Davia Temin, The Corporate Board, May/June 2012

Someone posts a harsh item about your company on Twitter. The comment is picked up and amplified through other online venues, and the company’s stock prices take a fall—all within hours. Today’s world of social media is one where the most obscure person, company or product can overnight become a global trend, or a global villain. Is your board aware of the company’s social media strategy? For that matter, are you as a director up to speed on the new social media world?

In this age of social media, companies of all kinds find themselves at the end of the “command and control” model of leadership. Top-down communications, including those from the C-suite and the boardroom, have lost their primacy.

Today, with blogs, v-logs, Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest and social media of all kinds, everyone has a voice. More to the point, anyone can move markets if his or her voice catches on with the public.

Employees have a voice—including the employee that management fired yesterday. Your “like’rs” have a voice; your dislikers have a voice too (including all of the “I hate xx company” websites, and Facebook-facilitated boycotts). Your competitors have a voice, your shareholders have a voice, and you, as board members, have a voice as well. However, amid the cacophony, it is now exponentially more difficult to make the messages you and your company wish to convey heard.

Especially for the board, knowing how to communicate in social media (and when it is or is not appropriate) is crucial. A board’s workings are historically private and confidential, and a board tends to be heard from only when announcing a new CEO or in a serious corporate crisis.

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