5 Essential Leadership Rules for a Web Presence that Wins

Posted Oct 31, 2012 by Faculty Blogs

Professor Gamse is a web strategy consultant and teaches digital and social media marketing at Hult International Business School in San Francisco.

By Philippa Gamse

Last week, I presented a program at the annual conference and career fair of MBA Women International, which was sponsored by Hult International Business School.

I discussed some key ideas for effective leadership and governance practices in the digital world.  Here are a few highlights:

1.      Appoint your Web Ambassador

Where does your web presence “live” in your organization, and who should be in charge of it?  We’re used to hierarchical corporate structures, with clear reporting lines and budgetary allocations, and with every activity assigned to an appropriate “box”.

However, your web and social media presence can have an impact across your entire organization, and can affect pretty much everything that you do, for better or worse.  I suggest that an entirely new and senior position is required to oversee this very powerful undertaking.

I call my concept the “Web Ambassador”.  Some organizations are starting to create this role, with titles such as “Chief Digital Officer”, or “Chief Web Officer”.  Whichever name you choose, appointing an executive level officer with a 30,000ft perspective on your total digital presence is an essential requirement of good governance.

2.      Think Outside Departmental Boundaries

The traditional corporate structure can result in a potentially limited perspective for the ownership of the web presence.  This in turn can seriously impede opportunities for cross-fertilization of revenue-generating opportunities, for coordination of customer communications, and for the sharing of important information used to improve overall online performance.  It can also reduce the motivation of other employees to work towards your online success.

The systematic planning and implementation of your digital presence across all areas of your business is another reason for my advocacy of the Web Ambassador position.

3.      Beware of Benchmarking and Best Practices

A favorite question of executives looking to evaluate their online performance (and thereby the performance of their hires) is “How do we compare with others in our industry?”

The problem with this type of thinking is that you need to know whether you’re comparing apples with apples when looking at others’ results and techniques. If you’re not, then the numbers may mislead rather than help you.

Make sure that you understand whether external standards work for your business model and how they relate to your specific goals, before you develop plans for adopting them.

4.      Watch for Experts Who Speak from Silos

Operating an effective web presence requires many different skills and tasks, which are often performed by different personnel, either internal or external.  These service providers report their results and ensuing recommendations, but from the often limited perspective of their specific area, and with the hope of making their efforts look as good as possible.

This “silo” effect can have unforeseen negative impacts on other aspects of the business, or lead to poor decision-making because no one is monitoring the overall picture.  Again, appointing a Web Ambassador should mitigate these problems.

5.      Feed the HiPPO

A popular term coined by Avinash Kaushik, author of Web Analytics 2.0, “HiPPO” stands for “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”.  The term refers to situations where decisions are made on the basis of seniority rather than of expertise, or objective judgment.

Unfortunately, many organizations are subject to HiPPO culture. In this scenario, clear results from user testing and reviews of web traffic analysis can be very helpful in presenting proven facts to support alternative recommendations.

In my book, this rule is called “Numbers and Testing Trump Politics”.  It can be eye-opening to senior executives to clearly see the potential business lost, or where money has been spent to little or no effect.

Further discussion and examples of all of these ideas are provided in my recent book 42 Rules for a Web Presence That Wins I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Philippa Gamse, CMC is a web strategy consultant and speaker. She teaches digital and social media marketing at Hult International Business in San Francisco. Sample chapters of her book are available at http://www.WebsitesThatWin.com/

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