It’s a question many CEOs ask themselves: How much of a social media presence do I have to have, and what should that presence look like?
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, it is clear that a CEO’s social media presence has become increasingly important in today’s digital world. At the very least, a CEO can use social media to share their company’s messages more broadly among online followers. For reference, the average Fortune 500 CEO on Twitter has about 113,000 followers.
At best, a CEO with a strong handle on their social media presence can create massive amounts of free PR for their company’s brand and use their platform to influence the public’s perception of the business.
“Being a social CEO has gone from reputational advantage to reputational must,” says Andy Polansky, CEO at Weber Shandwick. “Social media is a crucial tool for executives to engage with stakeholders in a world where nearly everyone is online.”
Why CEO Sociability Matters: The Stats
In addition to messaging and outreach, a CEO’s online presence can become one of the firm’s most valuable competitive assets. Global executives agree — in a study by Weber Shandwick, executives attributed nearly half (45%) of their companies’ reputations to the reputation of their chief executive officer.
A full 8 in 10 executives (81%) report that it’s important for CEOs to have a visible public profile for a company to be highly regarded. This data also holds up with the general public, with more than half of Americans (54%) saying senior leaders who are transparent on social media are more trustworthy than their less visible counterparts.
CEOs who build a strong online presence can find that social media provides an excellent way to tell the stories they want people to hear. They can take their message straight to stakeholders, faster — and with much more control over what is said than they can with traditional media.
Five Steps into Social Media for CEOs
Committing to social media can seem like heavy lifting to busy CEOs. But it doesn’t have to be. CEOs don’t have to spend hours a day online to be effective. A little participation goes a long way.
Taking small steps toward a stronger social presence helps CEOs build credibility, attract talent, assure stakeholders, better humanize their brand and, ultimately, become more effective chief storytellers for their businesses. Here are five ways to get started.
1. Establish Your Voice
CEOs who decide to go social should be mindful of their public “voice.” Social media is meant to be approachable, so lose the corporate jargon and consider communicating in a more familiar and relatable way. Ask questions, share experiences, and use social media to communicate personal anecdotes — in addition to business news and information.
2. Take Advantage of Your Company Website
Internet users are still more likely to use a search engine when looking for information about a brand or product than social networks, mobile apps, and video sites. Because company websites are typically one of the top results when searching for a company online, it’s likely people will go to the website first when looking for information about a CEO.
Consider putting CEO communications (blog posts, videos, and photos) in one centralized place on the company website. These pages can use social media plug-ins to show a CEO’s most recent posts from their social profiles. Putting this information in one place with one designated link makes it easy for people to find and share.
3. Create Your Own Content
Most companies are now investing in custom content to drive their brands, and CEOs should be doing the same. Many CEOs now appreciate the value of LinkedIn, for example, as a way to expand their audience. Posting original articles and blogs helps spread their vision and provides an opportunity to share insights into business and industry trends.
4. Invest in Video
Video is a powerful and cost-effective tool for enhancing the visibility of CEOs. It’s humanizing, conveys emotion, and allows executives to speak directly to their audiences in an authentic way. Video is also easily shared, reused, and repurposed. Companies can use already-existing video from events like keynote addresses, interviews, and press conferences to share on their websites, YouTube channels, and social networks.
5. Put Engagement on Your Schedule
You don’t have to post or engage constantly to be effective online; even blogging once a quarter can amplify your voice and facilitate online conversation. If someone comments on one of your posts or Tweets, consider writing a line or two back to engage stakeholders. And if you find engagement is something that easily falls off your list of priorities, put it on your schedule. Even if it’s just for five minutes once a month, making engagement a non-negotiable will eventually make it part of your routine.
Can you delegate this? Yes, of course. CEOs of larger companies typically have a communications team that supports social media and public relations. CEOs of smaller companies can obtain similar support on a part-time basis. But there is greater value — both for you and for your company — in being authentic and handling at least some of your social media yourself.
Start by watching what other CEOs do. Follow them on LinkedIn or Twitter, and see the way they handle themselves. Put the LinkedIn and Twitter apps on your phone, if they aren’t already there, and check in from time to time.
You can also hire someone to handle your social media and watch what they do. When you see how straightforward it is, you may become comfortable enough to step in to doing some of it yourself.
Want some advice about how to get started? Schedule a free conversation, and we’ll talk about where the value might be for you and some good first steps.