Social Media: Questions the Board Should Ask Management
Global marketing officer Karin Timpone recently participated in the NACD Capital Area Chapter’s season kick-off program on social media. Timpone, who leads the integrated global marketing and consumer relationship management strategy for Marriott International, suggests that in the long term, boards must consider the broader impact of companies like Facebook, with its two billion users, and Amazon.com, with an estimated number of customers at well over 200 million, having digital empires with deep customer data. “Consider how your company will fit into the new digital world order,” said Timpone.
In the meantime, boards should be asking the right question about the status of current efforts in the digital realm. Specifically, Timpone recommends that they ask five key questions:
1. What is the company’s content strategy?
Social media has disrupted business as we know it. “The upside of this disruption is the opportunity to have a two-way conversation with your audience,” said Timpone. “You can also amplify your marketing efforts, allowing the social graph to carry your message.” However, the downside is that a company cannot expect its messages to follow a company calendar. Instead, the company has to be constantly vigilant about being a part of the conversation.
The board should be informed about what the company is planning to talk about, why, and with what voice. Also, ask about the media mix—that is, what has modeling shown in terms of where money should be spent? Is “brand safety” (where the brand appears and what is near it) being considered?
2. How are crisis management and customer care intersecting in the social world?
Timpone emphasizes the need for processes in social media crisis management. “The board should know how crisis management and customer care intersect,” she said. “Social media should be governed in a multi-faceted way; it’s part of an ecosystem that has the customer at the center.”
Marriott has set up newsrooms around the world in order to stay abreast of news and social media. “We have to make sure we aren’t publishing something that is tone deaf and that we are dialing up our communication when needed.” Software helps power these newsrooms, using geofencing technology to pick up company-related tweets, for example.
3. How do employees fit into the company’s social strategy?
Companies must have clear policies about employees’ use of social media. Timpone said, “Be clear whether it’s a person’s job to post on social medial for the company.” Also, human resources departments—along with other key stakeholders—should be part of management’s internal communications governance group.
4. Is the company keeping up with quickly changing technology?
The risk of not keeping up with the latest technologies must be mitigated. For example, Facebook is now emphasizing video and live features. “The social media program metrics have to change with the technology,” said Timpone.
5. What are the business outcomes of the social media strategy and how is the program being measured?
Metrics for a social media strategy may be counterintuitive compared to traditional media. For example, not doing anything can sometimes have more impact than doing something. In one instance, a company got extensive press and positive social media results for not buying a Super Bowl advertisement. Whatever the company’s strategy, “the board should ask about the program’s key performance indicators,” said Timpone. “What is measured gets done.”
NACD Capital Area would like to thank sponsor WilmerHale for hosting the program and Timpone’s fellow panelist, William Bethune, for also sharing his views.
Kimberly Simpson is an NACD regional director, providing strategic support to NACD chapters in the Capital Area, Atlanta, Florida, the Carolinas, North Texas and the Research Triangle. Simpson, a former general counsel, was a U.S. Marshall Memorial Fellow to Europe in 2005.