IT ratchets up social-media involvement

Although marketing still rules most companies' social-media strategy decisions, IT is increasingly getting a seat at the table.

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IT's role: Tool-master

For now, though, IT shows up in the integration and implementation of the tools, a role that Fauscette says makes sense. When the technology moves beyond experimenting, or department-level expense charge-offs, "the CIO is in the room a lot of the time. Firms need a broader perspective," Fauscette says.

One CIO who's "in the room" is Craig Neeb, who is both CIO and vice president of multichannel marketing at International Speedway Corp., which operates racetracks across the country, from Daytona to Watkins Glen in New York to the Auto Club Speedway in California.

Craig Neeb
"Our digital strategy isn't owned by a department," says Craig Neeb, CIO at International Speedway Corp. "It's owned by consumer marketing and technology," with support from human resources, legal and compliance.

Neeb has been CIO at International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., since 2000. He added his marketing role in 2008, about a year before social media became important to International Speedway's marketing strategy. The company now uses websites for each of its dozen tracks and runs mobile marketing and social media campaigns, primarily on Facebook and Twitter. It also has a customer contact center that makes and takes phone calls, and runs Web chats.

International Speedway is publicly traded, so having control over the marketing technology helps Neeb make sure the company is in compliance with regulations, such as those spelled out in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and guidelines promulgated by private industry groups, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.

Unlike American Greetings, International Speedway will let pretty much any employee post on its websites and social media sites. But first they must go through what Neeb calls "a small little training program" that takes about an hour. Some of that open attitude is reflected in the company's management structure.

"We don't do anything in functional silos," Neeb says. "Our digital strategy isn't owned by a department. It's owned by consumer marketing and technology," with support from human resources, legal and compliance.

Neeb thinks that companies will have to adopt a broader approach to management of social media activities. "I don't see how you can effectively manage any media outlet in a vacuum," he says. IT can play a role, because it has expertise in technology for dealing with compliance, security and system management.

IT could also increase its own use of social networking tools. While companies' customer service organizations are rapidly embracing social media, Gartner analyst Jarod Greene says less than 1% of IT support groups use social media tools to communicate with their internal clients.

Don't be a noob (newbie)

CIOs who want a seat at the social media table should be using social media tools in their own work and personal lives, Marx says. "If I came up and said 'Hey, I want to be part of the social media strategy around here' and I didn't tweet, I didn't blog, I wasn't on Facebook, I didn't use LinkedIn, I'd have no cred," he says.

Marx says relies on his staff to help him keep up with trends. He also has two doctors who are involved in IT, and they help him stay in touch with the needs of medical professionals. He has also embraced reverse-mentoring, having enlisted a twentysomething staffer to counsel him on new technology.

"Young people roll to a different tune," Marx says. "CIOs can't be noobs."

Especially if they want to avoid being anti-social.

Michael Fitzgerald is a freelance writer based outside of Boston.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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