Firm Leaders: Are You Social?

Nancy Myrland All Posts, Social Media Leave a Comment

I Don't Have Time For Social Media is a common reason given for lack of useHootsuite, the Social Media management tool, recently published a post by Shawn Neumann, President and Founder of the web agency Domain7, and a contributor to the HootSource Blog. It was called The Social Executive: Are You A Social CEO?

Shawn writes that when he talks to other CEOs and executives, he finds fear and reluctance in the Social space. He lumps these worried leaders into 3 categories:

Branded Brenda

“Brenda is pushing corporate branded content, but she’s rarely engaged in two-way dialogue. She recognizes social has a role, but she plays it supersafe and always toes the corporate line—or does nothing at all.”

Automatic Otto

“Otto has a marketing team that manages his social, which is generally just an impersonal regurgitation of corporate-blah, lacking any personal value. He doesn’t engage, and his “contribution” is just a quaint part of the corporate culture.”

Engaged Edward

“This savvy CEO is listening AND talking; championing his story from within the organization and building loyalty by being real and accessible.”

Shawn goes on to say that the causes leaders often give as to why they aren’t more engaged in the Social space are:

  1. Lack of understanding: I don’t “get” social media
  2. Personality: It’s just “not me”
  3. Fear: I’m afraid I might say the wrong thing
  4. Value: I can’t see the ROI
  5. Time: I’m too busy
  6. Seems frivolous: I don’t want to tell people what I have for breakfast
  7. Prestige: It cheapens the brand (personally or organizationally)
  8. Security: We have privacy rules and bureaucracy


Whether you resonate with these 8 reasons, or perhaps others, here’s what you can do about them.

Lack of understanding: I don’t “get” social media.

You’re a CEO, Managing Partner or the equivalent, right?

Now that we’ve established that you’re a leader, let’s think about what you’ve done before. When you were reluctant to stand up before your Partners to discuss firm financials, or to talk to the Business Journal about your new office, or to attend a client’s grand opening, what did you do?

You learned how to do it. You got the nerve to get up and do what had to be done. You realized that you are the leader that is expected to deliver those financials, to talk to media, and that your clients were worth the effort to attend their event. You figured it out. You were smart enough (I know you are, so stop pretending you’re not) to either rise to the occasion, or to find the training you needed to “get” it, right?

You don’t have to admit your lack of knowledge publicly. Go get some private training so you can confidently enter this space as the leader of your firm should. Clients like to see leadership engaged publicly, so let’s give it to them.

Personality: It’s just “not me.”

What’s just not you? Talking to clients and prospects, delivering firm news, engaging media so your firm is on their radar, talking to others about their business, talking to others about your firm, sharing critical developments with your clients, thanking people, acknowledging those who have been helpful…those aren’t you?

I don’t believe that for a second. Of course this is you. You do it every day inside and outside of the firm. The only difference is the medium. Maybe the medium hasn’t been in your comfort zone to date, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be.

Fear: I’m afraid I might say the wrong thing.

I hear you. We all are. That fear typically stops after we spend some time in these spaces. Once you observe how others  interact via Social Media, you will soon realize that you have even more control over your words than you do when you are face-to-face with people. You have the opportunity to hit delete or backspace before you publish, whereas you don’t have the ability to take spoken words back once they are out of your mouth.

If you’re known to be a loose cannon, then we need to have another discussion about that as that’s not good in-person or online. Again, you can do this. I know you can. You already do it every day.

Value: I can’t see the ROI.

Yes, this is a good discussion to have. Many in this space will say things like “Well, what’s the ROI of a phone call, or taking someone to the Colts’ game last Sunday, or of the multiple emails you send every day?”

Nichole Kelly quotes marketing strategist Scott Stratten in her post about Social Media ROI as saying:

“What’s the ROI of the 5,000 golf balls you bought with our logo” and “What’s the ROI of this board room table that you just paid $25,000 for.” He follows it up with an argument that seems logical, “I understand we have to justify what we do with our time, I just don’t think social media should be held to a higher standard than everything else.”

We have to be careful not to establish unrealistic expectations by making apples-to-oranges comparisons like this. Social Media need to be held to the same standard as the rest of your client acquisition and retention activity. If you aren’t currently tracking the activity you undertake to acquire or retain clients, then you certainly aren’t going to find it easy to do the same for Social Networking.

We also need to begin the discussion about “conversion,” and what we can add to our Social Media plans to invite our connections further into our space to take advantage of additional information we have. This is when ROI becomes easier to discuss and measure.

Time: I’m too busy.

The interesting thing is that it seems we all find time to do that which we need or enjoy, right? We seem to have no more minutes in the day to do anything else, but we suddenly find ourselves checking newsfeeds on apps on our mobile device when we’re out of the office, driving or walking through Starbucks for our morning or afternoon jolt of energy or needed refreshment, or watching the car in front of us seemingly take forever, or as we say “taking out a loan,” as we wait to get cash at the ATM.

Those are perfect times to engage in Social Networking. It takes seconds to hit the “Share” button when we see an update from a contact, hit RT (ReTweet) and add a few words when we see an important news item on Twitter, to use one of the Social sharing icons on a client’s blog post to share it with your online community, etc. I think you’ll see that you can use those times in between other tasks very efficiently in Social Media.

Seems frivolous: I don’t want to tell people what I have for breakfast.

Short answer here….don’t!

Prestige: It cheapens the brand (personally or organizationally).

I can’t even believe our author hears this from anyone in a leadership position. I’m not questioning Shawn, just surprised this is even used. We know the world is turning to digital communication to get news and information with increasing frequency, and that peoples’ heads are down in their digital devices more than ever. We also know that talking to people about their, and sometimes your, brand is a productive discussion. Therefore, it is hard to comprehend that your brand could be diminished if you show up in the spaces your clients and prospects are spending time. If your business and marketing strategy allows for cheap and flimsy communication practices, sure, that will happen in Social, too, but it’s certainly not guaranteed just because you’re here.

Security: We have privacy rules and bureaucracy

As you should…at least on the privacy rules part. The bureaucracy part is another discussion you and I need to have because it could kill you where communication is concerned. Privacy, client confidentiality and conflicts are all very real. You currently have standards and ethical rules that are established for non-digital communication, right? The best advice I can give you is to adhere to the same standards online as you do offline. As jurisdictions and governing bodies come down with new rules and interpretations about appropriate and acceptable speech in these spaces, they will not make it a secret, nor will people like me whose job it is to watch for these udpates.


  • This isn’t going away.
  • People like to hear from leaders.
  • You have the ability to become comfortable with this.
  • It just takes a bit of time, use and/or training.
  • It’s not as difficult as you might think it is.
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