“Directors who don’t understand social media are placing their company at risk”

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That quote is taken from a great article by Walter Adamson, who goes on to say:

While reputation and brand risk is the usual discussion (excuse?), it is not the main point. The main point is they are not in a position to judge risks nor opportunities if they don’t have some basic experience in social media. They need to get up to scratch.

And there’s the rub. How can anyone – especially a board member – pass judgment on a technology they don’t understand? It strikes me as a generation thing. Most members of the C-Suite are of a certain generation that grew up before the internet.

But ignorance is no longer an excuse, if it ever was. Board members are accountable to their shareholders, their employees, their suppliers and their customers. They have a duty to know what’s happening in the wider business environment and to understand the trends and technologies that affect their businesses.

I know many company directors who are skeptical of the relevance of social media to their businesses. Skepticism is fine – in fact it’s healthy – but ignorance is not. I know for a fact that many of them don’t use social media personally, let alone in a business context. My question to them is: how can you know if it’s relevant if you’ve never used it?

And let’s not forget that a new generation is coming though that will start to populate company boards in coming years. This generation is web-savvy and very comfortable with social networking. How will the ‘old school’ relate to these newcomers?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that the C-suite starts tweeting all day. Board members are, by their nature, risk-averse and very few will want to risk their businesses’ reputation online. But that’s not to say that they can’t set up private Twitter accounts and start following key influencers in their industry and just listen. Most would be surprised what 10 minutes a day on Twitter can teach them about the world.

I’ll finish off with another quote from Adamson’s article:

Social media experience cannot be read, it can only be experienced. And that experience will provide some foundation for informed risk assessment… Directors owe it to themselves and their stakeholders to learn to ride the social media bike and to experience the opportunities as well as placing the risks in context, and to give themselves the opportunity to ask informed questions.

Are you ready to get connected and ride the social media bike?