“None” is Not a Social Media Strategy

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Saying “No” to social media is a big mistake, especially if the decision was driven by the CIO.  Over the last few weeks, I have spoken to two CIOs, one in financial services and one in the public sector, who say their organizations have a “no social media” policy.

I agree that there are many reasons to limit what your employees post on Facebook or LinkedIn.  That said, shutting off the spigot entirely misses out on some incredible opportunities to learn and experiment and, if you get lucky, create some real value for your organization.

For discussion’s sake, I would propose that we use the following capabilities (along with some examples) when we talk about social media:


  • Blogs - WordPress, Blogger
  • Microblogs - Twitter (public); Yammer (private)
  • Social Networks - Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Social Multimedia - Flickr, YouTube


  • Wikis - Wikipedia (public), MediaWiki (private)
  • Social Bookmarks - StumbleUpon, Delicious
  • Social News - Reddit, Digg
  • Prediction Markets - Hollywood Stock Exchange

Other categories, such as massively parallel games and product reviews, are sometimes included, but I’ve left them out for simplicity.

A CIO Social Media Framework

I think the primary driver of the “No Social Media” strategy is that there are a dizzying number of sites and services and it’s hard to find a place to start.  Enter the trusty 2×2 matrix to help us sort it out.  There are two questions I hear a lot and so these frame the matrix axes:

  1. Community: Internal or External?
  2. CIO Focus: Personal or Organizational?

Some of you may think that a CIO’s personal perspective doesn’t belong in this discussion.  Based on my own experience, I think that the personal and corporate goals go hand-in-hand when it comes to social media.  The personal relationships that you develop reflect directly back to your organization - exactly the reason so many fear social media in the first place.

With these two questions, we can discuss 4 types of social media every CIO should be interested in prioritizing and exploring.  In each quadrant, I’ve noted some of the objectives that could be met with each type of investment.

CIO Social Media Framework

I won’t bore you be draining each quadrant, but instead offer some ideas and experiments for each that you could customize to fit your situations.  Once you learn more about each, including the inherent risks and issues, you can establish a more formal strategy and set of priorities.

Internal - Personal

  1. Start an internal CIO blog (or podcast, as one CTO I know did), not just for the IT organization, but focused on integrating what IT is working on into the business context and discussing technology innovations you are seeing that could benefit your firm
  2. Establish a set of bookmarks using Delicious and share them with your management team so they know what you are reading and thinking about.

Internal - Organizational

  1. Launch an internal wiki to define industry and firm-specific terms, concepts, competitors, suppliers, etc.
  2. Try one of the microblogging platforms intended for enterprises, Yammer or Identi.ca. (this would mostly benefit larger and mult-site organizations)
  3. Try a prediction market to gather employee insights into the projected success/failure of your top 10 projects.

External - Personal

  1. Develop a public blog that helps to explain your perspectives on industry, standards and/or IT leadership issues.  See Stephen Gillett’s blog as an example - he’s Starbucks’ CIO.
  2. Establish a presence on Twitter.  See Are There Any Real CIOs in the Twitterverse and 3 Reasons a CIO Should Care About Twitter for more.

External - Organizational

  1. Work with your sales and marketing functions to conduct a customer service experiment using Twitter or GetSatisfaction.  Some publicized examples are Comcast and FedEx.  Check out #brainstormtech for some interesting tweets on the subject.  Also, Twitter will soon launch an overhauled site to make it more accessible, including to businesses.  Here is some of the early release.
  2. Experiment with the Twitter API to see what you can learn about what others are saying about your company, competition, products and industry.  This can also be an eye-opener to the power of opening up your own systems and publishing an API.
  3. Use LinkedIn as a primary source when you do a job search for your next senior IT manager/VP.

By blending personal and organizational objectives, a CIO can develop real, hands-on experience in social media and become equipped to deal with issues and opportunities head-on, instead of reactively from the sidelines.

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  • Rik Reppe

    Great post, Chris.

  • Rik Reppe

    Great post, Chris.

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  • Trey Warren

    Good job Chris. You are doing a great job with your initiative.

    One thing that may be of interest is how you have organized your life to include this communication and the analysis around it. We all know how busy the CIO is; finding additional time to blog would initially appear to be a drain of resource time. What are your thoughts?

  • Trey Warren

    Good job Chris. You are doing a great job with your initiative.

    One thing that may be of interest is how you have organized your life to include this communication and the analysis around it. We all know how busy the CIO is; finding additional time to blog would initially appear to be a drain of resource time. What are your thoughts?

  • Chris Curran

    Thanks Rik and Trey.

    In terms of Trey’s question, there are two parts: the Twitter and CIO Dashboard and blogging. I have made some time each day to review specific Twitter searches for the #CIO tag and a few specific Tweeters. On the blogging side, it certainly take more time. I’ve tried to write 2 posts per week based on issues and questions I am getting from our clients and teams, which makes things a little easier since the topics are top of mind. Certainly don’t have it all figured out!


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  • Anonymous

    Really solid post!

    I think, from having worked with C-suite folks over the past 15 years, the reticence often stems from having to ask the “business objectives” question and assuming that the business objectives aren’t going to be achieved through [insert new thingy here].

    We’re all in the business of educating - I think your quadrants will definitely help those of us who are educating the C-suite to be able to figure out how best to start.

  • Saying no to social media is for some organizations the best thing they can do. This article seems like to be written in the style as: “if the only thing you have is a hammer, everything else looks like a nail”.

    Social Media is not everything for everybody and I have seen to often organizations start with social media while the prerequisites weren’t in place. Either if you roll it out internally or externally, it requires a certain level of maturity and a shift in mindset. Plus it only makes sense if you target audience (employees or customers) can handle social media (face it: not every can) and want the organisation on social media.

    So saying no to social media can be the best thing for organisation otherwise it might kill itself while using social media. For example: why would you even want to think about customer interaction via social networking while you have a customer contact centre that is a complete failure or while your internal organization is loaded with politics and cannot even take the most simplest decision in less than two weeks?

    Some CIOs know very good what is going on in their organization and why a ‘no’ to social media might be less harmful than a ‘yes’, that is not because they are ignorant, but because they can oversee the implications of their decision.

    In ten years there will be still organizations that are not using social media. For the very simple reason because their stakeholders don’t have the need for it, because it doesn’t solve a thing for the organization nor the stakeholder. Therefore: first think if the organization will benefit of the use of social media, don’t call it a big mistake if an organization doesn;t start with social media, sometimes it is the best thing they can do.

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