Should social media have a place in the boardroom?

The widespread use of social media has exploded over the last few years, and is now vastly accepted as a necessity for businesses. It acts as a means to gain powerful customer insight by monitoring conversations, as well as increasing brand visibility and credibility amongst the digital consumer. The value of such channels is unquestionable.

However, with the explosion of social media over the past few years comes a fundamental question: can we rely on its intelligence to make board-level decisions? Can social truly influence other parts of the business such as supply chain, product research and development and even its strategic direction?

Marketers will often tell you that social should have a place in the boardroom as a key influencer for the strategic direction of the business, but they often come into conflict with those who remain unconvinced by its ROI. The truth is that social data, as powerful as it is, represents a small percentage of your customer base and wider population. I heard a statistic last week claiming that some 30% of conversations about a brand are generated by 1% of it’s customer base. What does this tell us? That social data comes only from those consumers who a) actively use it as a tool to interact with businesses and/ or b) feel the need to voice their opinions (good and bad) in the public sphere.

So what about the other 99%?

Social data could and should be used as a stimulus for further investigation and improvements to the business. Those insights and the ideas that stem from them are only relevant, however, if they are given firepower by data from other parts of the business and third party sources. This means that traditional means of collecting insight and opinion still stand strong in order to build a rounded view of your customers.

It would be just as foolish to rely on social media, as it would be to ignore the vast amount of value that it represents.  In answer to whether social media should have a place in the boardroom – no - not on its own. The voice of the customer should have a place in the boardroom; and to achieve that requires a combination of data from all available sources to drive truly representative insights.