A Culture of Ardent Listening and Transparency – Both to Consumers and to Each Other

One of our survey questions asked respondents the importance of 29 social media challenges and how effectively they addressed them. The leaders and followers gave dramatically different answers on listening and transparency. On all the ‘cultural’ issues, leaders felt much more highly about their importance to social media success. For example, on having a culture that values consumer opinions, 89% of leaders said they were highly or very highly effective on this count; only 30% of followers said the same. (See Exhibit V-16)

Exhibit V-16: A Culture That Values Consumer Opinions Counts

Ex-5.16 culture values consumer opinions counts

On having a culture that encourages internal transparency and knowledge sharing, a similar pattern emerged: nearly triple the number of leaders said their culture highly or very highly encouraged this. (Exhibit V-17)

Exhibit V-17: A Culture of Internal Transparency Counts as Well

Ex-5.17 culture internal transparency counts

On 10 of the 29 issues, leaders showed the greatest differences between themselves and followers (on the scale of 1-5). These domains were a mix of cultural, top management, technology and goal-oriented issues. (See Exhibit V-18)

Exhibit V-18: 10 Key Differences Between Leaders and Followers on Effectiveness in Meeting Social Media Challenges

Ex-5.18 key differences leaders lggards effectiveness

Two of the biggest differences between leaders and followers were about how social media is viewed and used at the top of the organization. The leaders were far more effective at getting top executives to use social media themselves and to understand its potential.

Nestle and Virgin Atlantic epitomize how much some executives at the top of consumer companies recognize the power of social media. (See Exhibit V-19) Peter BrabeckLetmathe, chairman and former CEO of Nestle, has been a regular blogger since August 2012. He writes about global water availability issues. (His blog is called ‘Water Challenge’). Sir Richard Branson, founder of $21 billion Virgin Atlantic (which has businesses in mobile phones, airlines, music and other sectors), has been a prolific blogger since 2008; he had 49 posts in July 2013 alone. Branson draws readers to his blog through Facebook (480,000+ people like his Facebook page), Twitter (3.4 million followers) and Google+ (4.9 million people are in his circle).

Exhibit V-19: Bloggers on the Board: The Blogs of Nestle’s Brabeck and Virgin’s Branson 

Ex-5.19 bloggers nestles brabeck virgins branson 1

Approximately 81% of the leaders at social media had corporate blogs, against 50% for the followers (and 66% for all 655 respondents). (See Exhibit V-20) Most leaders also used mobile apps and company-sponsored online video channels, which were used by only a minority of the followers.

All of these social media platforms are helping big consumer companies make their values, practices and inner workings more transparent to the people who buy their products and services. These companies recognize that social media can enable them to create a strong personal bond with consumers – one that can’t be created alone through traditional one-way mass-marketing.

This is one of the tenets that have driven Ford Motor Company’s extensive social media activities.1 “What social [media] enables us to do is to return to those golden days of yesterday – where it was about the firm handshake, the eye contact, the time when your word was your bond,” said social media head Scott Monty. “Social has the promise to do that if we take the extra steps not to shout at people but show people you think like them.”

Exhibit V-20: Leaders Use Social Media More Extensively

Ex-5.20 leaders use social media extensively


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  1. From an April 2013 Boston University publication that interviewed Scott Monty, Ford’s global head of social media []

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