In the recent Marketing Vox report Marketers Still Face Steep Web 2.0 Learning Curve several quotes jumped out at me, indicating that companies are still very unclear about the value of social media. Quotes like:
“Despite a lack of expertise, more than 67% report they will increase their Social Media advertising budget in 09″
“More than 87% of respondents are not regularly measuring the ROI of their social media marketing efforts.”
“While many marketers are worried they’re missing the boat, in reality even the Fortune 500 companies don’t feel they’ve mastered social media just yet.”
All these quotes indicate to me that top management are generally not engaged with Social Media related activities and their people are out there trying to figure it out, with mixed results. I think one of the major problems is that Social Media is almost entirely grass roots and some of the most interesting and powerful stuff is hiding just bellow the surface. I believe that Social Media will have very limited impact in most companies until top leadership starts making it a priority. The biggest failure IMHO is the failure of social media consultants to quantify the value for leaders in fortune 500 companies above and beyond participation. If your talking to a CEO/CMO and your advice is “blog” “twitter” and “join the conversation” I think their eyes will roll back in their head, most of them are not interested in conversation, they are interested in leading a team of people to create value. Until you can connect social media directly to value creation you will not hold an executives interest.
Now on the other hand, if you tell a CEO that through social media he could inspire thousands or tens of thousands of people both inside and outside his company to add significant value to his company, you may have the beginnings of an argument for them to personally participatein blogs, twitter etc.
If you are a fortune 500 senior executive there are potentially thousands of people waiting to be led by you, you define what value you want to create, and you lead that massive virtual team to create that value. Now is the time, because in 5 years time you will be wondering how you got left behind.