Why Board members need to ask the tough questions about social media

Posted by David Meerman Scott 05:46 PM on April 06, 2011

Who in an organization should be a catalyst for a implementing a mind shift to get companies engaged in social media? Who should take on the risky role of being a change agent to advocate the new rules of engagement?

While I think anybody from a Public Relations intern all the way up to the CEO can take on this role, a particularly influential person to push companies forward is a non-executive director.

I've been delivering a bunch of talks in Australia over the past week. I was invited by PwC Australia to lead a discussion with their Non Executive Director (NED) community on the implications of social media for companies. In three separate meetings - Sydney, Brisbane & Melbourne - the NEDs were very engaged.

A NED is someone who sits on a board of directors but is not an employee of the company. Outside directors have a responsibility to ask the difficult questions and push the executive team on uncomfortable issues. I know. I've sat on two boards of directors: NewsWatch (sold to Yahoo Japan) and Kadient (merged with Sant).

Social media questions at the Board level

When an outside director asks: "What’s the company's social media policy?" the management team listens.

If a Director asks: "Does the company block access to Facebook and Twitter?" the question is taken seriously.

When a NED asks: "How does the company measure marketing success?" the answer is telling.

If you're an outside director, you need to ask the tough questions. It is essential that you learn the answers and become a catalyst of change if required.

This is no longer an option for boards and NEDs. The power of social media to make and break company reputations now needs to be a board level discussion - it's that important.

Attention NEDs: You have a fiduciary responsibility to act.

David Meerman Scott

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