Many CFO's, controllers, and other finance professionals have been late to the social media game (the same is true for lawyers, accountants, doctors, and others). They have a variety of excuses as to why it has not been interesting to them or a priority in their careers. I hear from many corporate professionals that it is either a fad or too time consuming.
It is neither.
These online social networking and social media tools are still new, so they look around and do not see their all of their peers actively participating in these communities, so they rationalize that these are things that matter to the sales and marketing people, but that have no place in the finance department.
There are two reasons why CFO's and other financial executives need to care about social media:
1. Their company needs them to care. Today's CFO has a many business functions reporting directly and indirectly to them. Ignoring the social media can leave the company vulnerable in a variety of areas.
Does someone monitor Twitter and the blogosphere to see what is being said about the company and it's brand? Knowledge of blogging and microblogging is important if you wish to review the "buzz" about your company. (One CFO conducts Twitter searches to see when competitors are treading on trademarks).
Are you monitoring employees to see what they are saying online about the company? Are they working when they say they are working (one CFO told me he caught employees via Twitter misrepresenting their whereabouts when they were supposed to be working).
Social Media used correctly can help the company build its brand in a more cost effective manner than some other traditional channels. I am not saying CFO's are cheap, but getting more value for less money sure can help the company in any economy.
Does your company monitor industry groups on LinkedIn and other sites to keep track of trends? Not paying attention could give your competition and advantage.
2. Long-term career success requires a strong network. Social media does not replace traditional networking, but it makes it more effective. The average tenure of a CFO is between three and five years, which means a financial executive must always be working on keeping themselves visible to their business community.
Not having a presence on LinkedIn can make you look like a dinosaur. It is very common for people to search for you on LinkedIn before a meeting. They do this to learn more about you and look for ways to jump-start a connection which can help build a relationship. If you do not have a profile they do not think you have made some rationally smart decision not to be involved in social media, they think you are out of touch.
Would you hire an employee who told you that he would not use a cell phone, voicemail, and email? Highly unlikely. Therefore financial professionals need to be cautious about vocalizing their disdain for social media. To those who use these tools, they are a necessary part of doing business, and those who do not utilize them are seen as behind the times. This might not matter to you if your current CEO avoids social media like the plague, but if you could be looking for a job in the next three to five years, you might want to get your foot in the door now.
Adopting social media as a part of your business life is a choice. All the excuses are fine, but you either want to do this and you will make it a priority, or you will not. Getting involved in online communities only brings value if the user is engaged in the process. There has to be a human face on your social media activities, as you cannot delegate them to your assistant.
Generation Y has moved into the workforce with gusto, and in the next year it is projected that they will outnumber BabyBoomers. 96% of Generation Y utilize social media in their personal and professional lives. Look in the rear view mirror, they are coming up fast from behind. You don't want to be 55 and out of work with no knowledge of the tools that are pervasive to the people who will be hiring you!
You have to take action, as your profiles, friend lists and status updates will never happen without your efforts.
Have A Great Day.
Addendum -- In working on the above post I asked folks who follow me on Twitter to share ideas what was important to CFOs in regards to Social Media. Thanks to Dave Donell (who emailed me detailed stories - far beyond 140 characters! - and some great stories), @CFOCoach, @ryanschooler, @FarWestCap, @MikeCampbellCFO, @TheMarketingGuy, @success2you, @kim_hollenshead, @conniereece, @fgsquared, and @sbrownehr.