Canadian execs divided on social media, says QSB poll

Prof. Kate Rowbotham

A survey of 400 Canadian business leaders commissioned by Queen’s School of Business revealed decidedly mixed feelings about social media. While four in ten (39%) bosses said social media is something they need to use—whether they want to or not—an almost equal number (35%) said they use it heavily because it’s a good opportunity for the business, and the remaining 24% said using it doesn’t add any value. Despite these divisions, a strong majority of executives (72%) were planning to invest the same or more money in social media than they did last year.

The survey also revealed that many executives worry about how their employees’ use of social media might affect the company’s reputation. For example, 91% agreed that employees should be mindful they still represent the company when using social media on their own time.

“What happens on Twitter doesn’t just stay on Twitter,” notes Kate Rowbotham, QSB Professor of Human Resource Management. “People may feel that their participation in social media is personal, but the boss doesn’t necessarily agree that your opinions are just your own. We have seen examples where an individual’s overexposure on social channels has had a negative impact on the overall organization.”

QSB commissioned the Environics Research Group to survey the attitudes and opinions of 400 Canadian executives in this biannual survey on topical business issues. One third of respondents were CEOs, Presidents or General Managers; the remainder were COOs, VPs and Directors. The survey was conducted between March 16 and April 13, 2012; results are considered accurate within +/- 5%, 19 times in 20.

The mic is always on
• 88% of respondents said that participation in social media after hours can potentially have an “extremely positive or negative” impact on the company’s brand.
• 34% disagreed with the notion that what their employees do on their own time is their own business.
• 22% believe employees’ use of social media outside office hours should be monitored.
• 68% reported that their organizations have policies on the use of social media at work, while 18% forbid the use of social media there.

It’s not what your company can do on social media but what social media can do for your company.
Increasing brand awareness was perceived by executives as the top benefit of using social media (mentioned by 39% of respondents), followed by (2) recruiting talent; (3) gaining a deeper understanding of their customers; (4) getting new business; and (5) growth and networking.

“Too many organizations are using social media to amass shallow acquaintances, when the goal should be to develop fewer, more meaningful friendships,” says Neil Bearse, who leads seminars on social media for Queen’s School of Business. “The fact that so few executives say their companies are using social media to get to know their customers better suggests that those who do may be enjoying a significant competitive advantage.”

Other thoughts from the corner office

• So much for employee engagement: Only a tiny minority of execs cited retaining top talent (4%) or communicating with employees (3%) as the top benefit of using social channels.
• Execs are practising what they preach: Eight in ten execs polled (82%) are personally using social media, with LinkedIn the clear front runner.
• Time to update the resumé: When considering a new employee, 33% of execs consider social media experience at least as important as speaking a second language or having international work experience, and 25% consider it just as important as years of overall experience or industry experience.
• What Boomers can learn from Gen Y: 51% of execs “strongly agree” and a further 28% “agree” that social media is making it harder for older employees to compete in the workforce.


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