Do as I say, not as I do

Despite the fact that Fortune 500 social media budgets are expanding at a faster rate than the  Chicharito-twitter   average American's waistline, only 15 of 143 chief marketing officers audited by Business Insider have active Twitter accounts. Even worse, less than 15 percent have NO social media footprint whatsoever. That means they don't blog, Tweet, or post comments on chat forums. Nothing. Nada. Which begs the question: exactly how ARE CMO's spending their days? Watching re-runs of “I love Lucy”?

This is both dismaying and alarming. How can a CMO sign off on a multi-million dollar social media campaign, yet have no first-hand knowledge of how the blogosphere works? Even worse, how can a CMO look his CEO in the eye and say, “Yes, Mr. Fatbottomblues, I believe we need to reallocate all of those monies to social media.”

This has all the earmarks of a classic Mike Wallace "60 Minutes" ambush interview. I can just picture Mike and his team sneaking up on an unsuspecting Fortune 500 chief marketing officer just as she pulls into her executive parking space…

Wallace: “Ms. Highfalutin? Hello, Mike Wallace with "60 Minutes." What? Of course, I'm still alive. Quick question: your firm spends $50 million in social media advertising and content, correct? So how come you yourself don't Tweet or blog or have any social footprint whatsoever?”

Highfalutin: “I have no comment.”

Wallace: “Oh, c'mon. How can you authorize millions of dollars of spending when you have no idea how the blogosphere works? Isn't that like telling a good friend to go sky diving even though you, yourself, have never done it? I wouldn't want you as a friend and I'll bet your CEO wouldn't want you as his CMO when we tell him you've never, ever tried to blog or Tweet.”

Highfalutin: “I've never recommended sky diving to anyone.”

Wallace: “Tell our audience of millions why you yourself don't have a social footprint, but feel confident spending tens of millions of your corporation's dollars doing just that? Ms. Highfalutin, why are you running away? Ms. Highfalutin, I'm going to Tweet about your cowardice!”

I think CMOs who have no social footprint are, in a way, cowards. How can they call themselves marketers when they have no first-hand knowledge of the fastest-growing medium in our business? eMarketer predicts U.S. marketers will spend more than $3 billion in social and digital programs in 2011, a figure they expect to increase by a further 27 percent in 2012.

And, yet CMOs stand pat. Here's why:

– They convince themselves they're too busy to find the time. Psychologists call that avoidance behavior.
– They say they don't understand the new technology. That's a cop out.
– They're afraid something they blog or Tweet might be politically incorrect and cost them their lucrative job. Now, that one I buy. Fear is a powerful motivator.

Whatever the reason for their lack of engagement, these Luddites of the corporate world need to get off the dime pronto. If I were the editor of Ad Age or Ad Week and aspired to become a latter-day Woodward or Bernstein, I'd assign a team of investigative reporters to dig into the Business Insider story. If true, it amounts to a scam, if not a scandal.

3 thoughts on “Do as I say, not as I do

  1. Very interesting post. I think the major obstacle for some of the CMOs you discuss may be tackling something new and unfamiliar. Maybe some of them don’t truly grasp how to engage fellow users, which may potentially be embarrassing for them (i.e. lack of followers, etc). If MY mom just started a Twitter account(and yes, she is following me) then these CMOs DEFINITELY need to get in gear.

  2. How does one lead a social media program when one has never partaken in one? Very scary proposition, especially if I’m the CEO whose social media dollars are being spent by such a novice.

  3. Like the post. What I’ve been seeing a lot is vendors encouraging their customers to use social media to engage the end user; come to find out the vendor barely has a social media presence themselves.