Is Social Media Leadership Critical for a CIO?

By | June 5, 2013

cio and social mediaDo CIOs need to engage and evangelize public social media networks to effectively lead their organizations in social media initiatives? Or is facilitating connection and collaboration among employees and clients enough? Who is most responsible for cultivating a social corporate culture?

These are the questions I asked myself after reading the news that only about 10 percent of CIOs in the Fortune 250 are using public social networks. According to harmon.ie’s research, a paltry 4% maintain blogs. Sadly, most of the LinkedIn profiles of the CIOs who were researched are populated with fewer than 100 connections.

All of you know that I’m an avid user of social media. I strongly advocate for CIOs to engage in social activity through the CIO Twitter Dashboard and other lists and forums. So, it might surprise you that I answer this question with an unapologetic noI don’t think that CIOs need to use social networks to effectively lead social media initiatives.

I reviewed the list of the top 25 most social CIOs in the Fortune 250, and read David Lavenda’s strong stance that CIOs need to walk their talk, or more accurately, tweet their tweets. As I did, I thought about the CIOs I know who are silent on social networks, but successfully leading social media initiatives. And I contemplated the reverse, the CIOs who are tweeting, but not leading.

To help illustrate my point, I compared the most social list of CIOs with this new list of the most social Fortune 500 companies. The organizations with the greatest followings–Verizon, Southwest, Starbucks, Coke, McDonalds, Walmart, Target, Nike and Kohls, do not have CIOs who are on the most social CIOs list. The only exception is Google.

In an ideal world, corporate CIOs would blog compelling content consistently, tweet numerous times a day and chime into a few well-chosen LinkedIn discussions on a regular basis.  This would serve multiple purposes: help to engage his employees in the public forums, build corporate brand, build personal brand and increase the firm’s attractiveness to new recruits. However, that’s not realistic for most corporate CIOs. They are simply too busy. Just because a CIO doesn’t engage in social media we shouldn’t discount her opinions or direction on how to orchestrate social media initiatives in the firm.  You don’t need to be an avid ERP user to lead an ERP-driven transformation.

Recently we asked 489 business and IT executives in our survey to tell us the most important characteristic of a successful CIO.

A CIO’s ability to be an innovative thinker and apply IT to relevant business problems was paramount. CIOs don’t need a public presence on social networks to track what people are saying about their brands over social networks or to foster communication between their firms and customers.

Sound off: Do you think it matters if the majority of CIOs are MIA in social media? Who do you think is the most responsible for setting an example at a company with a strong social media presence? Does it even matter?