There is a definition for rare CEOs today called the Blue Unicorn. I first heard about Blue Unicorns from Ted Coiné, chief marketing officer of Meddle.it. In defining the Blue Unicorn, a CEO who truly gets social media is, “still so uncommon that we aren’t just looking for any unicorn, we’re looking for a specific colour of unicorn.” Check it out in A World Gone Social.
The truly social CEO has embraced and understood the promise of social media — both as a leader of their business and as a professional who understands that today is about giving back. The Blue Unicorn encourages his/her entire business to intelligently get behind social as a strategic competitive differentiator that grows businesses and careers.
In the last decade, social media has definitely not been required or valued by any but the most innovative/savvy businesses as a required career skill set. And today, a strong social presence is only just starting to be a required, and valued, skill — at least in the upper echelons of an organization. While I say about time, true social innovation starts at the top but must be embraced across the entire business too. A Blue Unicorn understands that.
I have often been confounded that leaders just could not see the value for themselves or for their business, if they focused on hiring professionals fully engaged on social media — no matter the level. But it’s more than that, it’s about selecting professionals who are intelligently engaged and have established a world-class presence that is focused, authentic and credible. Those people are gold dust.
While the change cannot come soon enough for me, change is happening. In fact, I believe 2015 has been the year we are seeing the emergence of the next wave of social media evangelists worldwide. The frontrunners or early adopters are well established and known in their industries, but it is the next level where a critical mass starts to emerge. This is where we are today, and soon we will be at saturation point.
However I wanted to highlight the conclusions McKinsey drew in the report Six Social Media Skills Every Leader Needs. This report was published in 2013, which is extraordinary, as we are almost three years down the road since it was published! But the concluding point was this: once a critical mass of senior leaders truly embrace social media, the organisation:
- Is more creative, innovative and agile
- Attracts and retains talent
- Taps deeper into the capabilities and ideas of employees and stakeholders
- Is more effective at collaborating across internal and external boundaries
- Is better positioned for global integration, which is critical for the future of borderless business
- Establishes tighter and more loyal customer relationships, benefitting from the brand equity that comes with it
- Plays a leading role in industries by better leveraging the capabilities of partners in co-creation, co-development, and overall industry collaboration
- Capitalizes on the opportunities and disruptions that come with the community of a networked society
- Benefits from new competitive advantage
Note: I have summarized, and in some cases, added to the key highlights in the conclusion of this report.
Pretty good benefits, right? Tangible and intangible ROI in the mix too. And here we are, three years on, still waiting.
But not everyone is waiting. The big brands credited with doing this so far? IBM, GE and the consulting firms.
What’s the biggest challenge holding leaders back? I believe the fundamental issue is about trust — and that is trusting the social voice of your employees, the reason your customers do business with you.
The other is lack of awareness. How can leaders understand the significance of the social revolution if they are not participating in it? How can leaders appreciate how decisions are made and where relationships are formed if they are not part of the community competing for the attention of customers and prospects in the new world of business? Not to mention the attention of employees, future employees, partners, investors and more? They can’t. That’s why we still have so few Blue Unicorns.
I don’t believe a truly innovative organization today is defined by technology or its business models. Both of these are enablers for the future of business. A truly innovative organization, in my humble opinion, is defined by the collective and individual ability to tell compelling stories that are relevant to the customer and about the customer. Many organizations talk about customer obsession, but if they are not a social business, I do not believe they understand what customer obsession really means.
Too much? Sorry. I’ve been patient for a long time. However, if I could give you four pieces of reassurance, I would say that being social:
- Is not scary and it is not hard
- It’s all about content
- Getting focused is a critical part of being successful, and
- It’s all about creating a habit of giving to your community
To continue resisting social media is tantamount to career suicide. While you may feel the critical mass is not yet impacting your business or your industry, it is coming and it is coming rapidly. Because of the rising urgency around social media, you must not take the approach of waiting for others to adopt it first. The reason is, with adoption comes a lot more noise, and when you finally do get focused on social media for yourself and for your business, the cacophony you will be competing with will make it incredibly difficult to be heard.
You have a chance to get above the noise now, so don’t hang around waiting for others to lead, because then it’s going to be so much harder for you. Also just read those McKinsey benefits. How can you possibly wait any longer?
Be brave. Be a Blue Unicorn, before they become extinct. And that’s the only sort of extinction I’m willing to get behind.