I recently shared a breakfast at the home of a high-powered, very successful friend of mine. My good friend has a long track-record with a top accounting firm solving all kinds of financial-related business issues for a wide variety of Fortune 1000 companies. But my friend is an executive who is intentionally NOT engaging in any kind of Social Technologies.

Wise Road, Pompey, NY - Named after my Great-Great-Grandfather

Wise Road, Pompey, NY - Named after my Great-Great-Grandfather

Following the conversation on family and personal stuff, we turned to work. Knowing my pursuits, my friend shared thoughts about Social networking. After listening to his perspectives on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., I asked him, “I heard you refer to ‘Social’ in the midst of everything you were saying. Let me ask you a question. When you said ‘Social’, describe what you had in mind? What concepts did the word ‘Social’ bring to mind as you were talking about it?”

He said, “The noise, the clutter, non-important things… you know, Social.”

I clarified, “So water-cooler-type talk… weather, sports, family life, community – that kind of thing?”

“Yes, exactly. I just don’t have time for all that. Like I said, when I’m in work mode, I need to stay as focused as possible on work – no distractions. I see my wife and daughter spending a lot of time on Facebook, and frankly that concerns me. Now I know they might say I spend a lot of time watching TV or playing golf. But I can’t see myself spending my precious free time on Social networks. I hear people talking about Linkedin at work, but it doesn’t seem to be productive. I also know I’ll be asked to help people – not that I don’t want to help people, but if they want my help, all they have to do is call me. I see people using Social Networks to relive the past or trying to get the next new job. Since I don’t want to do either of those, I just don’t see a need to do Social networking.”

Does that sound familiar? The conversation went on from there. I explained that unfortunately, while understandable because of the traditional use of the term, thinking of ‘Social’ Technologies as ‘personal’ or ‘non-essential’, non-business related, etc. etc. is perhaps one of the biggest misnomers in the executive ranks.

[Curious: Do you agree? Are many executives under an incorrect assumption about ‘Social’ technologies as being more about personal, non-essential stuff? Especially in the insurance vertical?]

From a business perspective, Social is NOT ‘Social’. Think UGC – User-Generated Content and all the implications therein – “Crowd” solutions (e.g. Crowdsourcing, Crowdvertising, Crowdfunding), Ratings, Online Reputation Management, professional communities, Social CRM, Rivers of Information, Customer Intel, Revenue on Demand, e-Word-of-Mouth to name a few.

I made a case that in his position, at a bare minimum, he wants to consider what’s called Online Reputation Management. What do people find when they search for him?

Going further, he wants to be thinking about what’s next, what’s beyond the brand and title on his business card? No doubt about it – no matter how successful, both brand and title will inevitably change, won’t they? And when they do, perhaps quite suddenly, will he benefit from a steady effort to build a Social network? Will he correctly understand his Social relevancy in business? And will he be in a position for broader long-term business influence, again beyond his immediate circle with the current brand and its client base?

Lastly, like the MBA process he went through a few years back that lifted his IQ substantially in a short time-span, he wants to consider tapping into brilliant content creators, peers of his that are beyond the faceless Wall Street Journal writers, his preferred info-source. Sure, WSJ writers are no doubt great writers creating a steady stream of great stories. But what about peers of his who are sharing insights and creating dialogs via blogs and Social networks? Could these insights and conversations lift his IQ in a very meaningful and practical way – directly relating to his field?

What do you think? Are Social Technologies a ‘waste of time’? Do many executives in your experience feel that Social is purely Social?

Next up:

ICMG in Phoenix. #ICMG2012 (You heard it here first: I’m facilitating a 1.5 hour session on Linkedin on Wednesday morning before the Meeting starts. Yeah, I’d rather be playing golf as well, but I was asked, so what could I say.)

PIMA in Palm Coast, Florida. #PIMAAssn Rolling out the rebranding work Bill, Al, Shannon, Denise, Mona, Ed, me and a bunch of others have done in the past year…

Hope to see some of you there.