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Companies need top-down approach to social media: Hootsuite CEO

Last December, a single tweet from then-President-elect Donald Trump led aerospace firm Lockheed Martin to briefly lose about $4 billion in market value. The president's tweets, which are closely watched by markets, have demonstrated the kind of influence social media can wield over companies, politics and international relations.

In turn, companies need to develop deep, cultural understanding of the tools and technologies social media offers in order to prevent being caught unprepared, according to the chief of Canada-based Hootsuite.

Ryan Holmes, CEO at Hootsuite, told CNBC's "Capital Connection" that it was crucial for companies and their leadership to be able to respond to an escalating situation on social media with speed and transparency.

"Part of what I'm talking about, and talking with other leaders about, is if that does happen to you — your company and your brand — are you prepared? Have you built the DNA, the systems and the cultural understanding to understand social media?" he said.

Holmes reckoned the push for businesses to become more social media-savvy needs to come from the senior management, even as many companies employ personnel and teams to manage presences on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Ryan Holmes, chief executive officer of Hootsuite Media.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Ryan Holmes, chief executive officer of Hootsuite Media.

"This is not something you can pass off to your marketing millennials and expect that they can control this and manage this. It needs leadership," he said, adding that knowledge of social media is becoming a core competency that all leaders must possess — similar to using emails.

Hootsuite, based in Vancouver, offers a platform for users to manage their various social media accounts.

Trump's tweets aside, companies frequently fight fires on social media over various public relations incidents.

For example, over the weekend, United Airlines found itself in the middle of a digital furor when a user tweeted that gate agents were not allowing several young women in leggings to board a domestic flight. The company responded promptly to explain its position on the matter in an attempt to prevent further escalation.

"So it's not just politics, or big influencers like Donald Trump and others, but also your long-term customer base," Holmes said, referring to the various groups on social media that companies should care about.

"Some brands really have to adopt this and it does have to come from the top to get full understanding into organization," he said.