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Is Your CEO Digitally Unaware?

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AAEAAQAAAAAAAATYAAAAJGQ3ZjNiMzM0LWNhN2UtNDIzMy1hYWIzLTFhN2QyOTRkMTljZgIs your CEO on LinkedIn? Or your CMO on Twitter? Does it matter? More and more frequently I come across posts urging senior management to be active on social media. It’s an interesting question, but to my mind it takes focus away from a really important question: Should we demand of senior management and boards that they understand digital development and transformation?

There are many advantages to senior managers being active on social media. It can strengthen the brand, build relations to important stakeholders, drive social selling etc. But in the end having a presence on social media is more about what kind of person you are, and what you’re comfortable with. It can’t be a deciding factor to being the CEO or a senior manager if you’re active on social media or not. It’s a bonus, and the best case scenario is that the person in question decides that there are more pros than cons to doing it. The importance of social media also differs between industries

But what we can and should demand from managers on all levels is that they have a basic understanding of digital and social developments, and how wide-reaching these developments are. And my feeling is that there is a lot left to do in this area.

A Digital Revolution

Despite the fact that we can see how digital innovations are changing industries, business models and the way we work, it’s still not uncommon to meet managers on different levels who lack a basic understanding of what is happening. And it’s in this context that their lack of interest in social media concerns me. Because the disruption that companies like Uber, AirBnB and others are creating in different industries is not separated from what is happening in social media, or from the developments in what we call big data. Not to mention the Internet of Things and everything happening in that area. It’s all part of a continuous transformation, a digital revolution.

But if you as a manager can dismiss social media, or fail to understand the development taking place within digital communication and marketing, it’s unlikely that you will understand the disruption taking place in areas like business strategy and business models. You’re probably not aware of the fact that all it takes to turn any industry inside and out is an innovative solution and a great user interface. And that means that the company you’re working for is in grave danger.

My impression is that a lot of managers on different levels – and this is not limited to a certain age or sex – greatly underestimate the potential for comprehensive changes that digital developments brings. And that is probably due to the fact that they are used to thinking and working within structures and contexts where change comes gradually and any drama is caused by financial or political aspects. They’ve been taught business models and strategies that will work regardless of industry or market. Where for example, barriers to entry and exit are considered fixed and accepted by all. And everyone in the industry lives by these rules.

Digital Is Marginal

Many managers are probably unaware of the fact that a majority of their company’s stakeholders, customers in particular, are active on social media. They don’t know that the user experience offered by the company’s digital platforms shapes the  perception of the company. Or that the increased use of smartphones changes both behavior and decision-making among everyone from customers to politicians.

Put another way, they see most things digital as something marginal, something the kids are into. In their minds it doesn’t really impact the dimension where the real decisions or business deals are made.

And I’m sure that was the way executives in taxi companies industry looked at digital until a few years ago. Or those working in the hotel industry. Or the travel industry. Or any of the industries that doesn’t look anything like they did ten years ago, and never will again.

The managers in those industries probably looked at digital as something that did not have an impact on the important deals or decisions.

If senior management in your company feels the same way, then suddenly their lack of interest in social media can be a telltale sign. It can very well mean that they lack understanding of how important digital transformation is to your industry and the future of your company. That they still see it as something that the kids are into.

And that’s not good news for your company.

Over To You

Do you agree with my reasoning on the dangers of a digitally unaware C-suite? Have your say in the comments.

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About Pontus Staunstrup

Pontus Staunstrup an experienced strategist, focusing on digital/content strategy, content marketing, social media, native advertising and digital transformation. He has worked in Communications and Marketing for close to 25 years for a number of global companies in management and consulting roles. You can visit Pontus's website here and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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