Where Does Leadership of Social Media Lie?

I was recently amused by a wonderful yet puzzling article in the December 2011 issue of MIS Quarterly Executive titled “The Impact of Social Media on C-Level Roles.”

In its executive summary, the article purports to focus on “the potential impact of social media on organizational leadership and governance at the C-level.”

The article itself is wonderful because it does an effective job of highlighting four specific organizational structure models that depict where internal and external social media should be led. Yet it’s puzzling because it states, “The consensus across companies, industries and executives is that marketing and IT are converging.” Really? I don’t see this happening anywhere now or into the future.

More importantly, I’m amused because one of its recommendations indicates, “The anticipated pervasiveness of a social business will require the involvement of C-level executives, including the chief operating officer, CFO, HR vice president and the chief information security officer.”

Anybody catch the chief learning officer title in that exhaustive list?

Me neither.

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post titled, “Chief Learning Officer Job Description: Change Needed.” My central argument was that chief learning officers needed to (and still need to) enhance their roles to include collaboration, and thus by extension social media and social learning. I see progress but not nearly at the pace I had hoped for.

This month, Jacob Morgan of the Chess Media Group penned a blog post titled, “Do Organizations Need a Chief Collaboration Officer?” He suggests:

“After deployment this person would focus on integration, training programs, adoption strategies and the like. The long-term responsibility of the CCO would be scaling the program, fostering a collaborative culture, continually evaluating the program and adoption levels, and integrating collaboration within the overall business strategy of the company.”

Quite frankly, I tend to agree with his points about learning, culture, evaluation and integration. But what does this all mean?

Social media is not the next flavor of the month. It is fast becoming a crucial part to both internal and external business processes. It might even become the most important component in a few months or quarters.

My sense is that chief learning officers are being left out of game. Do they really want to be that kid left until the last possible moment to be picked for the neighborhood street hockey game?

The brilliant part of the aforementioned MIS Quarterly Executive article is that its fourth of four recommended models suggests that, “the organization’s social business strategy, which includes social media, is elevated to the corporate level and neither the CMO nor the CIO has ownership of the social media strategy. Implementation is the responsibility of both executives as well as other C-level executives.”

No single division, therefore, should own social media; rather, it becomes a shared and collaborative responsibility by the various C-suite pillars. To complement their hypothesis, I would ensure the CLO is a full-standing member of this leadership consortium. To be left out of the game entirely only serves to further tarnish both the reputation and effectiveness of CLOs as they grapple with the addition of social media and social learning to the internal and external learning cycle and ecosystem.

There are those who believe the training department is on the verge of extinction. I agree; however, what it and CLOs should be doing is leading itself through a transformation process that includes a tactic to get a seat at the grown-ups’ table of enterprise-wide social strategy.

Otherwise, CLOs will continue to be left out of those neighborhood hockey games. After all, hockey is a very social sport.

Originally posted to CLO Blog. Reprinted with permission.

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