Most CEOs are still reluctant to go social. Why is that?
The latest Social CEO Report from Domo and CEO.com shows that, while social media use by Fortune 500 CEOs is (slowly) increasing, only a handful use platforms like Twitter regularly.
Why is this the case? Social media is a fantastic tool for CEOs, it really is. If only more of them could see that. It’s not a burden, or a waste of time, or a liability – it’s something that can really add value to their working life. So why are so few CEOs embracing it?
“Social media is a fantastic tool for CEOs, it really is. If only more of them could see that. It’s not a burden, or a waste of time, or a liability – it’s something that can really add value to their working life.”
The answer, I think, is perception. Most perceive social as all of the things mentioned above: a burden, a waste of time, a liability. This perception is down to lack of education and exposure to social’s benefits. A bit of education and ‘hands on’ experience could go a long, long way in changing those perceptions. As Andrew Grill says, “To get digital you have to be digital.”
So, having said all that, what exactly are the benefits of social media for CEOs?
I’ve compiled the list below to show why I think CEOs should be social. You may disagree with me, or you may have a completely different list. If so, let me know!
- The bottom line – 77 percent of buyers are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media. (Source: eMarketer). Need I say more?
- Personalized news feed – With so much noise out there, wouldn’t it be nice for CEOs to have their very own news channel? Social media offers that. You select who you follow, who you listen to, who you ignore. Build Twitter lists of key influencers; join exclusive LinkedIn or WhatsApp groups; subscribe to selected blogs. You control the input – no-one else.
- Building a support network – Social media is like networking on steroids, it really is. It allows you to develop an unrivalled global community that is only a click away. I never cease to be amazed just how helpful and quick to respond my own social network is. These people become your friends over time – and friends help each other.
- Market intelligence – Social networks like Twitter allow you to keep close tabs on market developments and trends (in real time) and to potentially spot trouble (and opportunities) early.
- Personal branding – Social gives you a unique opportunity to get your voice heard in a way that has never before been possible. By becoming a ‘thought leader’ in your field, your own standing improves – and this in turn allows you to build up your own personal ‘brand’ and influence as a leader.
- Corporate branding – Companies are no longer in control of the message or how they’re perceived – social networks have seen to that. People are talking about your business whether you like it or not. The CEO can play a powerful role in redressing the balance by being the ‘face’ of the company on social media. To see what I mean, look at the Twitter profiles of CEOs like Peter Aceto and Paul Frampton. They live and breathe their brands – and it’s refreshing to see.
“I would rather engage in a Twitter conversation with a single customer than see our company attempt to attract the attention of millions in a coveted Super Bowl commercial.” (Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank in Canada)
- Everyone important is on Twitter – Just think about that for a moment. Virtually every industry expert, journalist, editor, academic and politician is on Twitter. It’s where they share their thoughts and impart their knowledge. Follow them and be the first to hear what they have to say. As Dionne Lew describes it, Twitter is the ‘global brain’.
- Customer feedback – OK, most CEOs don’t want to handle customer complains – that’s not their job – but just think how useful it could be to know what customers think of your business. Platforms like Twitter allow you to monitor keywords and hashtags related to you company – so you can observe comments (positive and negative) without having to respond in person.
- Recruitment – Having a social CEO sends a powerful message to potential employees (especially younger ones) that your business is modern, forward-thinking, open and has a culture of collaboration. To Millennials – this is like a honey pot.
- Internal communications – Social media isn’t just about interacting with the outside world – it’s just as important within the organization. Talking to your workforce via an internal social network or CEO blog is a great way to connect with them, listen to them, find out about problems early – and make them feel valued, no matter how large or geographically spread the organisation is. And if employees see you active on external social networks like Twitter, they’ll see you as an open, transparent leader – and be encouraged to be more social themselves.
“Leaders that truly get it recognise that social allows them to walk the floor virtually, interact and gather inspiration from their talent, whilst getting real-time updates on the direction of the business. When this example is set, others will share and communicate more freely and this networked model creates natural collaboration and shared value.” (Paul Frampton, CEO at Havas Media)
- Eureka moments – These happen all the time, especially on Twitter, where you see – in real time – people’s thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, frustrations and, if you’re really lucky, their Eureka Moments – those flashes of inspiration that they just have to share with their followers. It’s an exhilarating experience and, of course, can be the spark of inspiration for you
- Evolution – The printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the Internet, e-mail, mobile phones – social media is just the next stage in this communications evolution. Who knows where it will lead? We don’t know, but it’s a one-way road and the sooner you get on board the better, or you’re in danger of being left behind.
- Fun – don’t forget that social media can also be fun. People share anecdotes and stories about their lives that can brighten up your day.
But take note – establishing a presence on social media (and I don’t just mean LinkedIn), takes time. Time to find the right people to follow. Time to build up a following. Time to find your voice. Time to see the benefits. So don’t put it off – start now.
I’ll finish with a quote from Stephen Kelly, CEO of The Sage Group plc, who is further along the social media journey than most leaders. Where did I get the quote? Directly from him, on Twitter:
“Social is vital to me to engage with customers, partners & colleagues.”