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c-suite survey

Social media have significantly redefined our relationships with people and communities, both local and abroad, and have forever changed the way we do business.BrianAJackson/Getty Images/iStockphoto

We are living in an accelerated culture. Information moves at a rapid pace, and we are inundated with a daily deluge of content. The marrying of social media, digital and mobile technologies has facilitated this acceleration. In a tremendously short period of time, social media have transformed the way in which we live, work and play. Consider that the average mobile user checks his or her phone more than 100 times a day, and Facebook 14 times a day. The directive "Just Google it" has become part of the lexicon.

Social media have altered the way we engage and communicate ideas. They have significantly redefined our relationships with people and communities, both local and abroad, and have forever changed the way we do business. These changes are not evolutionary, but revolutionary. Businesses need to move with this transformation, not avoid it. Today's technologies will soon be out of date, and will have evolved into something new tomorrow.

Consider this social snapshot: More than six billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube – almost one hour for every person on Earth; Facebook has more than 1.28 billion active monthly users; and 500 million tweets are sent per day.

These numbers speak to the tremendous opportunity that social media offer. They allow organizations to respond to issues and incidents in real time before they become a potential crisis; to enhance their brand and reputation in the marketplace; and to personally connect with consumers or clients. If your organization is being "liked" by your customers on Facebook, that is a level of endorsement and social marketing beyond anything seen before. It is invaluable to your brand.

It's not surprising that most of the executives surveyed believe that social media exposes them to greater reputational risk. There is always a risk associated with exposure of any kind; but unlike traditional media, social media channels move information online and in real time.

Social media make information about your organization difficult to manage because it's far-reaching, vast and immediate. But if you are not actively engaging via social media, then you need to ask yourself, "What is the reputational risk, and the impact to my bottom line, in choosing to not engage?" Even if you aren't communicating via social media, clients, consumers, and competitors are – and they are communicating about your brand.

Don't ignore social media because you fear them. Engage with them, embrace them, use them to your advantage. If you don't control your brand reputation, someone else will. Organizations can mitigate their risk, and also leverage the immense opportunity social media offer them, by using resources effectively and monitoring social media activity. Hire smart people who understand your business and how to engage via social media. No matter what type of product or service you sell, or the industry you service, it's vital to acknowledge that social media is the norm – and it's here to stay.