Victor Fetter, a father of four and CIO of financial services brokerage firm LPL Financial, wakes up around 5:15 a.m. each workday to get an early start, reflect on his top priorities and map out a game plan. Around 6 a.m., he checks Twitter and LinkedIn for 20 minutes to see the day's news and learn about what's generating interest among his colleagues in IT.
Get a jump on the day with social
Before Fetter leaves his home in Charlotte, N.C., for his 30-minute commute, he's already tapped into the most important IT news and trends. "[Social media] is a news and research engine for me," he says. "It's a great way to look at curated content from a trusted network."
Fetter says by embracing social media personally and at the corporate level, he demonstrates that he and his company actively engage in emerging technologies. "Social provides a platform to reach out to others and interact," he says. "It's not just about how many followers I have or how many times I tweet today ... . It's about this resourcefulness of the tool itself and how you can find and gather information that's pretty compelling."
The critical and personalized updates social provides haven't always been so accessible to Fetter and other IT professionals. For example, when he was CIO at Dell between 2007 and 2012, Fetter had no choice but to pick up a phone and call colleagues when he wanted to learn about issues that were top of mind for other CIOs. "It's streamlined the process of getting those perspectives and those learnings," he says.
Social presence a must for modern IT pros
Fetter, who joined Twitter in August 2008, considers himself a social media early adopter and encourages all of his colleagues to take a similar approach. "You've got to get out there and try it," he says of the today's leading social platforms.
Social can directly affect the business, Fetter says. "I'm interested in seeing how [social media] can apply to our business, how it changes the technology landscape and what we can learn from it," Fetter says. "We have an obligation, I think, as CIOs to do it. You cannot create a digital strategy for your company, you cannot create a social strategy in your company if you're not actively engaged on those platforms and understand how they work, who they appeal to and … their purpose."
Fetter says he is suspect of colleagues' ability to move their organizations forward in innovative ways without the use of social media services such as Twitter and LinkedIn. The most progressive organizations and CIOs regularly share applicable content and ideas on social, according to Fetter. "To really understand it, to use it, to build a strategy for your company, you've got to get on there and play," he says. "You've got to understand how people are thinking about it, how advertisers are thinking about it, and how it can benefit your company."
Social strategy helps avoid distraction
Social media doesn't have to be burden for IT pros, according to Fetter, who says he found a formula that helps him reap the benefits of social media without letting it become a constant distraction. After his morning social ritual, Fetter might spend a few minutes during the day engaging with customers or sharing relevant information with its client base, but he doesn't typically return to his feeds in full force until the late evening, when he checks in for a quick recap and to catch up with friends and family.
[Related Feature: Why you shouldn't accept every LinkedIn connection invite]
While Facebook is a personal endeavor for Fetter, Twitter is his go-to resource for news and ideas. He also regularly encourages colleagues to use LinkedIn for "more than just looking for the next job." The professional social network can be a canvas for CIOs and other professionals to build their networks of peers, he says. "Use LinkedIn as a progressive way of having a good set of contacts that will help you build what you need to do for your respective company," he says.
Fetter says social can be a powerful tool for CIOs, but he stresses that professionals need to have a strategy if they want to use it effectively. "Before you jump in, just make sure you really understand the brand you plan on projecting through those respective vehicles."