Business and Industry | Business Strategy | Technology & Social Media | Training & CPE

Social media and the CFO

The exponential pace of change in technology -- including the move to cloud computing, mobile devices, and social networks, is a hard trend. It’s a trend that is certain to continue, says leading futurist and Fortune 100 consultant Daniel Burrus. Business leaders, including CEOs, CFOs and chief risk officers, need to anticipate and use these changes to their advantage, rather then be disrupted.  

MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood believes CFOs can learn to surf these waves of change, and the smart use of social media can not only help them stay afloat but also propel them to reach and exceed their goals.

Challenges facing CFOs

Massive changes in technology have not only changed the way we do business, but swept in new forms of competitors, resulting in entire industries looking to become “Uberized."

Financial executives in business and industry also face an ever-increasing universe of government regulation and an ever-evolving, complex suite of accounting and financial reporting standards. Other challenges or “hard trends” identified by Burrus include changing demographics, which impact the talent pipeline, customer base, and expanding competition fueled by the internet.

Add on other responsibilities of today’s CFO relating to treasury and risk management, interfacing with the audit firm and audit committee, and it’s no wonder the job of a CFO would seem to be too big for any one person.

But that’s just it. Hood says no one can thrive alone in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (“VUCA”) world without collaborating.

How social tools can help

“The biggest issue we hear from our members in business and industry is the need to keep up with ever-expanding regulations, and the need to be proactive, not reactive,” says Hood. He is a firm believer in the power of social networks, both internal to an organization and external, in helping professionals obtain timely, useful information to solve problems and advance their businesses and careers.

Some may ask: Aren’t these social networks used to share trivial information like what someone had for lunch? Aren’t they just a distraction? Although any tool can be misused, social media tools, used properly, are now a core function of outreach to customers, suppliers, and others, as well as inreach within companies and communities, says Hood.


Put another way: Flipping an advertising campaign of yesteryear which said, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile,” today’s executives need to realize, “It’s not just your children’s social network.”

Impact on revenue, productivity

In fact, there is a business case for social media. Some studies have examined the impact of social media on revenue. These include “How is Social Media Driving Revenue?” published by Adweek in 2013, and a series of studies published by McKinsey Global Institute in 2012: “Demystifying Social Media,” “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies,” and “Capturing Business Value with Social Technologies.” The latter study in particular noted that the potential for social media to create value through collaboration is greatest for professional services.

The core value of social tools for CFOs and finance professionals, says Hood, rests on their strength as communication, connection, and engagement tools. This leads to benefits in learning and research, facilitating timely engagement by employees, and helping them stay up-to-date on the latest internal and external developments.  


Social search and analytics are among the 25 game-changing hard trends that will create disruption and opportunity, as identified by Burrus. The “big three” social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and internal messaging networks like Slack can provide a wealth of information, ideas, and shared experience, which can be easily leveraged, says Hood. Moreover, social tools can facilitate real-time collaboration and provide a rich archive of searchable information. Virtual meetings via tools like Skype and Google Hangouts have made collaboration easier whenever and wherever joint input is needed, with the added benefit of saving time and money.

ROI … or ROA?

It’s in the DNA of CFOs to ask of any investment: What’s the return on investment?  Some may argue it’s impossible to compute, because it is impossible to capture all the benefits – in particular, indirect benefits such as positive visibility of a company online, leading to purchase decisions.  

Hood believes the question should be this: In considering what the ROI is on higher engagement with employees, customers and potential customers, the question should be: What’s the ROA – the return on attention?


“In today’s rapidly changing and complex world, getting people’s attention – whether customers, suppliers, investors or others - may be the most valuable tool you have to cut through the clutter,” Hood said.

Learn more

Hood is leading a session titled “Social Media and the CFO” at the MACPA’s 2016 Business and Industry Conference, taking place May 13 at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport. Sign up to attend in person or via webcast.

Other sessions will include speakers on strategy, cybersecurity, Big Data, enterprise risk management, an accounting standards update, and a keynote by Marc Greenberg, vice president of finance and strategy at Pixar Animation Studios.

Hood’s session will home in on how social tools can assist CFOs and others in business and industry in meeting their professional challenges to locate, share, and engage in conversations on current information and developments, and how to use social tools to enhance your personal and team performance. Key takeaways will also include managing social media risks.

Additional tools for surfing the waves of disruption can be found in the Anticipatory Organization: Accounting and Finance program. Created by Burrus, the program is designed for professionals in finance and accounting, is available in a self-study format, and can be customized for group events. Contact the Business Learning Institute with questions at