The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

Following on from my last post - "The CIO And Social Media: Social Police?" – you might have guessed I’m a big proponent of Social Computing to drive organizational transformation and increase profits.

The thing is, I wonder how many CIOs see themselves as social evangelists.  You’re a CIO...

  • Are you on Twitter?
  • Do you have a full profile on LinkedIn?
  • How about Facebook?
  • Do you understand how your marketing organization is leveraging social media?
  • Do you have a role as social advocate in the organization?

I believe one important role of the CIO is to help peers in the business to better understand just how transformational social media can be to helping increase growth and/or drive productivity to improve the bottom line.

I encourage CIOs to support trials; facilitate experimentation and provide the IT services support to the business units willing to tap into Social. Partner up with the CMO and get going - don't wait for the business case (heresy I hear you say) - but that would be like asking for the business case for email or for Table stakes the phone; you could probably do it but why bother - this is table stakes in 2010. When was the last business case you saw for buying a PC?
The fact is, until you get in the game you really won't understand the potential.  The closest thing in recent times would be the evolution of corporate websites - in the early days some companies saw the power of the Internet and embraced it - some even changed business models using it (Amazon, eBay), while others couldn't see the business benefit and waited till having a website was no longer an option. 
I'm not advocating you ignore basic principles such as aligning the goals of the project to positive business outcomes and measuring results  - that's essential for success - but the fact is any benefit numbers you and your business partners come up with in terms of a business case are more than likely a wild guess at best - you need to get some experience first.
While you are at it, you might want to find out what your organization is already doing - the chances are there at least a few covert social media projects underway already without IT's involvement.
If you still have doubts on this I have two suggestions for you:
1. Read Groundswell to see real case studies on how companies are winning with social media – it’s a great book and a really easy to read, packed full of examples
2. If you don’t have time to read a book, take a look at Josh Bernoff's recent blog post on the winners of this year's Groundswell awards
In Josh's post you will see concrete examples of what companies are doing with social media and real, tangible business benefits such as how NASCAR reduced it's research costs by 80%; how Lion Brand Yarn showed people using it's social media site were 41% more likely to buy yarn at the website; how FICO dramatically decreased it's support costs and increased revenue; how UPS attracted 345,000 job applications at 75% lower cost than traditional newspaper advertising; how MetricStream created a portal with 500,000 users that generates 30% of the company's sales leads.

Am I being deliberately controversial? Maybe. I’d like to hear your opinion, especially from CIOs.

I’m writing a research report on the role of the CIO in Social Computing, so if you are a CIO and have examples of how you have helped your organization embrace social computing please post your comments on this blog & join the research group on LinkedIn


re: The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

Darn, I've been saying that thing about "making a business case for the phone" for ages and now I'll have to retire it - or send you a penny each time I use it.

Seriously though, CIOs must see the rise of social networking as a reminder that business isn't really about data, it's about processes that happen to act on data. And conversation is rapidly becoming the most important type of business process.

re: The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

I agree Paul. Perhaps data can be considered as a way of tracking and understanding the conversations that happen in business. What's also interesting is that the nature of our conversations are changing as we evolve to utilize new media for continuing conversations such as SMS, Twitter, FB, etc..

re: The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

Great advice. I've found a few CIOs who are pushing this agenda within their businesses, and it significantly raises their internal influence.Also -- based on Laura Ramos' research most business technology buyers are using social technologies for work. If you use it to help buy and support technology choices (or your staff does), why not evangelize it internally as well?

re: The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

Nigel, you are correct. I believe CIOs need to get involved in these activities and they need to try them out. I'm a CIO and I've got all you've said above and I'm doing three different blogs, two on IT(one internal and one external). I've learned a ton by trying it out and getting engaged. Also, it is hard to see the value unless you try it out.

re: The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

You’re right. CIOs should be champions of support for social media which does in fact have the potential to grow the bottom line. As an employee at Sircon, my company’s role is to help the industry leverage solutions to empower CIOs to be resourceful and valuable to their company. While we are not social media experts, we encourage our clients to follow us on different social media outlets to read and share our story. In the same way, social media empowers CIOs by extending their conversations and knowledge, making them more valuable in the eyes of the CEO. These days, that’s all that seems to matter.

re: The CIO And Social Media: Social Evangelist?

That's great to hear Mark. Have you been able to translate your experience with Social into helping the business utilize social for bottom-line benefit? What suggestions would you have for CIO's who may be skeptical?