Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm calling shenanigans on 'the $1.3 trillion price of not tweeting at work'

Listen, it's easy to sharp shoot someone else's writing. Especially when you don't know them from a hole in the ground. I generally steer clear of such tomfoolery, but to be honest, I read an article yesterday on FastCompany entitled "The $1.3 Trillion Price Of Not Tweeting At Work" and it left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Title inspired by Cow Days episode of South Park

The article derives its outlandish title from the McKinsey report I pointed to last week and wrongly positions a single social platform (Twitter) as equivalent to the broader term "social technologies" used in the report and (wrongly) recasts the estimated value of employing these technologies (in the global market) as the the cost of not tweeting at work.

The proof's in the pudding (here are the first three paragraphs verbatim):
On June 6, Larry Ellison--CEO of Oracle, one of the largest and most advanced computer technology corporations in the world--tweeted for the very first time. In doing so, he joined a club that remains surprisingly elite. Among CEOs of the world’s Fortune 500 companies, a mere 20 have Twitter accounts. Ellison, by the way, hasn’t tweeted since.

As social media spreads around the globe, one enclave has proven stubbornly resistant: the boardroom. Within the C-suite, perceptions remain that social media is at best a soft PR tool and at worst a time sink for already distracted employees. Without a push from the top, many of the biggest companies have been slow to take the social media plunge.

A new report from McKinsey Global Institute, however, makes the business case for social media a little easier to sell. According to an analysis of 4,200 companies by the business consulting giant, social technologies stand to unlock from $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value. At the high end, that approaches Australia’s annual GDP. How’s that for a bottom line?
If that's not reaching, I'm not sure what is. It probably also worth mentioning that the article's author is the CEO of Hootsuite; meaning that the obvious subtext (at least in my reading) is that Hootsuite can help you get a slice of that juicy $1.3 trillion if only they could meet with your "Twitter-phobic CEOs".

I won't bother with the rest of the article as it offers up little in terms of understanding, applying, or challenging the findings of the McKinsey report. But I do want to close the loop on the issue of just how important (or unimportant) it is for your CEO (or in the public sector your Deputy Minister) to be tweeting.

Whether or not you CEO tweets is completely irrelevant

I could think of a hundred things off the top of my head that are far more important activities for my Deputy Minister to be engaged in than tweeting. In fact, I would position any of the hundred decisions they are likely to make during the course of a week as more important than the decision to tweet or not.  Furthermore, if anyone out there can show me a direct causal relationship between a private sector CEO tweeting and an increase in that firm's revenues (or in the public sector better outcomes) I will gladly eat my hat!

Whether or not your CEO is open to change is paramount

What CEOs (and again by extension heads of public sector agencies) need to be aware isn't how to tweet or why but rather the transformative nature of new communications technologies, how they affect information flows, how they can help the organization tap into it's  cognitive surplus and how the openness they engender disrupts their traditional business models.

Those at the top need to be paying attention to the likes of Clay Shirky, Don Tapscott, and, for a healthy dose of scepticism Andrew Keen; not jumping onto Twitter on the advice of profiteering social media hucksters (no offense).

My advice

Don't trust anyone who's selling the sizzle.  Don't throw money at tools before understanding the environment within which they operate.

Always put strategy before tactics and understanding before strategy because understanding informs strategy and strategy informs tactics. This isn't about learning how to blog, wiki or twitter, this is about learning how to be more adaptive to change.

While the former can be easily purchased on every corner of the web, the latter is much harder to come by and as a result will always serve you better in the long run.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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