Saturday, July 24, 2010

Will A “Chief Social Officer” Align Businesses with a Social Culture?

Most business people passionate about Social Media are trying to figure out how to help lead their organizations into this realm.   I am one of those people.  How bout you?  I have discovered, over the past several months,  this process is easier said than done.

Social CultureFor me, and perhaps you, the picture is crystal clear.  Our world has changed… markedly.  The great recession did that.  The emergence of Web 2.0 technology certainly was a major factor.  Most importantly we, as consumers and business people, have changed the way we think about interacting with one another.

Customers are clear about their expectations.  They want social business partners that are tech-savvy, collaborative, strategic, and open communicators.  And… the conversation takes place on the Social Web.

A social business is an organization designed consciously around sociality and social tools, as a response to a changed world and the emergence of the social web.  –Wikipedia

In order for a company to effectively transition to a social culture, there must be C-Level executive buy-in.   In many cases that is not happening.  Without top leadership support, it is nearly impossible to deploy an effective social business strategy across an entire enterprise.  Instead it shows up in pockets led by “maverick” or “rogue” social enthusiasts.  Confusion regarding management expectations may eventually lead to abandonment, or  non-interest, in the strategy altogether.

Board Room Vs. The Trenches

It’s fair to say that what happens in a board room is distinctly different than what the rest of us experience in the trenches.  Think about it… upper executives are charged with the responsibility of catering to Boards, Holding companies, and Stockholders.  Their priorities are different than ours.  Even, with the “New Normal” of doing business that hasn’t changed.

Middle Managers, on the other hand, already at least embrace the basics of a business 2.0 culture.  They understand the importance of it, as they stand alongside their team members, interacting with customers every single day.

So what’s the solution?  How do we get everyone on to the same page?  How do we align the demands of owners, stockholders and holding companies with customer expectations.  I have some thoughts on this.

A Social Seat at the Table

What better way to resolve the “disconnect” than to create a C-Level position that will focus on leading a company into the social realm.   Recently I met a guy, Scott Koslosky,  who by all accounts would qualify for a position of this nature.  Interestingly Scott, a former CEO of three start-up companies is no stranger to the boardroom. He is also a social technology guru and frequently speaks at events on the subject.

“Interesting that some of the larger brands are starting to interview for the position of Chief Social Officer. I would love that job!” –Scott Koslosky, Twitter, July 23, 2010

That’s pretty interesting!  In fact, I think it would be pivotal, in most businesses, to establish a position of this nature.  Having a C-Level Executive in place who not only speaks the language of the boardroom, but is savvy and passionate about social business, might just be the medicine needed to propel an effective social business strategy forward, for most organizations.

What do you think?  How is your organization’s social business strategy evolving?  Or is it?  Look forward to hearing from you.

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Lutz July 26, 2010 at 6:14 am

Mike, nice post! I’m not too crazy about having the word “social” in a title. I think social is a critical component to achieving success, but would prefer to have the title focused on the customer. i.e. Chief Customer Officer. Ideally that person is leveraging social tools to nurture relationships with high volume, touch and efficiency. To me, social is more of a team sport that includes any area of the business that touches the customer…Sales, Mktg, Service, Executive wing.

In growing a business, referral networks and raving fans are often a differentiator between the decent companies and the great ones. A company that isn’t nurturing and benefiting from the power of their best relationships (online and offline) is going to get their ass kicked on the street and then in the boardroom.


Michael M McCurry CMP July 26, 2010 at 6:55 am

Hey Dave,

You raise some good points here. To me, you could call this person by whatever title you want to …its more about what they bring to the table, in terms of leadership to a company, and discussions in the boardroom. I think of them as a bridge between the social business world and traditional business thinkers. Hopefully they can provide synergy between the two and help steer a company culture in the right direction.

As you point out nurturing relationships is critical to business today. Companies that don’t place a high priority on this will be left in the dust.

Thanks for contributing Dave!



Christina July 26, 2010 at 11:19 am

Hey Mike! What a thought-provoking and well timed post! My employer may be the exception to the norm, or maybe just different than corporate companies, but we are a non-profit and our board actually came to us and wanted to know if we are doing anything with social media. This led to . . . Well, a lot! We are doing an official presentation to the board next month.

I found this post to be extremely valuable, but would love to see a future post on best practices or strategy to help the (interested/curious) board to understand the potential value and resources needed to successfully implement social media.


Michael M McCurry CMP July 26, 2010 at 11:59 am

Hi Christina,

Well, you have challenged me! I will work on a follow up piece addressing the points you outlined in your second paragraph. Thanks for calling that out.

Have you thought about blogging about your recent experience with this board process? I think it would be very eye-opening for many to hear about your story and experiences with this issue, which I know has been going on for a while.

I look forward to hearing about how your presentation goes with the board.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation!



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