Organizations must embrace social media to thrive, Cisco VP says

Technology has created a new set of rules for business, which require leaders to adopt new strategies that reach more customers and attract talented workers.

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If companies and the executives who lead them are going to survive, then thrive, in our rapidly changing world, they must recognize that technology has created a new set of rules—including the need to understand and embrace social media.

Ignore those rules and your company will suffer—even fail—said Carlos Dominguez, senior vice president, Office of the Chairman of the Board at Cisco, in this Ragan training session, “Social! How to survive in a world changing at the speed of light.”

“We have had unprecedented change over the last 20 years,” Dominguez said. “It has created a new environment.”

The birth of the Internet ushered in that environment, with the first message sent in December 1990. The headline on Time’s July 24, 1994, cover invited readers to explore “The Strange New World of the Internet” inside the magazine.

In 1997 meetings, Dominguez said he was “having a dialogue with a lot of senior executives and saying, ‘You need a presence on the Web.'” He helped launch Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, which endures today.

Social media spreads like wildfire

Social media is an even newer phenomenon. Facebook, for example, launched in February 2004.

“We keep forgetting how quickly things are changing,” he said.

How quickly? Research already shows:

  • Facebook accounts for about 10 percent of mobile data on iPhones.
  • 50 percent of mobile shoppers share their shopping experiences on social networks.
  • 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute.
  • The “time to screen” for 18- to 34-year-olds after they wake up is 90 seconds.
  • Globally, more people own cellular phones than toothbrushes.

Surveys also show that 40 percent of companies have no training or governance on social media, and only 38 percent of CEOs consider social media a high priority, Dominguez said.

Many executives do not recognize the new rules of technology, he said, and until they do, the companies they lead will suffer: “Once you understand the environment, you will be able to craft strategies to survive and thrive.”

He said the new rules include:

  • People have more power than ever.
  • Brands have less control.
  • It’s not what you say; it’s what they say.
  • Organizations are experiencing significant upheaval.
  • Things are moving extremely fast.
  • Complexity is on the rise.
  • We face continuous disruption.
  • The generation gap is increasing.

The violent Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and other countries across the Middle East showed the power of social media to leverage technology to create a movement and bring about change, Dominguez said.

Taking on corporate America

Customers now harness the power of social media to battle companies, he said. After Bank of America announced plans to charge a $5 monthly fee to use its debit cards, “the Web went crazy.”

A 22-year-old woman in Washington state started an online petition in protest. Before she knew it, Molly Katchpole had 300,000 signatures. As the outrage grew, she received a call from a bank executive to discuss the fee, which was never imposed.

She also was out in front to protest a Verizon plan to charge a $2 fee to pay a bill online. The company killed the idea as opposition grew, Dominguez said.

Katchpole is part of a generation of tech-savvy individuals who are growing up digital—from the young adults who take on corporate America to the toddlers who use iPads every day.

Dominguez said this “amazing group of kids,” 80 million strong, are going to transform the nation.

New workers reinventing the workplace

As new workers enter the workforce, employers must recognize the traits they possess, he said. The new workers are multicultural and global, networkers and collaborators. They are comfortable with technology, have grown up on video, and are “totally connected anytime, anywhere.”

“We’d better watch them closely, because they are reinventing the rules as we speak. As they hit our workforce, the new people come infected with the new world.”

At many companies, the new workers grow disillusioned as employers block their social media links and put them in office cubicles.

“We must do a better job of leveraging their strengths,” Dominguez said.

Time for transformation

We are at a turning point in history that will require business, government, and society to reboot, he said. “The traditional way of doing things is no longer going to be effective.”

In the next 10 years of a “hard transition,” over 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies will disappear because they “are not in sync with society,” he predicted.

Dominguez told conferees that they should see themselves as “advance scouts” who will see trends long before their company executives do. The scouts should drive the conversation within the organization to help shape its future.

These change agents must understand the culture of their companies and what makes their executives tick. Social media often conflicts with a company’s way of doing business and threatens leaders who want to control everything.

“I’m not telling you you can’t convert them,” Dominguez said. “It is just counter to their DNA.”

To win more spending on social media, communicators must show executives its value—and the dangers of not embracing it.

More than eight in 10 executives perceive the value of social media, Dominguez said, yet most are still uncertain as to how that value translates into bottom-line results.

“You play a very critical role, not only in your respective companies, but in the world, to make a difference, to be a change agent and to help guide your companies to where the environment is, and where the world is going.”

Hear more from Dominguez and watch the full video here:

Cisco's Carlos Dominquez on social media

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