Despite the obvious presence in the social sphere of leaders such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, recent research found that 61% of CEOs don’t have a single account, while others may not be doing it right. But another study found that 64% of Americans want CEOs to engage on these types of platforms and that 54% would trust them more if they did.
The problem for many CEOs is consistency: the golden rule of appearing on something like Twitter or Facebook is that you must post regularly to have a credible voice. And who’s got time to sit around proselytizing on Facebook all day? And why bother if the company already has its own company-branded social media presence anyway?
It’s time to grasp the nettle
The fact of the matter is there are multiple benefits to enjoy for CEOs who can find the time to post themselves—even if it’s just once a month—or who are prepared to invest in a social media team to do some of the hard work for them.
“It gives your company a human face and it’s good for the company’s reputation,” Phillip Crowe, Director of Social Media at Florida-based agency MDG Advertising told Chief Executive.
Say a company has recently donated to charity. Crowe says posting this fact on Twitter is an easy way to put a positive spin on how a company behaves.
CEO posts can also make a company a more attractive place to work, he says, because staff are more likely to relate to a human being than a brand name or motto. Product news also can be shared, potentially bringing in new customers. All this ultimately boosts the company’s financial performance.
“If engaged CEOs are expressing what their key focuses are and that’s being communicated down through the organization, then the company will be very much in tune with itself and clear on what its objectives are,” Crowe says. “The CEO sets the tone and the body follows.”
Where to start?
Without a doubt, LinkedIn should be the CEO’s first port of call. It’s a network solely dedicated to business, so an easy win, because everyone on there is already looking directly at what a CEO can bring to the table.
Again, consistency here is crucial, Crowe says. LinkedIn provides a way for people to evaluate CEOs and their companies so it’s important that profiles are rich in content and kept up-to-date. That could mean regularly providing links to articles, videos and presentations that mention you or posting in-depth personal opinions through blog posts. It’s also important to interact with other members by liking their posts and commenting so you appear humble and engaged.
All that may sound tiresome, but could pay off big time when trying to hire top talent.
Ultimately it comes down to establishing the CEO’s brand voice, then figuring out a publishing schedule, perhaps with a support team, so you can get it all done. “If you have a small team that can coalesce around you or tease out those details from you then they can help make that digestible and put that in a content calendar,” Crowe says.
In-depth pieces a CEO may want to occasionally contribute could include providing some of their best tips for running a business, or insights they’ve learned from great experiences, such as an offshore business trip.
A little more Twitter, a little less Facebook
Just like CEOs, not all social media platforms are the same. So Crowe advises to just stick to one or two others—apart from LinkedIn—that best fit with a person’s personality and capabilities.
A person who’s great at getting their point across well in short phrases will clearly be best suited to Twitter, he says, whereas someone with a long form way of speaking who’s good in front of a camera should consider YouTube or Facebook Live.
Facebook, however, is a tougher one to negotiate. Crowe refers to it as a “walled garden”—an advertising term for a space with a variety of content that constantly needs to be tended to keep users inside.
“And it’s sort of a niche audience, so there’s a lot more work to do to get that following,” Crowe says. “So in this case, maybe it would make more sense to contribute to the brand’s Facebook page instead.”
Warning: Don’t be dull!
Apart from the time constraints, another big reason CEOs are avoiding social media could be fear. What if they say something that alienates a portion of their audience?
Crowe says these potential risks aren’t bad enough to offset the aforementioned benefits, and can be mitigated by conducting a type of cost/benefit analysis. “That can mean identifying the types of audience you might alienate and assessing whether they’re necessarily contributing to where your business is going,” Crowe says.
“By alienating one audience you could be impressing another that’s going to bring a larger benefit to the company.”
Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson is among CEOs that Crowe says does a great job at walking the fine line between being interesting and not being offensive.
“He’s very public in everything he does and definitely not bland—but he’s not necessarily stirring the pot in a negative way and he’s not in your face all the time,” Crowe said.
For more guidance, CEOs might also want to check out the social media accounts of Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Jack Welch and Tim Cook.