Kimberly-Clark CIO Ramon Baez, an enthusiast for social media both internally and externally, thinks that makes perfect sense. "If I wasn't a user of it, I would have a tougher time selling to the business leaders why this was a powerful tool," Baez said.
Baez is personally active on social media and has also embraced Salesforce.com Chatter for corporate collaboration. He ranks #7 on the list of Top 25 Most Social CIOs compiled by Mark Fidelman, chief social strategist at Harmon.ie (see the list on page 2). However, the headline on the analysis was that only 10% of the Fortune 250 and Global 250 CIOs are active in social media.
"If CIOs are charged with building a social business, shouldn't they have a social presence?" Fidelman asked, suggesting that "CIOs who don't get social might not be CIOs next year." Yet even in conservative industries like finance, there are CIOs like Royal Bank of Scotland's Ian Alderton (#4 on the list) who are social standouts, Fidelman said.
Harmon.ie is best known for a "social email" plugin for Microsoft Outlook that integrates content from SharePoint and Lotus Notes in the email client, which is one way to bring different kinds of collaboration together. Harmon.ie recently announced similar integration with the IBM Connections enterprise social network.
Fidelman said he didn't focus on Harmon.ie customers to pick his top 25 ("I don't think any of them are"), but instead applied a research methodology he has developed over several years for looking at an executive's public social media posts and behavior. He produced a similar list of the most social Chief Marketing Officers last year and also found that in that category most executives had not embraced social media.
Here is how the methodology was explained in a press release: "While not all CIOs in the Top 25 are social in every network, they rank high on a harmon.ie-developed formula that provides a holistic measure of the social impact of individual CIOs. That formula takes into account the strength of the CIOs' LinkedIn network, their retweet frequency, socialmention.com scores, blog reach, citations by other influential bloggers, Google+ Circle of Influence, and related factors. Weights were assigned to each factor to produce the final rankings."
In an interview, Fidelman acknowledged that since the analysis is based on public profiles, some of the CIOs who are silent on public social networks could be the life of the party on their intranets. However, that's not the way it tends to work, he said. "All the companies that seem to understand social media--the ones who are leveraging it, profiting from it, achieving true ROI--seem to have CIOs that are social."
Kimberly-Clark's Baez agreed. "I see that the ones who are the biggest advocates for these things are out there publicly. The ones that don't get it, they aren't out there," he said.
Baez said he is most active on Facebook, is starting to use Twitter more ("mostly because I'm loving the information I find on it"), and uses LinkedIn for professional networking like helping contacts find jobs. Kimberly-Clark uses Jive Software social community management software on its public website and is steadily expanding its use of Chatter for corporate collaboration.
While Microsoft SharePoint remains a core collaboration platform, Baez said he was disappointed by the thin veneer of social functionality in SharePoint 2010. Chatter, on the other hand, is the real thing, he said. "As we're trying to transform some of the business away from just selling products to selling solutions, the combination of the Sales Cloud and Chatter and third party apps--it's amazing what's happening in our company," he said.
Chatter started as an application for the business-to-business sales team and has expanded into global sourcing, continuous improvement, human resources, and corporate communications functions, with operations at the firm's paper mills to follow, Baez said. While an appreciation of public social media helped, making social collaboration effective within the firm also meant studying the successes and failures of other social software implementations, he said. One key factor has been enlisting the business leader of each function as a sponsor for Chatter's implementation, he said.
Baez said he and CEO Thomas Falk both took time to read Clay Shirky's book on cognitive surplus, embracing the idea of getting every employee engaged in making the company better. That's one of the things they're trying to accomplish with social software.
Is this really so important that it would be a career-limiting factor for a CIO to ignore social media?
"I think it is," Baez said. "For us in the business we're in, consumer package goods, I need to understand it. For me to understand and really work well with marketing, I need to get it. I need to understand how we divert funds to it."
True, there are other CIOs in other industries for whom the picture might be different, and there are also different types of CIOs who may focus more on operations, or be turn-around artists, he said.