5 Lessons in Social Media for Mid-Market CEOs

Hundreds of CEOs today use social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more. However, social-media use by mid-market companies often can be a tougher path for CEOs and owners than it is for their counterparts at other companies, because larger firms have more marketing resources, while startups tend to be founded by young and typically tech-savvier individuals and have much less management hierarchy.

But mid-market chiefs can effectively wield social media by heeding these 5 lessons specifically oriented toward their circumstances and concerns, from Doug Palmer, a principal in digital business strategy and practice and social-business leader for Deloitte. The consulting firm has conducted several years of research on this topic among mid-market companies with the MIT Sloan School of Management.

1. The chief must get involved. Heads of mid-market companies may tend to be more conservative than those at either end of the business spectrum, but that’s no excuse for CEOs not to launch into social media. “Having a voice in social media is going to be really important,” Palmer said. “It’s a chance for them to build relationships.” And the company head him or herself needs to be the author of blog posts or Twitter feeds, not just a ghostwriter.

2. Don’t do it on the cheap. Large companies have entire departments to handle social media channels and often create their own digital platforms for running them. And there are off-the-shelf tools for startups in this regard. But mid-market companies should consider enterprise-level software platforms for this function just as they do for other operations such as running manufacturing plants.

3. Being B2B doesn’t excuse you. Sure, consumer-facing companies have obvious reasons for being ahead of the social media pack. But there also are compelling reasons why B2B companies need to jump into social media as well. “Conversations about your products and services are taking place in the social ecosystem,” Palmer said. “You may be one step removed, but you can get some insights. How are your products and resellers doing? For example, if you’re a chip manufacturer, are there broader issues about how [the end product] is performing that might give you insights about your chips?”

4. Social can help with other functions. More mid-market companies are finding that establishing a robust social media platform can make them better at handling customer relationship management functions. “As more customers want to be served by the social channel, they typically want to be responded to in that channel” rather than through, say, a telephone call center.

“It’s a whole different level of engagement. At a traditional call center, you want to get the person off the call ASAP; but in social, you’re engaging with them and [time is not an issue]. They may be [good] customers, and if you fix something for them, they may become one of your most loyal.”

5. You are not alone. No matter what point a mid-market company is at in deploying social media: Deloitte defines the stages as “early,” “developing” and “maturing”—chiefs aren’t alone. That’s because Deloitte/MIT reports that mid-market companies fall about equally into each of those three buckets.

In sum, mid-market CEOs need to pay attention to the social-media environment. It may be more important to their company’s success than they realize. “You need to make investments of time and energy,” Palmer said, “and it will pay off.”

Dale Buss

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