Should Social Media Opinion Factor Into Corporate Decision Making?

June 2, 2015  |  Leadership, Technology Disruption

There are many factors that play into corporate decision-making. In my forthcoming book, I have created an entire framework that leaves no stone unturned when making large-scale corporate choices, from investor reports to surveys to public and private news sources. But one line item is making its way into a good number of decisions made in boardrooms around the world, and it’s got a lot of C-suite managers calling the question:

Should social media opinion factor into corporate decision-making?

In my mind, the answer is a bit complex. On one hand, it’s impossible to deny that we live in a world where popular opinion via social media can make or break the image of a company. We’ve seen campaigns that have worked tremendously to buoy a company to success such as Samsung working with Ellen DeGeneres to create the most retweeted selfie in history at the Oscars, but we’ve also seen many examples of how a bad decision turned the Internet against a company to ruinous result, like DiGiorno Pizza’s choice to utilize a domestic violence hashtag to sell product.  It’s hard to say it means everything, but you can’t deny it means something.

I believe we live in a world that has technology to render opinion instantly and quite loudly. I think companies have to do what they believe is right, and that decisions should be made on the facts that lead them along the most profitable, responsible path. I just think that now taking audience reaction into consideration has to be part of the data that’s involved in making the decision, because while I don’t believe internet trolling should render corporations slaves to public opinion, I think the companies who think through audience reaction and are prepared for both the good and the bad fare better than those who disregard it entirely.

Like I said, it doesn’t mean everything, but it definitely means something.

I also don’t think that this only applies to large-scale corporate decisions. Take, for instance, if you were to let someone go who has prominence on social media. Do you have them sign a gag order that says that they’re financially or legally bound not to disparage your company via their social media feeds? Could you do such a thing? How are you prepared to handle the possible backlash from their followers?

This also has international implications. If you were expanding into a new marketplace, couldn’t a social media campaign help boost your brand before entry? Wouldn’t it be nice to get hiring notices out via Twitter to build a candidate pool before you got there? How about taking the temperature on such a move via your Facebook page (with caution, clearly)? The possibilities of how social media touches every decision your company makes are endless, and should be considered when making the best call.

But at the end of the day, the power behind this technology belongs to human beings, and ultimately it is us that must make the decision and take responsibility for our actions. We can’t blame social media technology for success or failure of a particular endeavor; we can only look to the individuals behind it and the information they used to make the call. So, while it is a factor in success now and in the future, it is inevitably your very human brain that must choose your own path.

Whether that path is conveyed in 140 characters or less is entirely up to you.

Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.

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