“To tweet or not to tweet? Facebook or not to Facebook? Hire intern or hire agency? Train sales team or keep them in the dark? Share what I had for lunch…. okay, never mind… we'll start social media next year, not now.”

To do social media or not do social media seems to be the question for many CXOs. However, the truth is the party is already happening in their honor, they just aren't in attendance.

We can't blame the CEOs. How can they keep the facts straight. There is so much contradicting information on social media. There are many businesses who engage in social media with no planning only to find themselves lost in a deep sea of tweets with few followers, and no real return on investment on what they thought was suppose to be a free marketing channel.

Those that follow me know I tend to be straight to the point, particularly on topics that I am passionate about. I'll tell you up front on this post, I am very passionate about organizations using social media in the right way. I also want to see C-level executives succeed in social media in 2011 and not become a casualty of the Twitter fail whale.

25 Facts Every CEO Must Know About Social Media

1.  Social media is not FREE! Although you can hop on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a million other platforms, it's not free.  Social media will steal your greatest asset which is time.  If an agency or consultant tells you social media is free, run!

2.  Social Media is Not Just for Kids. Yes, there are real adults using social media.  Adults who are in your target market, visit Facebook daily and want to buy your products and services. And believe it or not, some of them actually tweet!

3.  Learning the ecosystem of social media is essential. Heads first to sink or swim isn't always the best route to social media success. I believe perfection is the enemy of good. Don't over complicate it but at the same time don't under estimate it.  No you don't have to get a black belt in Twitter before you can tweet. However, you must take time to learn the ecosystem before you go social crazy. Focus on social listening and learning about how your audience is engaging on the social platforms in parallel with building your plan for social media execution.

4.  There is a party already happening in your honor even if you decide not to show up. Yes, there are people talking about your brand right now. It's up to you if you want to engage and help drive the conversation or be left behind.

5.  You can't skip the plan. If you lack a solid business plan, marketing strategy, goals and objectives, don't start social media until you have all of the above. Investing heavily in social media without alignment to your goals and objectives will not provide a high return on investment.

6.  Social media is not a quick fix to a broken business. If your market currently thinks you're boring via traditional marketing channels, chances are they'll think you're boring in social media. If your sales team is getting lazy, the twitter bird can't fix it, sorry.

7.  Don't beat your head of marketing up over not achieving a 1 million hit YouTube viral video. You can't always plan a viral video, or viral anything for that manner. Focus on creating compelling content that connects to your audience and you'll survive with or without the million hitter.

8.  You need more than an intern. Don't leave the entire social media strategy, integration with your business and execution to an intern.  I am a big believer in supporting those less experienced and younger to build a career and future.  I would never have had the success I did in my career without the help of mentors early on in my career giving me a chance.  However, you're setting an intern up to fail if you throw them to the twitter wolves with no support from your internal team.  You need somebody behind the tweet wheel who understands your business, your audience, market segments as well as goals and objectives.  Yes, an intern can help but shouldn't be the sole lonely tweeter and master planner.

9.  You don't have to share what you had for lunch. Although you probably don't care what your partners, clients and friend have for lunch, your audience might actually care what you did for dinner lastnight.  If you are worth your CXO title, chances are someone out there somewhere will follow your every twitter move and even retweet what you ate for dinner lastnight should you dare to post it.

10.  Don't expect immediate results. Yes, you may have some early wins. Your Twitter following and Facebook fans may grow at a rapid rate from day one.  However, the real ROI is going to come from building a community that takes action on your behalf and in support of your business goals and objectives. Bottom line, this doesn't happen overnight and will take time.

facebook like11. You need more than Facebook “likes” to see a positive return on investment (ROI). Yes, you should be proud if you hit your “like” goals ahead of schedule.  However, it's not only the “likes” that matter. It's what you do with those likes. The social currency of social media is action. Focus on engaging and driving your audience to action.

12.  You have one chance to make a first impression, even on Facebook. Even if you haven't hopped on the Facebook wagon with the 600 million others it is not an emergency that you get there tomorrow. Take the time to build your plan and execute in a way that supports your brand. You want mindshare and action. What are the chances someone will really come back a second time to your Facebook page or blog if their first impression is lousy. Focus on a balance of time to market with quality execution aligned to your business. Perfection is enemy of good.

13.  Avoid random acts of social media (RAMs). If you find yourself and your team thinking, doing and executing random acts of social media, stop immediately and do not pass go. Head to the nearest conference room and grab a marker, whiteboard and some chocolate. Take the time to develop your plan before the RAMs eat your quarter one bonus!

14.  Social media shouldn't BE the objective. Although you may have a goal to engage and succeed in social media in 2011, it doesn't mean social media should be the objective. Social media should support your goals and objectives, not be them.

15.  No, you can't re-use the billboard and TV campaign you did in 2009 as your Twitter stream for 2011. Social media is a completely different medium and requires a conversation.  Even though when you first get behind the tweet wheel it may seem like a mass broadcast, it's much different. At the core is people. Your goal is to connect with the people by inspiring and connecting with them to help them achieve their objectives and goals.

16.  No, it's not all about you. It's more important to focus on the needs of your audience. Focus first on inspiring and connecting with your audience with an objective to help them achieve their goals and objectives. How can you make their business and/or life better? How can you add efficiencies? The trick is inspiring them to connect with you via 140 characters, on LinkedIn or grab their mindshare via a newsfeed on Facebook.  The only thing that is going to drive them to action is relevant content and conversation.

17.  Context matters as much or more than content. Because social media is one big conversation you have many opportunities to provide context that inspires and connects with your audience. Yes, you can share information about your business. However, it must be done in the right context. What happens before and after a request for someone to take action is often times more important than the actual request for such.

18.  Relationships are not built based on logos alone. Sorry, you can't hide behind the logo forever. Somebody, somewhere in your company is going to need to show their shiny, happy face to the world. Yes, I know what you're thinking… “who in the heck is that person.”  Don't worry, you'll find them or you may even need to train somebody already internal to your organization.  Build your plan inclusive of goals and objectives first, then figure out how you're going to staff to execute the plan.

19.  Authenticity matters. Being real is your key to success in social media. People buy from people. People tweet with people. Don't be afraid to show your true colors even if they do need a bit of freshening up. Trust me, you are not the only one afraid of some skeletons falling out of the closet. Guaranteed the majority of your competitors are worried about the same thing. Why not beat them to it and you'll be a good year or more ahead of them.

20.  Yes, real business does happen in social media. It's true, connections are made that drive real business. Twitter is not just for kids silly rabbit! You may even find that your leads are better qualified that come in via the social media sales funnel.

21.  Don't focus only on how you will find the time and budget for social media. Instead focus on how you can integrate social media into the DNA of your business. What can your sales and marketing team NOT do because of the integration of social media? What can they do better by using social media? How could your customer service and customer satisfaction metrics be improved due to the new communication medium that never shuts off and is always listening? Focus on the positive and how you can leverage social media for your business.

22.  Outsourcing all of your social media is not a smart move. Yes, your team probably will need some training. You may even need to hire an agency to help you plan, develop and execute a social media strategy. However, don't give up all the reins. Because social media is one big relationship based on conversation, it is imperative that someone within the walls of your company stay engaged in all facets of social media.

23.  Social media policies will save your butt. Develop and implement a social media policy. Decide who in your company will and won't use social media as a representative of your brand. Set guidelines for how they should engage, what should and shouldn't be shared. Protect your intellectual, social and content assets before you engage in social media if possible. Waiting until your first employee causes a twitter war with your brand all over it to create a social media policy is a recipe for disaster. Any decent agency or consultant should be able to help you write and implement a social media policy.

24.  Don't trust everything your other CXO friends tell you. Most businesses today are not engaging in social media in a way that is going to bring a positive return. Every business is different. Just because your buddy at company ABC didn't have success with his team of interns and a half baked social media marketing plan doesn't mean you are going to fail too. Set your bar higher. Take the time to build your plan and develop your own success story to share.

ceo social media success25.  Don't be afraid. The Twitter bird is not a mean bird. Facebook is not going away tomorrow. Keep a focus on the positive and how you can best leverage social media. Don't let it own you, your team or your plan.  Focus on your business and how you can best integrate social media into the DNA of how you do business. Do your research, acquire training and you will soon be the social media “CXO guru”  you always wanted to be (joking.)

Your Turn

What advice can you offer others? If you are a CXO what has your experience with social media been to date? Is your organization where you want to be in regard to adoption and integration of social media into your business? If yes, what helped you succeed? If no, what is or did hold you back?

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