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CEO goes from social-media pew to pulpit

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

In 2007, CEO Michael Lewis’ company, ILD Corp., was a leading payment pro­c­es­­sor between merchants and customers.

Lewis knew about social-networking sites but he didn’t participate in any of them.

The wake-up call came when an em­­ployee googled ILD Corp. and the result was ugly: dozens of customer complaints about charges and billing. Some had already inspired newspaper articles.

Most of the comments were simply misunderstandings, though some were downright inaccurate and the tone unfriendly. Lewis and his team had always monitored the business. Inquiries were in line with the norm, but they hadn’t been tracking the online conversation.

“We needed significant change or the entire reputation of the company would be permanently damaged,” Lewis says.

Then came the epiphany: If cus­tomers could reach out to the company so easily, Lewis’ team could reach out, too, using the same methods.

Thus began Lewis’ migration from the back pew to the pulpit, where social media is concerned.

He now advises CEOs to use LinkedIn on their own, and to promote and build awareness via Facebook and Twitter, as well. Mind the big three, he says.

While social media sites are certainly for talking, Lewis places an even higher value on listening.

“What a lot of CEOs need to remember is that these conversations are going on with or without you,” he says. “My view is you need to be having that dialogue with customers where they are meeting and aggregating and discussing your company or your brand, or else you’re just totally missing the boat.”

The bottom line for C-suite execs? “You can’t ignore it. If you’re going to grow and be successful, this has to be part of your overall go-to market strategy.”

— Adapted from “Social Media in the C-Suite,” Knowledge@Wharton; Social Media Leadership, Michael F. Lewis.

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