Should CEOs Be Social?
By Geoff Gillette
Social Media, which many assumed would be a short-term fad, has ballooned over the past ten years becoming the go-to method for many people to maintain social interactions, stay informed and shop. With that being said, would it not make sense that business leaders would want to ride that wave hoping to cash in?
Strangely enough, despite the growing number of people using social media and the ever burgeoning field of social media outlets to choose from, a 2014 study by CEO.com and DOMO shows 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs have NO social media presence whatsoever.
Which is a big mistake.
Why? Because so much information dissemination and discourse is occurring within social media’s sphere of influence, it is becoming a liability for business leaders to not have a connection to or feel for what is happening within either their industry or their consumer base.
The days of living in an ivory tower or behind board room doors have passed. The speed with which branding can occur (either negative or positive) means that a savvy business leader needs to both have access and be accessible in order to see, understand and respond to potential trends in their markets.
A study by BRANDfog concluded that CEOs using social media make better leaders, and by engaging with their customers and the public have a tendency to engender more trust for their brand.
BRANDfog CEO Ann Charles said, “In today’s hyper-connected, information-driven world, CEOs and senior executives alike are expected to have an active social presence. Brand image, brand trust, and a company’s long term success depend on it.”
What this means is that there is a fundamental shift in the way companies have to deal with both internal and external communication. Leaders can more effectively lead by communicating with employees through channels with which they are familiar and comfortable. In the past this has meant memos, white papers and similar methodologies.
But the current millennial generation, and those generations to follow, are digital natives. Traditional messaging will have as much impact on those employees as sending messages via telegraph or Pony Express ride would to baby boomers.
The same can be said for public relations and community engagement. Business leaders cannot simply expect to reach people in the same way as technological levels and communications venues change. Especially in the area of crisis communication. If your company is facing an emergency situation, sending out a memo or white paper just isn’t going to cut it.
So Why Aren’t More CEOs Using Social Media?
The reasons are fairly simple and can be broken down to time management and risk aversion.
Time management boils down to a CEO just simply not having the time to hang out on social media. It may not seem like it, but maintaining an active Twitter or Facebook presence does take time. Running multi-billion dollar corporations is a 24 hour job that allows for little free time.
In prioritizing what little time CEOs may have, social media will be far down the list. And staffing out the job to assistants undercuts the messaging and reliability of the social media effort. If customers and employees get no sense of the leader they’re following, or - worse still - come to realize that a brand's presence is simply canned responses from a PR team, the brand loses credibility across the board.
Risk aversion comes into play when dealing with the viral nature of social media and the possibility of error. At the corporate level, nearly all communications is done through PR teams. Messaging is very carefully crafted and vetted before ever being released to the public.
The immediacy and easy access of social media shortcuts that process, which can lead to disaster. An off-hand comment relayed onto Twitter or posted to Facebook may seem innocuous at the outset, but once it has triggered a spread of viral sharing this social sabotage can be devastating. So business leaders need to weigh their words carefully.
What Should CEOs Do?
Despite these concerns, it is still a priority for smart CEOs to carve out some time to establish a social media presence and maintain it.
1. Determine which platforms are best to establish a presence
2. Meet with social media professionals on how to communicate efficiently and SAFELY
3. See what other business leaders are communicating
4. For multi-platform communication, look at programs such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck as ways to streamline and simplify the communications process
5. COMMIT! Find a pace for posting that fits your schedule and STICK TO IT as dropping off usually leads to a loss of followers or a negative response.
Social Media may change and evolve, but it is not fading away. Savvy leaders are challenging themselves to ride the wave and perfect new ways to reach out to employees and clients.
What do you think, CEOs? Will your brand benefit from your thought leadership on social media?
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