Strategy in the Social Media Age: Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
The first panel discussion of NACD’s Spring Forum, “Strategy in the Social Media Age,” was moderated by Christie Hefner, former chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, and included Virginia Gambale, director of JetBlue and Piper Jaffray, Glenn Brown, director of Branded Content, Twitter, and director of Creative Commons, and Frank Eliason, senior vice president of social media, Citibank, director, Council of Better Business Bureaus, Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals.
Hefner began the panel by noting that many can recall when the Internet transformed every aspect of business, and companies had to start thinking of themselves as media companies to some degree. She explained it was time to start seeing social media in this same light, with companies now needing to think of themselves a technology companies.
One way social media is having an impact today is through reputation. There is a growing trend in reputation management because social media highlights your company’s culture for the world to see, Eliason said. Consumers are talking about products and employees may be explaining what it’s like to work at your company.
Brown suggested thinking about social media as having speaking and listening components. He pointed to Twitter as being a predominantly speaking environment but encouraged directors to think about listening side. He gave an example of listening on the micro-level, saying it could be as simple as a consumer giving feedback on a social media platform that a company can respond to on the spot.
He went on to note that people are talking about your company using social media whether your company uses social media or not. Brown said that it’s essential directors realize this conversation is already happening and that companies needed to ask if they want to host the conversation and what type of host they want to be.
Hefner asked each panelist to offer some guidance on social media and offered several suggestions of her own. She pointed to Starbucks adding a 29-year-old Google executive to its board and suggested boards think about if someone at that level would offer a needed perspective and expertise. Hefner also suggested establishing a multidisciplinary team, which includes a millennial, to set social media guidelines and ensuring that if your company has a digital officer position that it’s a c-suite position.
Gambale said it’s important to have someone on the board with digital expertise who can ask social media questions at a more granular level and to use plain language to have technology discussions. “Technology gets overly mystified,” she said.
Brown suggested companies study how social media is being used around them—whether it’s another company or to examine the unique ways celebrities and media professionals are using social media. They form interesting informal alliances with each other and their peers, he explained. They are not competitors, but they want to be associated with another area, he said. Brown also noted they are often able to gain a new audience.
Eliason urged the audience to find out what’s already being said about their companies. He suggested searching Twitter and on Google blogs. He also highlighted the important of reputation management and establishing guidelines of how to manage it.