How CEOs can make the most of social media

How can you know if social media is important or not, or whether you should use it, if you don’t understand it in the first place? And how can you understand it if you don’t try it?

To understand digital you need to be digital.

People still occasionally say to me CEOs and senior leaders are far too busy to be bothered with social media. That it’s a waste of time and not a leader’s job — or worse — that it’s just asking for trouble putting oneself ‘out there’. This misses the point entirely. Social media is about embracing the ‘social age’ and being a modern leader. It’s also a fantastic tool — and is an entirely positive experience.

“Social media is about embracing the ‘social age’ and being a modern leader”

Social media — if used properly — is not a burden, or a waste of time, or a liability. It’s something that can really add value to your working life — especially as we start a new decade, where transparency is becoming so important. The days of the CEO being barricaded in the proverbial corner office and cut off from reality are gone. But it’s not just about being more visible — it’s also about being more open to outside influences.

So why are so many CEOs still afraid of social media?

The answer, I think, is perception. Many still perceive social as all of the things mentioned above: a burden, a waste of time, a liability — even dangerous. This perception is down to lack of understanding and a lack of exposure to social’s benefits. A bit of knowledge and ‘hands on’ experience could go a long, long way in changing those perceptions!

So, why should CEOs be social? Here are 10 reasons:

1. Building trust

2. Demonstrating transparency

3. Personal branding (should that be important to you)

4. Corporate branding

5. Attracting talent

6. Engaging with employees

7. Networking

8. Listening and learning

9. Feedback

10. Eureka moments

Now you know why it’s worth using social media, how do you go about it?

1. Define your goals. What do you actually want to get out of it? Look at the list above for some ideas. It may only be one of those things — or all of them

2. Understand your audience. Who do you need to talk to and engage with? Is it customers? Employees? Competitors? Supporters? All of these?

3. Follow and listen. Find relevant people and see how they use social media. Learn from the good ones (and those doing it not so well)

4. Start talking. Begin slowly, sharing ‘safe’ material (a press release perhaps)

5. Gauge the response. See what resonates with people. As you progress, you’ll start to find what generates responses and what doesn’t

6. If you’re not sure how to proceed, get help from a social media expert, either someone internal or an external consultant

7. Be interesting and authentic! No-one wants to follow a boring, corporate-sounding account. Find your voice, speak out about issues you care about — even be a little bit controversial if you feel brave enough

But take note — establishing a presence on social media (not just LinkedIn, but other platforms like Twitter and Instagram), 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!

This quote from Sarah Goodall, who wrote the opening chapter of The Social CEO book, sums things up very well:

“We live in a connected age, where advances in technology, changes in working practices and increasing expectations are forcing modernization — both within the workplace and in our daily lives.

These changes are having a profound impact on organizations, challenging them to change how they operate on many levels. Leaders are pivotal in these changes, and these changes in turn require a new type of leadership — one that is open and transparent and is based on trust.

Social media is at the heart of the technological changes that are driving this modern, more collaborative style of leadership. It is the ‘how’ that allows the modern leader to be found and to engage with their following, wherever they are.”

Are you ready to leave the corner office, step into the digital lobby and start engaging with the people that effect your organization — be they your peers, your employees, your stakeholders — even your critics?

My challenge to you is this: be transparent, be open, be brave — put your head above the parapet and be willing to engage with your community. The effect is exhilarating.

Good luck on your social leadership journey!