Social media training for the C-Suite? Are you serious?

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Teaching the C-Suite how to use social media is big business. Think about that for a second.

In 2014, people are being paid a lot on money to explain how to use professional social networks to the people running – setting strategy for – what are often multi-million dollar business.

It’s not the fact that these folks need to be shown how to use social media that surprises me. What really gets me is that, in this social age, they need to told why they should use it. Why it’s important.

As Walter Adamson says in this excellent article, “A lot of social media training for CEOs and the C-level misses the real point because it focusses on the ‘practical outcomes’ rather that the experiential insights.”

A lot of social media training for CEOs and the C-level misses the real point because it focusses on the ‘practical outcomes’ rather that the experiential insights.

He describes this training as like taking medicine. But what is the medicine trying to cure? It’s trying to cure “the insularity and closed mindset, or at least the misguided mindset, that precludes the ability of many to understand the goodness that social technologies can bring to their business.” Ideas like growth, commitment, purpose, people, culture, innovation etc.

This is the point. Until the people running businesses realise that social media isn’t just another tool to ‘learn’, but actually part of a modern ‘renaissance’ in the way humans interact with each other – and with businesses – they will never appreciate its true power.

This requires a mindset that is open to change and disruption.

Once CEOs and the C-Suite see social media not as a threat but as an amazing opportunity – something that can provide customer insights, improve internal collaboration, increase sales, reduce overheads – the scales will fall from their eyes.

Social media is turning old hierarchies on their heads and undermining long-established business models. It’s allowing young startup companies to rip the rug from under the feet of unsuspecting corporate behemoths. Just look at what Uber and Airbnb are doing to the global taxi and hotel industries. That’s just the start.

Company leaders have a duty to their employees, their suppliers, their shareholders – and themselves – to understand what the social media revolution really means for business. They should meet it head-on with eyes wide open, not with out-of-date views from a previous century.

As Walter Adamson concludes, the motivation for C-Suite social media training should be to understand how to reshape age-old industry dynamics (like mergers and acquisitions) – not to learn how to tweet.

For examples of genuine social CEOs, just look at the Twitter feeds of Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank in Canada, and Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Personal and Corporate banking in the UK. Both make a point of being active, visible and – more importantly – themselves, on Twitter. They are the future of the C-Suite.