In the article The Social CIO I talked about how networking, relationship building, influencing and collaboration are now are essential skills for CIOs in the digital age. Without these skills technology leaders will find it increasingly difficult to stay relevant and be involved in the major decisions and initiatives within their organisation. Being a social CIO also extends to the online world. But this means more than using LinkedIn as an online contacts book, or using Twitter to get the latest news and sport headlines. It means having an online presence across multiple channels and using this presence to connect, interact and share with existing and new contacts. However, just as being a social CIO in the physical world takes time, energy and effort, CIOs will also need to invest time, energy and effort in developing their online presence. But CIOs are busy. They already have enough demands on their time without adding another priority. So why should they bother? What return will they get for their investment? Here are six reasons why CIOs will benefit from actively using social media:
1. Be a credible CIO
Social media is one of the main uses of technology for people of all ages. It connects people and organisations, educates and informs, is used to shape opinion and generate awareness of issues, and it is used to build campaigns that change decisions and policies made by businesses and governments. And recently we have seen banks launch services that enable people to pay by Twitter while Pinterest and Instagram are introducing buttons that enable users to purchase items direct from their apps. Given the penetration and influence that social media has at home and at work, it is hard to see how CIOs can be credible if they do not use these tools themselves. Most CIOs believe they should be playing a key role in helping drive digital innovation within their organisations? Can they do this with any credibility if they do not use some of the most popular apps and services in the world – apps and services that that most people in the rest of their organisation are no doubt using?
2. Understand how social is used
Creating an account and installing the app on your smartphone is not enough. To contribute to the debate about how best to use social technology within their organisation the CIO needs to have first hand experience of what it is like to use these tools. CIOs need to be regular users of social media to understand how each tool is used and the benefits and relevance of each. Understanding how social tools are being used by others will also help CIOs understand how digital the world works. For example, it can provide insights into how younger people who are now joining the workforce use these tools to communicate, interact and share with each other, and how this may influence their working style and preferences.
3. Build your human capital
In the same way as other executives are becoming more knowledgeable about technology, CIOs also need to develop their understanding of the key issues, trends and topics outside of IT. Social media is a great source of news, articles, reports, surveys, etc. Social tools can be used by CIOs to build their own personal newsfeed covering any range of subjects. Allocating a few minutes to reading some of these items each day is a good way for CIOs to develop their human capital – enhancing their breadth and depth of knowledge both in terms of their core subjects such as technology and digital but also in other areas such as marketing, finance sales, etc.
4. Develop your network
As well as maintaining and developing their existing network, social tools also enable CIOs to add to it by engaging and connecting with new people. Through social media CIOs can interact with peers throughout the world and with people outside the circles within which they normally operate. A strong personal network can be used for advice, contacts, referrals and recommendations about products, services, vendors, contractors, potential employees and much more. And through social tools CIOs can reach out to a much broader network far more quickly than they could in the physical world.
5. Create a personal brand
Social media gives CIOs the opportunity to build a profile, reputation and credibility amongst their peers, within their industry and potentially with an even broader audience. People tend to want to do business with other people, not with companies. A strong and consistent personal brand can therefore lead to new opportunities for CIOs personally as well as for their organisation.
6. Attract talent to your organisation
It is well known that recruiters and HR departments use social media to advertise jobs and to identify and research potential employees. But jobseekers are also increasingly using social media to research potential employers. And this may even be before a job has been advertised. A study by JobVite found that 24% of 18-29 year-olds and 17% of 30-39 year-olds already use Twitter to research a company. As younger generations enter the workplace, these numbers are likely to increase. These digital natives are used to using social media to conduct research and form opinions about products, services, people, etc and will not hesitate to do the same about potential employers. Given the current shortage of technology and digital skills in certain areas, an organisation needs every advantage it can get. Social media provides CIOs with tools to engage with these people, to tell a story about their organisation, to share its culture and to talk about the initiatives, apps, technologies, etc. that they are working on. All of this, together with the CIO’s personal brand, will help form a picture of what it is like to work for their organisation and could be the difference between attracting the talent they need or losing out to a rival.
In the digital age CIOs need to be a far more social animal; they need to be spending an increasing amount of their time outside the IT function with stakeholders across the rest of the business and with customer, partners and suppliers. And they also need to actively use social media channels to build their credibility, extend their network and enhance their profile. And whilst both online and offline social interaction requires an investment of time and effort, the return for CIOs that make this investment will be worth it.