Social Media – The new Boardroom Challenge that cannot be ignored


In a recent survey of FTSE 350 members by FT/ICSA, almost half of respondents reported their board had never discussed a social media policy.

With over a billion users on Twitter and Facebook, with corporate reputations impacted in an instant, It would be sensible to think that social media policy would be a high priority on board room agendas, but surprisingly this does not appear to be the case.

In a world where over five thousand tweets are sent every second and reputations can be damaged in the time it takes to press “send” this seems a risky if not negligent approach to take. The situation is reminiscent of the early 1970s when board members were slow to understand the importance of marketing. It was not until managers with a marketing mentality were accepted into the board room, did the situation change.

So too, in the present decade, the board room awaits the directors aware of the power of social media, to ensure the “helicopter vision” is within the grasp of the future CEOs and myopia in the board room is removed. 32% of the respondents ranking social media strategy as unimportant to their business overall, perhaps the most frightening statistic of all.

At SMExperts we think Social Media strategy be a key item on the agenda in every boardroom? Too many directors think Twitter doesn’t really matter? Or Social Media is just kids messing about with Facebook? LinkedIn has become a key platform for business to business marketing especially in business and professional services. Twitter is a key component in driving traffic to corporate assets as well as assessing “chatter” about brands and business. When people are talking about your business or brand, you really do need to listen and take notice.

Every business should have a corporate social media strategy. Lack of corporate social media policies and a lack of response to customer concerns have created problems for well known brands. Top designer, Kenneth Cole used the uprising in Egypt to market his spring collection of clothes by inappropriately tweeting ‘millions are in uproar in #cairo. Rumour is they heard our new spring collection is now available online’. His tweet went viral, generating an estimated 1,500 negative responses an hour forcing the designer to delete the original tweet and apologise.

In 2005, Dell Computers was undone by a simple blogger. Jeff Jarvis, blogged about his Dell laptop and their lack of customer service. Dell failed to respond to Jarvis or to acknowledge the thousands of people that read his blog. His widely circulated criticism triggered a multitude of other bloggers to leave comments publicly complaining about Dell Service.

Dell reacted by completely reviewing their customer service operation and launching a social media operation with the capability of monitoring conversations in real time. Today Dell has a reputation as a company which understands how to leverage social media for customer service.

Social Media is bigger than ever and it is growing exponentially. John Brooks writing about the birth of the photocopying business in 1959 said “All the evidence suggests the communication between people by whatever means, far from simply accomplishing its purpose, invariably breeds the need for more.”

And so it continues today, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ are themselves challenged by the need for fast track communication using online text, chat, photo and video interaction. YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, SnapChat, Instagram and WhatsApp are evidence of the newer fast developing social media platforms that cannot be ignored.

Boardrooms may be unaware of developments but clients, customers, suppliers and shareholders, for that matter, most definitely are. Social Media users have the power to shape and break reputations. Evidence of Tony Hayward’s ill-timed decision to “go yachting” was flashed around the world at the time of the Gulf Oil disaster.

The message to boardrooms is clear, “The conversation is happening with or without you and failure to embrace it may mean you have a whole different set of problems on the boardroom agenda in the future.”

Our Social Media Experts site is there to help. Check out our forthcoming release on Social Media Strategy in the Board Room for best practise and advice, to understand how.
Further information please contact Nicola Humfress, Product Manager on

About the Author

  • Dr John Ashcroft

    John Ashcroft is a visiting professor at Manchester University and Executive in residence at Manchester Business School, specializing in Economics Corporate Strategy and Social Media. Author of the Saturday Economist, The Apple Case Study and The Sunday Times and Croissants John is Chief Executive of pro.manchester, a Director of Marketing Manchester, a member of the GM Chamber of Commerce Council and the AGMA Business Leadership Council.


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