5 key social media issues for business leaders


I’ve spent the last two months writing a book, ‘Why you can’t ignore social media in business – practical tips and case studies’. It will be available free to download from my website from early March.

There are ten interviews with business leaders and academics about how they are using social media, what they see as the opportunities – and also their fears.

Of course, this is a very small sample size, but it was really interesting to see how the business world is looking at social media. Even though most of them are my clients and using different aspects of social media, you don’t often get time to stop and ask ‘what do you really think of all this?’.

Here were the main concerns that businesses are currently grappling with:

1. Business leaders are worried about confidentiality and security

There is no doubt this is the biggest concern. We know banks are looking at LinkedIn from a security aspect – but even they are saying ‘how can employees use LinkedIn’, not ‘how do we ensure they don’t use LinkedIn’. Most business leaders are rightly pretty exercised about the risks that social media is opening up and how they manage it. But better to recognise the risks and try to manage the processes than ignore them.

2. The risks of making employees more visible to the world

LinkedIn started as a recruitment tool – and it’s the quickest way to search who you know with particular business skills. It makes it very easy to spot and poach employees. Businesses are worried about displaying their specialist stars to the world – and their sales teams, who are generally very mobile. The Arena Group takes a sensible attitude to this. Their business strategy is to be an employer of choice, they were Yorkshire’s Best Company to Work for – and social media makes this strategy all the more important. Ensure your employees want to work for you.

3. What social media should employees be allowed to use?

Two of my clients (The P&A Group of Companies Ltd and Arena Group) were kind enough to share their social media, internet and LinkedIn policies with me – which I have included in the appendices of the book. Both admit they are extremely cautious and these policies are pretty restrictive. However, they both take the view that they would rather manage this in a step-by-step process. Allow employees to do small amounts, see what happens and where the risks are – and then extend it cautiously a bit further.

4. Facebook – why would you use it in business?

Just about everyone I interviewed said they struggled to see why a business would use Facebook and did not believe it would ever become that relevant to them. That is probably because this book is focused on business-to-business, professions and academics. And to be honest, they are probably right for their businesses – while there are areas that would be relevant now, such as student and graduate recruitment, it is the least relevant for most of my clients.

5. Where is the value?

I nearly called the book, ‘A Sceptic’s guide to Social Media in Business’. Just about everyone I interviewed said something on the lines of ‘I was pretty sceptical about social media at first’. But everyone is starting to see the opportunities. I still can’t find a cracking everyday business that can say sales have increased by 50% since they started using social media – and my view is that is probably some way off. The heartening aspect of the interviews was how business leaders and academics have really opened their minds to the possibilities – and firmly believe there is a great deal of potential.

Are you in the B2B market or academia – and where are you on the social media scale of scepticism?

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Victoria Tomlinson is founder and owner of Harrogate-based PR consultancy, Northern Lights. A former director of Ernst & Young, she started her career as a graduate trainee for Plessey and later with Bradbury Wilkinson, the banknote printers, travelling around the world to sell banknotes to foreign governments. She joined Arthur Young as part of their start-up marketing team and was made a director of client services on the management committee and managing a 100-strong division. Victoria sits on the boards of Bradford University School of Management, Northern Ballet Theatre and Common Purpose North Yorkshire. She is a Prince’s Trust mentor.

  • James Taylor

    Good Evening, i was wondering when your book ‘Why you cant ignore social media in business’ is due?

    Cheers James

  • Social media use is exploding, especially among the over 50 crowd. The typical image of social networking as a tool primarily used by teenagers couldn’t be more wrong, social media use is growing the fastest among older Americans, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.