legere.
3. CEO Should Push Themselves Out of Their Comfort Zone
I get it - most CEOs of larger companies are from a different generation, and for them, social media doesn't come naturally. But they have a choice: embrace this obviously new powerful, omnipresent form of communication or hide from it. Can you imagine in the late 1800's, someone saying to CEOs: "Avoid this new telephone communication, it's scary and uncertain and you might be recorded saying the wrong thing." Or in the late 1900s someone saying to CEOs: "Avoid email, it could get you into big trouble."
That's absurd. And so is avoiding social media just because it's uncomfortable.
4. There Are Cybersecurity Risks and Legal Risks Lurking Everywhere
There are no more cybersecurity risks in social media than there are in email, but nobody today thinks CEOs should avoid email because of those risks. Instead, just as you wouldn't click on a strange link in an email, don't click on strange social media links or give away your passwords. As for legal, again, just ask John Legere who said,
"Our lawyers said it was a terrible idea for me to tweet, but I ignored them. Today I have more than 3 million followers, and because many of them are famous people (including Oprah), I have enormous reach via retweets. We did an analysis of this, and it's not unusual for one of my tweets to get 150 million impressions. This is no game. It's a way of driving my business. Much of what I do online is listen to customers, and social media is perfect for that."
5. Social Media is Different from "Human Contact," But Arguably Better
Sure, there's no substitute for face to face interactions. But, with social media, there's greater opportunity than ever before to scale human interactions and listen to and speak with more people at once. This is especially valuable for CEOs, and especially valuable for CEOs of large companies, who can't possibly speak with all of their employees at once. John Legere has a 96% approval rating on Glassdoor, a perfect example of employees approving of a leader who is super active on social media.
The infographic here below goes into greater detail on how and why steering clear is the wrong decision for CEOs and why they should instead embrace it!