Social Media and the CIO: Be the Gas Pedal, Not the Brake

Like it or not, your enterprise is now social.

You don’t need a report from a research firm to tell you what you already know-that people don’t leave their personal lives behind when they enter the workspace. Their mobile devices ensure that they can be reached at any time, and they expect to reach out to others on demand too. News they can use about friends and events reaches them in a flash, and that’s the way they want it.

As the next generation enters the workplace, they will simply assume their access to the world of "tweets" and "likes" and status updates will continue at work as it does at home. Online petitions and campaigns, viral videos, tweets that gather their own unstoppable momentum-that’s the world we live in.

Pity the poor CIO, trying your best to get your arms around threatening social media concerns such as data security and confidentiality as this new reality impinges upon enterprise technologies. Even as you’re trying to bar the doors, you’re being pushed by stakeholders from across your organization to create a social enterprise.

Department heads have their own perfectly reasonable agendas to engage in social media. Marketing wants to reach customers faster than ever with “content” and wants to improve its digital brand and extend its influence. Your CEO is concerned about reputation management — of himself or herself as well as your company. Even your CFO is all for reaching out to investors via social media.

As for internal communication, you just can’t beat the social media mantra of "communicate, be accessible, and constantly generate new content." I know a CEO who wants to use social media to rebrand himself within his organization to become accessible. His goal is to reduce employee attrition by creating an organization that is flat and based on ease of communication. Executives with whom I speak in the banking industry understand that social media has to be part of customer acquisition and retention, despite substantial technological and logistical challenges.

Some organizations are playing a game of catch-up. Others have realized that social media is a competitive differentiator that’s diminishing rapidly as a growing number of companies embrace and exploit it. An organization’s social media strategy is no longer simply about its marketing and branding; it’s also about finance, human resources, and business operations. In short, social media should no longer be the sole province of your company’s marketing department.

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