Organizations Lose $1.3 Trillion by Not Engaging in Social Media

I was shocked. Two presidents of organizations began using Twitter in the past two months. These are presidents I know well, leaders who for years saw no value in Twitter or other social media. As one told me, he had moved over to the dark side.

These leaders are not alone. Only 20 of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies engage in Twitter. But my guess is that many of them will be moving to “the dark side” as well. The evidence is building rapidly. Your organization is at a distinct disadvantage if it does not embrace social media with enthusiasm.

A new study by the highly regarded McKinsey and Company should move even some of the deepest skeptics. Their research found that, while 72 percent of organizations use some form of social media, very few embrace it strategically. As a consequence, the productivity lost in these companies could be as high as $1.3 trillion. That’s a lot of zeros. In fact, if those dollars were the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country, its economy would be the 14thlargest in the world.

The McKinsey study notes that organizations lose both interaction within the company and connection outside the company if they do not engage social media with enthusiasm. Collaboration opportunities are lost and intimate customer connections are forfeited.

While I’m sure the organization I lead could improve greatly, we strategically embraced social media several years ago. Allow me to share four principles I have learned to this point.

1. Embracing social media begins at the top. While social media is a great equalizer, an organization will not embrace it corporately unless the leader of the organization gives his or her tacit permission. My enthusiastic involvement in social media sent a clear message that it was important for the entire organization.

2. An open attitude for the organization is worth the risk. When a large number of employees are active in social media speaking on behalf of the organization, the risks are obvious. We still encourage blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media interaction. The rewards are greater than the risks.

3. Guidelines are good, but they must not be too restrictive. We do have social medial guidelines, but we understand that too many rules go counter to the openness of social media. We feel that our balance is pretty good. We have many employees engaged in social media; and we have spoken to unwise engagement only four or five times in the past five years.

4. We often make heroes of those who engage in social media well. On many occasions, an employee has engaged in social media in such a way that we think it’s worth telling the story about what he or she did. Those stories eventually become part of the organization’s culture and, consequently, encourage others to do so as well.

Leaders and organizations will ignore social media to their own peril. Ryan Holmes, author of the article about McKinsey’s research, notes: “It seems noteworthy that the report’s conclusions have been echoed of late from the most authoritative of places: Wall Street. In the last year, the world’s largest enterprise software companies–Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Adobe, and even Ellison’s own Oracle–have spent upward of $2.5 billion snatching up social media tools to add to their enterprise suites. Even Twitter-phobic CEOs may have a hard time ignoring that business case.”

Large corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, churches, and a plethora of other organizations are increasingly realizing the critical need for social media. Ultimately, it gets those in the organization closer to each other, as well as connecting to those whom the organization wants to reach.

The case for organizations embracing social media has been anecdotally powerful for years. But now McKinsey presents overwhelming objective data that cannot be ignored. I can only presume that many will still ignore this clear and powerful evidence. And their organizations will likely suffer as a result.

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Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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