The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

The toughest part of my job is explaining to executives that they’ve been ripped off. From last week’s meeting with the Executive Director of a nonprofit (who is paying $2800 per year to “maintain” her static-html website) to a local company’s gorgeous, flash-based (yet SEO-inept) website which requires a complete overhaul, it’s clear that most C-levels are clueless when it comes to understanding their corporate communications expenditures.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon yet another sad example to prove my point. For the seventh day in a row, I had been notified that “Scott Morris” was following me on Twitter:

The picture above indicates one of two things: either “Scott” suffers from TIFS (twitchy index finger syndrome) or he’s using an automated bot to scam-up his follower count–a strategy commonly used by pornographers and Viagra dealers.

But “Scott’s” profile didn’t contain the sleaziness I was expecting. Instead, it contained a link to a SoCal-based online medical community. Something just didn’t add up.

That’s when it hit me. Had I just found yet another example of a corporate social media strategy left in the hands of an intern or a drunk at the party? So, I called the company to find out.

My call went immediately to voicemail, so I left a message, asking Scott Morris to return my call.  A few minutes later, the president of the company, a physician, called instead.

“Thank you for calling,” I said, “but I was looking for Scott Morris.”

The doctor explained that he didn’t know a Scott Morris.

“Well, someone by that name is Twittering on your company’s behalf,” I said.

“I don’t know how to use Twitter,” he admitted, explaining that someone else does it for him. He then began asking questions about his company’s Twitter activities. As I explained my suspicions, I could hear the concern in his voice.  He thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention and promised to look into it.

About a half hour later, he called with an update.

“I checked and discovered that one of my marketing people was doing this. I told them to stop.” He also decided to take over the twittering from now on–a decision that I applauded him for.

The lesson of this story cannot be understated. When it comes to corporate reputations, Social Media channels are quickly becoming more powerful than traditional media. Until C-levels understand the true impact of social media responsibilities, they’ll continue to blindly put their online reputation into the hands of the unprepared.


Filed under: Mini Case Studies


Great post, Ron. CEOs are beholden to many stakeholders and leaving such a huge part of their communications program unsupervised and unchecked borders on corporate negligence. No excuse for it these days but it is still the norm, unfortunately.

February 9, 2010

Great story, it is so true too. There's the other side of this, when the C-levels get someone to help with social media, or new media or whatever you want to call it… but direct all tasks to be done on the new media, in the same way that they've done marketing for the past 30 years with old/tradidional media. A lot of the times they just don't get it, but just want to jump on the bandwagon and then drive it. I think its a generational gap really.

February 10, 2010

Oscar, so true. I work in the automotive industry and experience this “strategy” every day. The dealer principal is now “aware” of various social media applications available to increase their brand, but is still adamant in producing the same pathetic vomiting like marketing they used in the past.

Response for Twitter: Let's tell our customers once a week they can visit with a print out of our tweet for 5% off an oil change.
Response for Youtube: Let's tell our customers to rreate a video telling us why we are your preferred dealership.
Response for company blog: Let's tell our customers to print a comment to receive a free t-shirt.

What's missing? You guessed it. The (ownership) customer-company engagement. The (ownership) customer-company conversation. The (ownership) customer-company relationship.

Andy Warner
February 10, 2010

I would argue though that in addition to the C-level, all employees in the company need to know about the implications of social media. With a plethora of social media outlets available, and the sudden increase in their popularity many company staff are joining these networks and running around with an AK-47 (as per your book) thinking it is a fun toy to play with.

Antonio Montoya
February 10, 2010

Thanks Oscar. I agree with everything except for the generational part. C-levels are smart. They just haven't had someone connect the dots for them in their terms.

They're only getting the partial story of new/social media–depending on who's “doin' the 'spain'n.” A PR person will see it one way. A marketer another. Add sales, customer support, product development, legal and human resources, and C-levels must juggle disjointed opinions.

But there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. With the death knell of traditional media ringing loudly in the distance, C-levels won't be able to keep their heads in the sand much longer.

February 10, 2010

So true Ron. I worked with dentist last year who abdicated all social media to his “staff”. They spend their time on Twitter posting two things. The latest special at their ecommerce site and the news that their latest post is now live on the blog. When I challenged their lack of engagement with their followers the leader of the pack (not the dentist who owns the business) chimed in defensively that that's what a 'consultant' had instructed them to do. Perfect.That means it was the right approach, right?

February 10, 2010

[…] C-level Social Media Ignorance: Do you know what your marketing and PR folks are doing in your company’s name? […]

Links: Happy Sweet 16 2010 Edition |
February 12, 2010

Crazy Twitter kids.

February 17, 2010

Totally agree. Everyone in the company needs to be aware of what's happening in social media. They don't have to be the ones tweeting, but they need to know what it is and how the company plans to use it.

But employees can't wait for C-level to 'get it'. That could take 10 years. Education will most likely have to be from the bottom up.

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February 19, 2010

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