Executives are not confident of their social media activity

How confident are you about your company’s social media strategy? That’s the question NFI Research asked thousands of corporate managers in a recent poll.  NFI’s president is Chuck Martin, who is also a member of my Brain Trust. 

The results of Chuck’s poll might shock you: Approximately two-thirds of the respondents were not confident about their company’s social media strategy, and only around 10% were in the confident category.

When you think about it, the response to Chuck’s question isn’t that surprising since we’re still basically on the threshold of the development of corporate social media strategies. And clearly, developing a social media plan for a business is a lot more complicated than creating a personal Facebook page or Twitter account. Plus, the larger the business the more complicated the process. So for a majority of executives to be less than confident about their foray into social media should actually not be a big shock.

But the primary reason for executive exasperation with social media is not just because it’s an emerging market discipline that most of us are just learning. Indeed, I predict that larger companies will still be unsettled about their social media strategies five years from now. I think the real reason is all about control – actually, the loss of control.

It’s in an executive’s DNA to control corporate messaging, whether PR about the company or their marketing messaging. But when a business launches into the social media universe it literally is an exercise in watching control evaporate. As I’ve said many times before, in the social media world, companies – large or small – cannot control conversations in online communities, they can only influence them. And influencing takes time and patience, the latter of which is not a natural by-product of the quarterly report mentality so prevalent among managers of big companies.

Small businesses don’t operate with a short-term attitude; our business decisions aren’t based on what analysts will think or how the stock price will be affected. We’re already comfortable with merely influencing community activity, and operate so close to customers that a two-way conversation has always been the norm for us.

Social media is nothing if not about connecting on a more personal level, which is good news for small businesses. Consequently, once social media has evolved to becoming just another tool – like websites, email and instant messaging, which will happen soon - small businesses will not only become confident in their social media activity, but will thrive with these tools to a much greater degree than the Big Boxes.

The advent and ultimate universal adoptions of social media practices (for businesses: creating online customer communities) is just more evidence of something I began predicting in 1999: The 21st century is the century of the entrepreneur.

Recently, Chuck Martin joined me on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to talk about his research and our thoughts on it. Take a few minutes to listen to this conversation. And, of course, be sure to leave your thoughts. 

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