Are Boards At A Tipping Point On Social?


I was honored this week to join a rockstar panel in Seattle at the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Northwest Chapter meeting to talk about The Social Media Explosion: Risks and Opportunities Through a Governance Lens.  I joined a group of leaders and early social adopters who understand what social is about from Starbucks, Alaska Air, KPMG and K&L Gates.  

My takeaway from the conversation was that we're finally starting to see Directors thinking through the tactical steps that they need to address to consider both the risks and opportunities around social.    

I started my comments by reframing the social agenda from a media centric one into a disruptive social technology one.   Social media is a small subset of the much larger social technology opportunity that companies are facing.  While the social conversation started on the public social channels like Facebook and Twitter, the really big business issues are the strategic and competitive ones around how this disruptive technology is changing business models.  

Here are the core questions that were asked during the Q&A and a very brief summary of the answers offered by the panel.    

What skills should be added to the Board?

A distinction was made between IT skills and social marketing skills with a recognition that Boards need both.  The right IT and social technology governance resource could address both gaps, although social marketing skills may not necessarily be able to cover the broader IT or social technology governance landscape.  Putting these skills onto Boards is a no brainer, although finding the right board ready Directors who have these skills is a bit of a challenge, but not an impossible one.  

How do we implement a social approach across the entire business, just add the technology?

Board and CEO leadership is a prerequisite to a comprehensive approach with social.  This is a technology and a business management issue of an ERP magnitude.   The one distinction is that there is now a willing and able user group that understands that this technology is better and wants to work with it, unlike the fun we all had during the ERP days.   Leadership, the right tools, engagement and experimentation is the implementation mandate.  

How should our risk focus change because of social?

It needs to move to a real time approach and one where fixing problems is a much more important part of the overall equation relative to prevention.  Privacy and security issues are evolving daily as is regulation, which requires the social agenda to be a standing part of the Board calendar. 

How do we figure out the ROI of social?


Compelling data is emerging and McKinsey recently put a TRILLION dollar price tag on this issue.  My blog post on this is here.   Foundationally, this is a core business technology that improves productivity and relevancy in and to your markets. Whether for B2B or B2C companies these tools are a competitive weapon that helps the bottom and the top lines. 

I always enjoy Seattle, although I miss the Supersonics. Where have you gone Jack Sikma and are you social?  Thank you to the NACD Northwest Chapter for a fantastic event.  

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