What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

I am speaking to a group of Chief Information Officers from prominent South African companies on Tuesday 13th November about social media. My presentation will focus on my social media journey and my observations and key learnings along the way.

I plan on talking about crowd sourcing as one example of the “power of social media”. To supplement the advice I will provide at the session, I would like to include your comments, if you would like to make a contribution that is. I will be sure to include your name and contact details.

Yours Sincerely
David Graham

46 thoughts on “What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

  1. Richard Simmonds @RichSimmondsZA

    Hi David, well I am glad you asked … I am about to post to my Blog on something very similar. So here is my copy and it goes about Macintosh “Hawks” and Lance Witten who were suspended this week. Not finally edited but I am sure you will get the just of it. If you would like some more input before your talk, we could always throw some ideas around sometime on Monday.

    Just another reason you should (not) be on Twiiter

    I chatted to a parent at my sons’ school today and he had inclination to tell me about the two South Africans who were suspended for Tweeting insensitive remarks this week on Twiiter.

    His comment to me was ‘Richard just another reason you should not be on Twitter’, of course he has some idea that I am involved in some way with Social media and he happens to be the CEO of a rather large company in the service industry.

    My response was when will people start to realise that your private, social and work life are not three separate things and that we are living one life and that we remain accountable for what we do at all times.

    Social media only amplifies what we are saying, so if you have said it you have said it. As we rapidly move into a world that demands more and more transparency, we must realise that we can no longer hide things and hope things go unnoticed.

    Unfortunately being the proverbial Ostrich and putting your head in the ground actually draws more attention to your actions.

    Should you ever say something that is out of line or even out of character; don’t apologise by saying you we’re asked or told to apologise as this week perpetrators did.

    The advantage of social media is that you get almost instantaneous feedback. Monitor this and when you start receiving negative feedback that is relevant and will potentially damage your personal brand. Move as quickly as possible to authentically apologise as errors do happen and people are sometimes willing to forgive.

    What normally happens is that people normally say things that are offensive and then arrogantly hold the opinion and have no intention of apologising until the real damage has been done, then coming with a weak apology that is not authentic will never help.

    Social media is extremely effective and simple when you apply basic manners and realise that we deal with real people and not audiences.

    As we move into the more transparent world my advice is always to treat everyone as if they were in a relationship with you, think of them as your spouse and how you would communicate with them; as the old adage goes ‘think before you speak’ and try to imagine the response before you post or say something.

    No one said that the journey would not have challenges along the way, but I can promise you it exciting – see you in that social arena, called life!

    1. Cees de Boer

      Graham, great topic on Social Media and the CIO. I certainly would advise CIO’s to embrace it. Social Media will play an important part in B2B in the coming years, and Social Media platforms will become business platforms that CIO’s will need to manage in some way. I suspect some CIO’s are still fighting or tolerating it. Which in a way is understandable if you look at the tradtional “control” role of the CIO.
      Problem with Social Media Platforms is that they cannot be controlled. They reside in the Cloud, and control is limited to Policies, and not more. So must be scary for CIO’s.

      But the rise of Social Media Platforms is consistent with the rise of Cloud. Infrastructure will not be owned by companies anymore. Another traditional role of the CIO phasing out. CIO’s will need to focus on buying / building / managing business applications that are of strategic and tactical importance for the business. And in my view a Social Media Platform will quicklybecome one of those business application.

  2. Richard Simmonds @RichSimmondsZA

    Talking mobility it also seems that their is a bigger push from people wanting to use their own devices (smartphones, tablets and notebooks) and the company to just supply data in the form of a Wi-Fi network at work. Soon the employees will want this as part of the package and not want the company to provide them with any sort of device. But you probably are experiencing this already.

    1. David Graham Post author

      Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is something being considered by organisations but I reckon this is still a long way off for many. Companies are terrified of security threats and have seriously locked down IT environments.

      1. Raj Harie

        This is a very important aspect of the CIO’s role today and probably warrants a posting on its own. There is an increasing shift in mobility and BYOD, it is predicted that by 2015 80% of South Africans will have access to smart phones. The cost of the devices are already sub $100 and soon it will be closing on the $50 cost making it more accessible to people.

        But mobility and BYOD also has its pitfalls as the CIO does not know or control what corporate information gets placed on these smartphones. Which becomes a problem when it gets lost or stolen.
        I came across an interesting article which goes into it a little more in depth.
        With the rise of cloud and BYOD, what does the future hold for the CIO? http://t.co/7kxm7ze3

  3. Darren Smith (@DazMSmith)

    Hi David, its an important subject, and a sadly neglected one. I know of few CIOs in South Africa active (and I mean active and engaged) in social media. And given that it is the CIOs responsibility to take the tech leadership lead in business, how on earth can CIOs possibly do so if they fail to understand how to use social media (if they’ve never really used it). You can’t lead from the back of the crowd. I get a sense of an attitude of ‘ignorance is bliss’ in business, or even ‘wilful ignorance’ … this sense of “it doesn’t really matter” and business will simply carry on remorselessly. We can argue the point until we’re blue in the face, but the attitude is pervasive in business, else we’d see more senior executive engagement in social.

    A conversation I had recently with Sim Shagaya (DealDey.com, Nigeria) was interesting. I asked him what the impact of social was on his own business, in the context of the Forrester report some months ago (LESS THAN 1% OF ONLINE PURCHASES COME FROM SOCIAL CHANNELS: http://www.forrester.com/Less+Than+1+Of+Online+Purchases+Come+From+Social+Channels/-/E-PRE4104). His response was enlightening. “Our business is driven mostly by word of mouth (Nigeria having a huge informal economy). Social media is the biggest CATALYST to word of mouth.”

    Therein lies the power of social. And no, it is not as measurable as the reports would have you believe.

    So what would my advice to CIOs be?

    Simple. Forget about social media. Think about the social ERA. Social media are just tools we might use in the conversation. The social ERA is profound & represents a fundamental change in the way we consume and share information. If information is the bedrock of knowledge, and companies are not participating in the conversation (speaking only to themselves and preaching to the converted), then they do themselves a disservice.

    “Get educated. Find out where your audiences are. Listen to them. Engage. Add value. Invite them in to your world, and you may just be invited into theirs. But don’t sell to them. They’ll become brand advocates when you’ve earned their trust. Start using social yourself. With your peers!”

    1. David Graham Post author

      Thank you Darren. You have not pulled your punches on this one but it is a strong point that should/needs to be conveyed to all CIOs. Thank you for the DealDey.com example of the power of WoM and how social media enables this very effectively. If you coined the “Social Era” phrase, then kudos to you and go and trademenark it 🙂 The is a stygma associated with social media withing business that needs to be removed. You also quite rightly state that we are talking about a bunch of tools that merely support interaction, albeit many to many. How you use these tools is up to you. Companies can implement an ERP system and if not done properly, will gain benefit at all. The same goes with social media. Thank you for the detailed response. Much appreciated sir!

  4. Nik

    Hi David, thanks for asking. I would definitely point out the lessons from Obama’s recent social media campaign regarding list building and targeting specific user communities. Am writing a blog post on this and will send you more details tomorrow.
    Secondly, I would point out that with the advent of broadband in mid 2014, content marketing will become the single most important marketing tool in business and that each and every business needs to convert their employees into content providers.

    1. David Graham Post author

      Thank you Nik. The “cost to connect” is prohibitive right now. Many companies do not allow access to Youtube for example. If and when these costs dissipate (and hopefully the cost of smart phones) there is going to be a notable difference. Thanks for your reply and I look forward to your blog post.

  5. superclaude

    Hi David, My advice could be: “Take Time to observe Key users and trust them!” I hope it helps. Sincerely Claude

    Claude Super +41 78 629 6421

  6. Mike Said (@mike_said_what)

    There is not a whole lot I can leave you with that ha not already been covered.. but here are a few of favourite tips.
    Social media is about being interesting AND interested, not one or the other. It is an INTERaction not an action.
    The four Rs of Social Media – Regular, Relevant, Remarkable and Real

    And final piece of advice “Take Control Before Someone Else Does” (and that could be your staff or your customers)

    1. David Graham Post author

      Great advice Mike. Like any relationship, reciprocity is key. I have discovered that the more you offer up information, guidance and advice without expecting or asking for anything in return, the more relationships you develop. I definitely agree with your four Rs and taking control befoire someone else does. There are many instances in businesses where the CIO has not had anything to do with the social media strategy and execution thereof.

  7. Jochem Koole

    Hi David,

    Great idea to focus on the possible benefits of crowd sourcing.

    I feel, most CIOs mainly regard social media as a burden on their (and their department’s) daily work. This is understandable, since social media enable employees to colaborate with colleagues and customers on the tools and devices of their own choice, while the CIO is responsible for maintaining an excisting ICT environment.

    However, social media are here to stay. Just like cloud computing, big data, location based services, et cetera. If CIOs are willing to run with this, and restructure their departments, teams, and work to enable a shift from a closed and controled ICT environment to an open and supportive one, they can reap huge benefits. IBM decided to lose control, and benefitted greatly: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-ibm-uses-social-media-to-spur-employee-innovation/ Of course, this is a long term investment. It took IBM 5 years. So, now is a good time to start.

    Have a great talk on Tuesday! Looking forward to hearing, how things went.

    1. David Graham Post author

      Thank you for the feedback Jochem. Would you agree that if companies are going to embrace social media properly, they need to give it the same kind of attention as you would a large ERP implementation, which requires a sound business case, change management, ownership from the top, training and committed investment in time and money. Thank you for the IBM example and the link to the Social Media Examiner article. i will definitely use these.

  8. kaveerbharath

    David, new media has added a layer of complexity, both a from a governance and from a risk management perspective. Chapter 8 of king 3 contains many principles about stakeholder engagement and communication, which in my ad hoc research, companies do not take into account when developing a social media plans. King requires board accountability, and a clear mandate to management. We also recommend the SE and Risk committees playing a leading role in developing a comms and by default a social media strategy. The way it looks now, companies are scrambling to develop presence on new media. This is wrong. If the board and committees I’ve mentioned above cannot establish how the company can enhance value or mitigate risk using new media, do not develop presence until they can figure it out. As an aside…..I publicly shame companies on social media when I receive bad service. I cannot emphasize how poorly prepared and scared to death they are, when they are forced to call me….in most cases to beg me to stop. They just do not have a plan.

    1. David Graham Post author

      Thank you Kaveer. I mention in one of my replies below that companies should treat social media as they would an ERP implementation. Solid business case, executive sponsor and ownership, change management, training, etc. Thank you very much for your contribution!

    2. Richard Simmonds @RichSimmondsZA

      I often tell my clients that due to transparency it is always about the authentic message that you are communicating. If you choose not to respond, the actual authentic message is that you do not care for the people who spend their money with you. And if it is too risky to respond well then the authentic message is what are we trying to hide and how long do we think we can get away with this.

      In many cases that might be … I don’t have long to retirement so let the next CEO deal with these problems, and that unfortunately is the most authentic message I am hearing in the marketplace not only in South Africa but across the globe.

  9. Jonathan Houston

    Hi David. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. I think that the comments that have been left before mine pretty much cover all the points that a CIO needs to be aware of when arguing that social media is not a problem they need to be concerned with. However, there is one more thing that I feel has not been mentioned. You have alluded to it in saying that your social media strategy needs to be like an ERP install. The point I would like to make is that large ERP’s are making huge investments into social media. SAP’s Jam is the latest of these investments that shows how critical “social business” is for enterprises today. I think the biggest shift needs to come from social media being thought of PURELY as a marketing / sales tool. It is so much more than that. It is a business tool and a source of critical information that needs to be dealt with and analysed to make better business decisions.

    Whilst the CIO does not need to be physically involved should they chose not to be; they must not let their organisations suffer from their personal decision. Carrying on from that; whether an organisation is involved in social media or not; they categorically cannot ignore the conversation that is happening about them and their competitors every day!

    1. David Graham Post author

      Thank you for your feedback Jonathan. You make a valid statement about how social networks can be used as an extension of ERP tools to manage business processes and cannot be ignored by businesses. You quite rightly state that social media goes way beyond sales and marketing.

  10. Nazareen Ebrahim (@NazareenE)

    Hi David, Thank you very much for asking. My views have mostly been covered in the gentlemen’s points above but here we go: I would say to any CIO that a) social media will not die out, b) it is an imperative portion of marketing and communications in any organisation, c) it is in the best interest of a CIO to be using some social media platforms in a personal capacity so that they have their own understanding of what social media means and how it works, d) they will be admired and respected as a leader, by their colleagues and work force, for taking an active interest in, and support of social media communication for their organisation, e) a CIO has a responsibility to ensure that the reputation of the organisation can be managed in the most decisive manner at all times to maintain a positive identity; disregarding or not paying much attention to social media channels in this instance is like slitting one’s wrists gently but hoping not to bleed, f) social media in the post-PC era is about realtime, consistent, authentic communication among brand, consumer, community, influencers and friends; a CIO can only really claim to be leading their organisation in the right direction if they understand the changing nature of our global communications – smart technologies and devices, peer recommendation and the voice that social media has given organisations and their employees.

    Best wishes with your presentation. As always, it will be impeccably delivered, we are sure of that!

    Take care,

  11. Jon Hoehler

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the invitation to provide comments for your presentation. A huge challenge for CIOs is around accessing of social media by employees on the enterprises networks. Any organizations will block employee’s access to social media sites in order to “improve work rate and productivity”. Employees will use their mobile / personal devices to access social media portals. [http://www.silkroad.com/Company/News-and-Media/Press_Releases/2012/10/Social_Survey_Report_Press_Release.html]

    From a South African perspective, social media portals are extremely popular. South Africa has over 6.5 million registered Facebook users with over 80% of those users using their mobile device to connect to the social network. I would imagine many of those logins are from employees during their working day.

    Users will find ways around the systems setup to garden wall them. A challenge to CIOs around the policies around access to social media platforms but that the same time with trust in their employees that they won’t spend their days commenting on their friend’s wedding photographs.

    Embracing corporate and employee participation through organization driven platforms using social media elements dove tailed with Gamification theory is a compelling exercise especially with crowd sourcing of information pertaining to the organization.


  12. Cliona

    Hi David
    I guess for me a good message to any CIO would be that social media is a reality and will grow from strength to strength in the years to come. However for anyone to buy into the concept of social media across the board it has to be a user friendly approach without getting caught up in complex and long drawn out processes. I have found that by listening to our users that they have a very good idea of what they want to use within the social media framework and as we carry on applying this to our website our traction and user base in growing. And when you align this to technology you have a win win scenario. Good luck with your presentation would love to see your slides 🙂

  13. Adrian Lee

    Hi David
    Thanks for asking for comments. With the dearth of CIOs in the country that are even aware of ‘social media’, they still think it’s something that their teen kids are on. Firstly, Understand the Channel, each platform serves a different audience type. Twitter is not the same as Facebook is not the same as Pinterest, for example. Somehow there’s always a forced fit when it comes to social media strategy.

    Second, Provide Great Content, I use the example of Richard Branson’s twitter handle, which covers topics from new business launches to his own personal leisure pursuits. Look, if the CIO think putting out a dry press release on social media channels will work, he’s dead wrong. You engage with relevant content on the right channels. Depending on their business, some visual platforms will work really well, e.g. Pinterest for a group like Zando’s.

    Third, Really Be There. Quoting examples from one of the big 4 local banks who got it disastrously wrong with social media, you can’t set up an official channel and leave it unmanned. Any comments/queries/complaints/praise needs to be responded to in a timely manner (AND state what the response turnaround is). Dedicate the required resources to it and don’t leave it as the part-time role of the digital marketing person.

    1. David Graham Post author

      Great feedback, thank you Adrian! Three things I picked up from your comment

      1. Understand your channels and audience
      2. Provide great content
      3. Have a proper presence and engage


  14. Mother

    Hi David,

    Apologies for the late response. I know you are presenting tomorrow morning.

    First point would be to have a strategy online, not control – that is in conflict with the social nature of the channel. A high-level strategy is necessary to provide a framework that best serves the brands’ intentions.

    Point 2: you can’t switch on and off in social media – if you’re not a key influencer in online circles and are absent from one too many conversations with your audience, don’t expect them to rush to serve your crowd-sourcing needs at the drop of a hat. Likewise,

    Point 3: you can’t expect your staff to be fully immersed brand advocates in the online social space if their onine presence is managed in the same way as a TV media schedule – living the brand is fully challenged in this new era of communication.

    Consistency – as with core brand management principles; the brand must be represented in a consistent manner through all its communication channels, including digital. Your strategy will inform what this consistency should look like to avoid schizophrenic brands in the marketplace.

    On crowd-sourcing specifically I refer to The Twitter Blanket Drive which has grown threefold year on year. I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the past 3 years and most of them were when I did not rightfully acknowledge the channel and defaulted to traditional methods of promotion and communication. The biggest lesson is that the essence and nature of the platform is key for the success of any campaign driven in this manner. Otherwise, take out a radio ad.

    Final thought: social communication is about people. If you’re not a people’s person then find or hire people who are.

    Hope this helps.

    Melanie Minnaar

    1. David Graham Post author

      Thank you Melanie. Your message relating to being a “person’s person” is consistent with most of the responses I received. I appreciate your contribution. Regards David Graham

  15. Christopher Blake

    Most enterprises have the basic technology building blocks already in place to start the move “Beyond email”. Unified Communication, Portals and team sites, ad hoc work flow capabilities, mobility etc. It’s not a question of technologies, but rather adoption. IT needs to partner better with entities such as HR and Operations to effectively advise on transitioning from traditional work practices to more effective ways of working.

    Hence IT’s role needs to change from customisation, maintenance and building applications into one of identifying best practices and promoting it within the corporation. Utilise the basic capabilities provided without customisation and get them integrated into business processes to change the way people work. In short, leverage Social Enterprise technologies to assist in “Humanising” business processes.

  16. Zimkhita Buwa

    Last week I read an article that speaks about how CIOs need to change their perception of social media! My tweet was “Take note CIO, go social or get left behind” here is the link to the article http://mobile.blogs.wsj.com/cio/2012/08/29/transformational-cios-need-to-promote-business-social-networking/

    I definately think that CIOs need to promote,embrace and take the time to understand social media and the benefits thereof! I use social media not only for my own personal life but as a professional tool! I see it as an innovative and effective way of finding information quickly! The possibilities that it opens one up to and the network of resources and people that you have access to is really unimaginable! So if you as the CIO aren’t aware of this, how do you expect your staff or even your organisation to transform and keep up or even make use of the innovative wave that is happening outside your organization?
    To be frank CIO you will find that a large percentage of your staff is already making use of social media so the revolution is already in motion! I would thus suggest “You go social or get left BEHIND literally!”

  17. Helen

    With so much great advice already offered, hope I am not repeating it, but here goes:

    Be in context and be human’ is the best advice for social media success

    So many businesses forget that Social Media is just like conversations off-line, and in my experience can far too often get hung up on the tools and not focus on the conversations.

    The best real world analogy is a meeting with your peers and other industry leaders, all there to discuss an emerging trend and instead of bringing your research along to join in the meeting, you start telling the assembled group about a product offer you have, giving out coupons and keep asking members of the group to give you their details so you can send them the offer.
    When the assembled group tries to focus on the topic that the meeting was set up to address, you put on a sandwich board, take out a megaphone and keep shouting out your message until they ask you to leave.

    That’s how so many businesses are still approaching social media, as a platform that has tools that allows them to send out messages, not join in conversations, listen, learn and engage.
    It’s not a one way channel where there’s a sender and many receivers, but it’s the business meeting where everyone is on equal footing to participate in the conversation.

    Remember that even though you’re interacting on a computer, you’re expected to act like a human on social media, not like a robot. Make sure your business values line up with human values and then act like that when interacting with your audience.

    Good luck David, hope you are filming it so you can share it with all of us

  18. Pingback: Crowd sourced social media advice for chief information officers (CIOs) | Executive Insight

  19. Judy Prins (Leader: Deloitte Sport, Media & Entertainment)

    Hi David,

    Some key thoughts for CIO’s and in fact any leaders of organisations include:

    Social Media has changed the way that information is shared between your company and stakeholders – information sharing is no longer unilateral – all stakeholders participate.

    The very traits that make Social Media popular, i.e. the ability to connect and communicate to a wide audience in real time, make it risky too. The impact should never be underestimated. This is why a reactive approach is no longer sufficient. One needs to have a proactive approach – the ability to respond effectively within a day is critical as anything after that is too late. This means that you need a practical and detailed strategy that covers everything – good governance, monitoring, policy development, staff training, measurement and crisis management to name a few areas.

    Social Media can drive revenue growth by increasing sales volume with existing and new customers – this shows a positive ROI. However, companies do not always succeed in utilising social media effectively resulting in a negative ROI. Again, this highlights the importance of having a good social media strategy upfront – one that talks to all the other strategies of your business and that includes crisis/risk management etc.

    Last thought – for employees that have access to social media at work, 28% of the day is spend on interruptions and recovery time. What is lost employee productivity costing your company?


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