Crowd sourced social media advice for Chief Information Officers (CIOs)

I published a blog post titled “What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?” which I shared on the social networks where I participate. I have provided selective responses I received.

If you have anything to add, I will welcome your contribution. I will be sharing this article with CIOs within my network. Please share with IT Professionals who may benefit from the sage advice provided by a number of global business consultants, social media, marketing and branding specialists.

Richard Simmonds (@RichSimmondsZA) – Knowledge entrepreneur, business consultant, Twitter and social coach to increase influence of brands

“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 gist of it.

Just another reason you should (not) be on Twitter

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 Twitter.

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!

Talking mobility it also seems that there 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.


Cees De Boer (@ceesdeboer) – Member of Executive Board, CFO and COO at Deloitte Netherlands

I certainly would advise CIO’s to embrace social media. 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 traditional “control” role of the CIO. The 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. Here is another traditional role of the CIO being phased out. CIO’s will need to focus on buying / building / managing business applications that are of strategic and tactical importance for the business. In my view a social media platform will quickly become one of those business applications.


Rajesh Harie (@rajharie)

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?


Darren Smith (@DazMSmith) – Businessman, New media & web strategist, Strategic Marketer, Communicator, Networker, Idea engineer and Creative thinker

Social media 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 (, Nigeria) was interesting. I asked him what the impact of social was on his own business, in the context of this Forrester report some months ago – Less than 1% of online purchases come from social channels.

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 lays 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!”


Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer) – Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, Speaker, Author of Multiple LinkedIn Books and University Professor

I actually just presented to IT professionals on this very topic of what they need to understand about social media. Hope you find it useful!


Claude Super (@claudesuper) – Valuation and information governance consultant

“Take Time to observe Key users and trust them!”


Dr Nikolaus Eberl (@NikolausEberl) – CEO of BrandOvation, Brand Leadership Expert, Author, Brand Ambassador Program FIFA World Cup, Reciprocation Marketing™

I would definitely point out the lessons from Obama’s recent social media campaign regarding list building and targeting specific user communities.

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.


Mike Said (@Mike_Said_What) – Owner at

There is not a whole lot I can leave you with that has 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).


Jochem Koole (@jochemkoole) – Senior social media adviser at Deloitte Netherlands

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 collaborate with colleagues and customers on the tools and devices of their own choice, while the CIO is responsible for maintaining an existing 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 controlled ICT environment to an open and supportive one, they can reap huge benefits.

IBM decided to lose control, and benefitted greatly:

Of course, this is a long term investment. It took IBM 5 years. So, now is a good time to start.

Here’s an interesting addition to everything said earlier: “Controlled Private Social Networking”. Might be an opportunity for CIOs –


Kaveer Beharee (@Kaveerbharath) – Stakeholder and reputation management strategist incorporating King III

New media has added a layer of complexity, both from a governance and 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 communication – 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.


Jonathan Houston (@Jingo27) – Digital Marketing Manager at Deloitte Technology

Thank you 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.

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 implementation. The point I would like to make is that ERP vendors are making significant investment 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!

There is an awesome Forbes article which summarises this topic quite nicely :


Nazareen Ebrahim (@NazareenE) – Social Media and Content Manager

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 real-time, 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.


Jon Hoehler (@JonHoehler) – Manager, Mobile Technologies at Deloitte Digital

A huge challenge for CIOs is around accessing of social media by employees on the enterprises networks. Any organization 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.

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.


Cliona –

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.


Adrian Lee (@AdrianLeeSA) – Mobile, Marketing and Business Development

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.


Melanie Minnaar – (@MelanieMinnaar) – Founder & Owner at multiplicity

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.


Helen Tonetti (@HelenTonetti) – Social Media Specialist and Marketing Director at Video Expression

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.

I trust that you found this advice (and the links provided) of use. Do you have anything to add?

2 thoughts on “Crowd sourced social media advice for Chief Information Officers (CIOs)

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