Social Media for the Boardroom – ICGN Rio 2012

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I’m back from my travels to Rio.  The ICGN Annual Conference was an amazing gathering of investors from around the world.  Their voices added to the corporate governance conversations I’m privileged to hear in the US .  Our session on social media was a hit with attendees wanting to see how social media works from the investor perspective.


During the report out, Stephen Davis asked that audience the question:

“In your estimation, what percentage of corporate boards now exercise constructive oversight of social media risks and opportunities?”

One half of me is shaking my head while the other half is working on products and services to fast track boards, CEOs and investors into 21st century communications.

Here are the notes from our session and would welcome you adding to the ideas.

Social Media


Provocateurs: Santiago J.D. Chaher, Managing Director, Cefeidas Group, Argentina and Fay Feeney, CEO, Risk For Good, USA

Moderator: Stephen Davis, Executive Director, Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance Yale School of Management, USA

Investors and corporate boardrooms alike increasingly see social media as a channel for advancing goals as well as a risk to manage. One illustration of the power of social media:  during the ICGN’s first Rio day some 14 tweeters messaged on the conference from Brazil, the US, Canada, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan and Jordan. Totaling their followers, the number of people around the world who received at least one tweet from the conference was 93,781.

Provocateurs Fay Feeney and Santiago Chaher made the following main points:

• Companies facing viral crisis set up a “war room”

• Ongoing defenses include:

• Monitoring how firm and competitors are positioned in social media

• Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of relevant social media channels

• Embedding social media in corporate strategy

• Understanding ‘Big Data’ metrics and tools

• Establishing protocols for using social media within legal boundaries

• Boards should have someone with ‘digital literacy’, and other directors should have mentoring to bring them up to speed

• In the long term Big Data offer windows on real-time embryonic thinking rather than today’s historical data–deeper insights on consumer behavior and how it changes

Delegates were asked to discuss two questions:

1. What would you recommend boards do to prepare for social media risks and opportunities next season?

2. What can you imagine social media and technology allowing companies to do in 2020?

Points raised by delegates included the following:

Recommendations for boards

• Most boards should have skills and training to understand the firm’s net presence and make sure that management is considering social media, both in the strategic plan and as a tool in crisis response

• The most critical challenge for management in an age of information overload is filtering important information from noise

• Companies should devise social media strategy with aid of the Investor Relations officer, IT officer and company secretary. Only designated executives–not outside directors–should speak for the company via social media

• Boards should ensure that management produces a profile of how social media may affect products

• Social media tools may be important at many levels of a company

• Social media should be a regular item on a board’s agenda

• Companies can hire outside digital advisors for proactive social media outreach (corporate governance, investor relations, marketing) or defensive tactics

In 2020 social media is likely to:

• Enhance shareowner democracy, e.g. through virtual AGMs and electronic voting

• Amplify influence of stakeholders

• Reduce fraud by making it easier to detect–or at least it will change the nature of fraud

• Raise prospects of insider information abuse since more will have access to info

• Make companies adapt to transparency at all times

• Overhaul assumptions of what information is personal and confidential

Final tips:

• A reality check and educational tip: go Google yourself and your email address

• Talk to your kids about what to do.

When you get those two final tips completed email me at   Time to get serious and get this conversation started for you, your boardroom and your investors.




  1. Excellent blog and to the point. Stay on it and maybe everyone else will catch up with you!

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