Engaging the Boardroom: Social Media for Corporate Directors

“Your business is operating in a digital revolution, use your peacetime wisely” with this statement Richard S. Levick, Esq., President & Chief Executive Officer, Levick kicked off our panel on “Everything Directors Need to Know About Social Media” at the 2012 NACD Board Leadership Conference.

Speaking to a packed audience my curiosity was: who in the audience will leave seeing social media as a strategic business advantage?  Will they take action and get social media on their next boardroom agenda?

As we began our session, I asked Allan Grafman, CEO, All Media Ventures and Chairman, Majesco Entertainment to help us better understand boardroom thinking, “What’s the biggest misconception that many directors have about social media as it relates to their business?”

He said, “They think it is being handled.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is an iceberg…and larger than you think” which gave the audience one of the many opportunities to sit up in their chairs.  Allan gave us a couple of takeaways right up front:

  1. Don’t let social media get put in a functional silo: it touches and impacts every part of your business.
  2. In the boardroom, it is too large for any single committee…this is a topic that needs the entire Board’s attention.
  3. Don’t believe social will go away, make a list of questions and begin the conversation with your Board and Management team.

It was time to tap into insights from Neil S. Braun, Dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York.  He has previously been President of the NBC Television Network, Chairman and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, Braun serves on the board of directors, audit, compensation and governance committees of IMAX Corporation.

Neil spends many hours now with students who are driving the digital revolution using social and mobile technology.

Asked about how to connect with students, he shared that email is becoming passé.  If you want to get your message to his students it requires texting.  They are using their mobile phones as ways to stay connected in their world.  This is consistent with a global trend on mobile devices.

Social media is part of a larger technology revolution where social connects to mobile, cloud and big data.  It is becoming a foundation for business transformation and innovation.  It is also a new form of radical transparency into your boardrooms where fans, critics and disruptors are questioning the “art of director decision making.”

At the end of 2011 there were six billion cell phone subscriptions globally, which means that 86% of the people on the face of the earth can now connect and talk or text directly with each other.  By comparison there are only 2.3 billion internet users.  More people in India now have mobile phones, than have indoor plumbing.

As directors your role is to support your CEOs in exploring how they can socialize and humanize the company as a place to buy, work and invest.  It is important to remember that these social conversations have just begun with your customers, employees and investors.  With or without you they are talking about your brand with each other.  The challenge for the business is to accept that you do not control the conversation anymore.

This opens your business up to a variety of emerging risks which were defined in a recent study by Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, in conjunction with The Conference Board, where they surveyed CEOs, senior executives, and corporate directors.  The study could be summed up as: Lots of Knowledge, Little Action! [Read more…]