My friend Nancy Myrland has posed an interesting question on her blog, Should a CEO Be Fluent in Social Media.
Nancy’s post (which was based on a Mashable article by the same headline) makes a good point that a CEO should get social media.
After all, says Nancy, the CEO is the face of his or her company. They should be able to use the tools that allow them to have relationships with the customers.
Okay, “no, unless.”
Unless it’s a small company, where the CEO is doing a lot of the day-to-day work, they should. Basically, if you’re a CEO, and you still have to set up your own booth at a trade show, then you need to be able to use social media to converse with your customers.
You also need to know how to run payroll, fulfill shipping orders, edit your website, balance your books, and use the photocopier. (Handling the social media is the least of your worries.)
But if your company is large enough that you barely know the names of the people who work two levels below you, then no, you shouldn’t. You have people for that. As a CEO, you’re barely fluent in how to make the products or services you sell.
Manufacturing CEOs don’t know how to build their products, their floor managers do. Automotive CEOs don’t know how to design cars, their engineers do. Entertainment CEOs don’t know how to mix albums or edit movies, their producers and editors do.
(I doubt that any of them can work their phone system or make photocopies without yelling “Jaaaaa-nettttt!! Can you fix this stupid thing?! Damn technology, whatever happened to the good old days?”)
Frankly, I don’t want these people using social media. They have work to do. They should be running the company, not worrying over every detail in accounting, HR, and marketing. And social media.
More importantly, I have seen what happens when someone who barely understands how his or her administrative assistant sends an email decides they’re going to get involved in some of the deep-level marketing decisions. (It’s just not pretty.) When it comes to social media, it takes a lot of coaching just to get them to understand the technology. Understanding why they should do it is even harder.
But most importantly, CEOs are busy. Their time is worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per hour. They make more money scratching their nose than I make in an entire day. I don’t think they should be actually operating the company Twitter account, writing a 500 word blog post about their latest product, or making status updates on Facebook (“I’m on a motherf—ing boat, y’all. No srsly, I’m taking the Bored of Directors (haha!) out on a deep-sea fishing trip. C-ya L8er, loosers!”).*
If they want to do their own Twitter account, or have time to blog while they’re traveling to and from exotic locales on the company jet (a la Sir Richard Branson), let them. But they’re the exception, not the rule.
However, you small business CEOs, this doesn’t let you off the hook. You absolutely need to know how to do this. You’re already the marketing, bookkeeping, and HR department. And as much as you think it’s going to add to your workload, this is a great way to grow your company, hire employees to take care of the marketing, bookkeeping, and human resources.
And then you can take your board of directors out on a deep-sea fishing boat. Just make sure you bring most of them back.
(*Yes, I know I spelled “losers” wrong. I did that for hyperbole and comedic effect.)
Photo credit: Stalin (Picasa)