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BLOG: CIOs and social media

Martha Heller | Oct. 7, 2013
Tom Catalini, CIO of the Museum Fine Arts, says IT leaders need to take the plunge into social media

I attended the CIO Perspectives Conference in Boston this summer and enjoyed a talk by Tom Catalini, CIO of Museum of Fine Arts.  Catalini, a prominent blogger, talked about why most CIOs do not engage in social media, why they should, and how they can get started.  I caught up with Tom a few weeks after the event, and asked him to elaborate.

How many CIOs are using social media in their leadership role?
Surprisingly few.  Social media is not new; it's not going to be a fad.  We see it changing business models and how companies interact with their customers. I would have thought that more CIOs would be engaged with social media by now, but that's not the case.

Why do think the traction is so low? 
I think it's a comfort level issue. Social media requires a different approach than other technologies do. For most technologies, we take a systemic view point.  We think about business goals and objectives and then build a plan with a beginning, middle and an end.   But to explore and learn about social media, you need to wade into it without knowing what the end game is, and it often means "putting yourself out there."  If I become active on social media, what am I going to say? Who will I engage? What will I do?  That can be intimidating.  But it's necessary. The world is changing. Several years ago, people were uncomfortable putting even their basic work profile or photo on LinkedIn.  Now, it would be odd not to be a part of that network.

If social media provides such a barrier to entry, and the goal is not clear, why do it?
Social media is changing the way businesses work. If you want to be a business leader at the table talking intelligently about strategy, you need to be literate in social media. And you can't become literate by reading case studies.  You learn faster and gain a much better understanding if you roll up your sleeves and get involved.

Otherwise, how can you advise your business partners?  How can you talk intelligently about the medium unless you know what it means to tweet and re-tweet and follow people?  Personal experience gives you insights into the tools your customers are using and how you can engage them as a business.

What's the first step in engaging in social media?
With social media, it's all about baby steps. 

Twitter is a great place to start.  It's a lightweight, public medium. You can get on there and lurk for a while and learn a lot before you start tweeting.  It's mobile, which is its native platform, and engaging does not take a lot of time because the content size is restricted.  It's easy to jump on for a few minutes when you're waiting in line for a sandwich. 


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