Allan Biggar, CEO of All About Brands wrote an article in The Independent newspaper in late August exploring, “.. how social media is replacing traditional media sources, and shares some tips on why it matters to a CEO or a senior management team”.

The first commentator on the piece, there were only two, said, “Got paid for a crap article” which was an excellent and concise view of the piece but missed an opportunity to engage more fully with the ideas Allan put forward – it needed developing and editing – the article and the commentary!


So for what it’s worth here’s my six-penny-worth.
The energy of markets
Writing of travels to India, UAE and Ukraine Allan recognises, 
“..there [is] enormous energy in all these markets which excites me, challenges my assumptions on the way we look at marketing communications and teaches me something new almost every day. Without exception, much shared conversation revolves around social media and how we all engage with it
Very true; there is immense energy out there in the [business] world and people have always sought to make connections but social came first and media is only a mediator.  So I cannot accept that “much shared conversation revolves around social media” – how much?  10%, 25%, 50%? There is a higher level of human interaction going on here which predates the advent of social media, if enhanced and embellished, now, by the tools of the latter.
“…social media has made everything much more immediate..” 

This is undeniable.  However I would ask what the significance is for the individual?  Do you, does one, cognise the impact of this immediacy on one’s self?  How do you handle a torrent, a tsunami of information?  I believe that the outcome is and will be individuals who are better able to feel empowered about their own judgement.  This is where the debate over “noise” to “signal” comes in – “one Man’s meat” to coin a phrase.  Because of the excess flow of information people will have to “step up to the plate” of their own consciousness and ego-hood and say, “No! this is enough” and do it authoritatively.  Social media has made “everything” more immediate says Allan, not only that but “everyone” [those on the web] This is everyone, not just CEO’s. Hierarchies are on the wane.

CEO’s do not have to use social media
“When it comes down to it, the people of this world speak social media, which means a CEO or senior management needs to be fluent in social media in order to keep their companies relevant and connected. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to use social media, but there should be an understanding of why it matters and identify what level of engagement is appropriate for your business.”
Bulldust.  Senior managers need to be fluent in social media – “doesn’t mean he has to use social media”.  You cannot even begin to understand the human dynamics involved for self or society if you haven’t run, at a minimum a Twitter account, on a regular basis (August 15th last tweet Allan?  Hello!), seen how people engage with Facebook or Foursquare. 
The relationship side of social media
In the article Allan acknowledges that social media takes time.  For any major thoughtful piece of work -say a presentation to a seminar I know folk who say 12 months notice is the right time frame for an individual to have fully digested the meaning of the task at hand, to the degree that when they present their thoughts and feelings they are fully engaged within the subject matter.  Twitter is no different and after being shown the swiftness of delivery I would hope individuals can slowly develop their trust and enthusiasm for the medium but please give it time – it will change you. It may take a year at a minimum. But you have to tweet, respond, send signal on a regular basis.

Invest in people

“Most of us who are socially savvy recognise the value of relationships, but for busy CEOs, the relationship side of social media takes time, and time is money. For social media to work, you need to invest in it because it is exactly as it is named – social. Social media is about relationships and it’s about engaging and interacting which earns the attention – and loyalty – of fellow social media users.
This rings true save for falling back on the old “time is money” mindset.  This is head thinking, accountancy speak – you are allowed to be social and engage your heart in relationships – loyalty, fellow feeling – yes that is where it is “at”!
So, including links to Twitter, blogs and other web materials and updates to an email footer, say, drives home the notion that he is in interested in the people side of the business.
“..drives home the notion that he is interested in the people side of the business.”?  Wow.  Fail.  Notionally involved – such heresy in social media terms – your fellow social media users will see through the lack of authenticity in a trice.  You have to engage in a heartfelt way or you will fall at the first hurdle of social media engagement.
“Be a subject matter expert”

Be focused! CEOs may have many views and opinions on many topics (they often have to!), but to be truly valuable – and interesting – it’s best for a CEO to try to establish herself as a fascinating subject-matter expert.
The test for her social media efforts is whether people find what she posts so fascinating that they retweet it. And re-tweeting is probably the sincerest form of flattery nowadays.
I thought the first sentence was heading in a Richard Branson, Stephen Fry sort of direction – “establish herself [sic] as a fascinating subject….” but then the confusion enters “as fascinating subject-matter”.  If it is acknowledged that time is money I very much doubt any CEO truly has the ability to give wholly to a “subject-matter” unless the subject matter is the business they run on a day-to-day basis.  

Agree an “RT” is of great merit but of course you have to ensure you are tweeting to get this level of engagement.  But that is not the primary motivation, I would suggest, it is to freely give to the wider community excluding any expectation of reward.  To give so shall you receive as the saying goes – for CEO’s and senior managers subject to the “grabby grabby” of quarterly results this is a complete reversal of the corporate mindset.

I am sure this was written “in the best possible taste” but to suddenly introduce a female CEO to the narrative smacks of political correctness – sorry Allan this is somewhat of a giveaway.  It is quite adequate to use “themselves” instead of to try to be fair in gender terms.

“Make it personal”

“Probably the most important tip is to be transparent and authentic to who you are. If a CEO uses social media to simply push an agenda, a product or a cause she will not realize the true benefits that these tools provide. Just as social media is about relationships, there’s also humanity behind each and every Tweet and Facebook status update. The CEO that can make it personal can connect with the individual beyond the medium. And it can be in the most personal, and sometimes the most routine of behaviours that can inspire other social media followers. “
Here we go,  now we’re talking.  Dear CEO etc. you should be warned though there are some nefarious tweeters out there so don’t be surprised if some young ladies suddenly start following you.  To show how truly engaged you are with the medium you need to watch these new “followers” and participate in the Twitter community by blocking these rascals.  I am always intrigued by actually how slim a following these automated tweets have and believe the community is actually shutting them down as quick as they emerge.  There are also “bots” out there creating automated responses which are not exactly the “humanity behind each and every Tweet” Allan suggests.
“Don’t neglect internal social media”

Social media can be an excellent way of remaining connected to employees, especially in disparate locations. It allows for a much more informal mechanism to provide certain communication among staff. Clearly not suitable for all communication, but it can be a huge enabler of fostering relationships between senior management and their wider employee base.
Allan’s on fire here!  I would promote Yammer in this context and the Deloitte approach in Melbourne where staff sing its praises is a good entry point for senior managers.  If this can be driven from the top all the better.
The traditional media sector is not only changing beyond recognition, it is ultimately in its final death throes and social media is hastening that demise. As strange and uncomfortable as it is for many of us, it’s timely that we all begin to understand how we can all better employ social media.
Yes media is changing beyond recognition but to say it is in its “final death throes” is over egging the pudding.  For those who know me sorry for yet again directing people to the Monocle magazine which is throwing down the gauntlet to this assumption that everything will be digital.  The current issue has plenty of articles on the “traditional” media and where it’s heading.

So thank you Allan for writing a “crap article” it stirred me to write something myself!! By the way I say again; 227 tweets and none since August 15th does not a social media commentator make – yet!