CEOs Can’t Afford to Ignore Social Media

the social ceo

Social media is a primary force that is redefining the role of the men and women who oversee the world’s largest companies.

The importance of social media to business has dramatically escalated. We have moved through the “hype phase of social media when businesses felt compelled to participate because it was such a fad. We have entered a productive phase where companies are starting to crack social’s code to turn it into a genuine marketing advantage.

“Just as having a company website has become standard operating procedure over the past two decades, utilizing social media channels has now become an increasingly essential platform for companies to communicate their messages to the general public and other audiences.” Andy Polansky, CEO of global public relations firm Weber Shandwick.

Social media has grown beyond marketing into other areas of business.

Publicly traded companies are beginning to adopt social media for business communication and crisis management. Social is breaking down corporate silos and creating new ways of connecting:

  • It changes the way a company works together.
  • It enables more collaborative relationships.
  • It enhances creative ideas and innovation.
  • It helps companies to gain better consumer insights and engage with their customers.

Social networks are having a broad-based impact, changing everything about the way we do business. The tightly controlled corporate environments are falling apart. The control of brands is shifting into the hands of customers and employees.

Many companies now understand the important role that social media has for businesses.  But, most have not realized the change it brings to the role of CEOs. As Communicator and Chief, CEOs will need to have a more prominent role in social media.

CEOs still lack a firsthand knowledge.

They have grown to see the value of social media for their company’s participation, but haven’t seen the need for their personal involvement. The vast majority of Chief Executives have no presence on any of the major social media networks.

According to the’s Social CEO Report61% of CEOs have no social presence whatsoever. Not one Fortune 500 CEO is active on all six major social platforms.

CEOs haven’t been baptized by participating in social media. They don’t really understand how it works. The lack of understanding tends to make them skeptical and reluctant participants. They become unrealistically fearful of making mistakes. CEOs are also  in an uncomfortable position of learning while leading.

Traditional corporate communication is giving way to social communication.

CEOs communicating through social media help their company appear more human and accessible. 

“Companies that are truly social and engage their employees and customers in genuine conversation will be recognized as the new corporate leaders. CEOs who are social will be the next new thing.” Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist, Weber Shandwick

This is a major change from the traditional, controlled, protective corporate environments of the past to a more open and transparent leadership structure. As social media continues to evolve towards direct engagement, as spokesperson-in-chief, the CEOs skills and experience in social media becomes even more important. 

Social media has quickly evolved into an essential leadership tool.

As social media changes the way companies work, it also impacts the talents and skill sets needed for the current generation of business leaders to equip them to be a more social CEO.

Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada and Toronto’s Communicator of the Year, was quoted as saying,

“Successful leaders will no longer be measured just by stock price. Managing and communicating with shareholders, employees, government, community, customers, will be table stakes in the future.”

An IBM study of more than 1,700 Chief Executive Officers from 64 countries and 18 industries worldwide reveals that 70% of the responding CEOs will shift their focus from using e-mail and the phone as primary communication vehicles to using social networks as a new path for direct engagement.

Within the next three to five years, social media is anticipated to rise from the least likely method for CEOs to connect with their audiences to the second highest method, just behind face-to-face interactions.

Customers expect to have direct connections to brand leaders. The time has arrived for social media to become an expectation for company leaders. According to recent reports, 82% of buyers say they trust a company more when its CEO and leadership team are active in social media.

CEOs that are social are perceived as better leaders and better communicators by their employees. The more socially tenured, the more people-focused and spontaneous he or she is considered by executives. Executives with social CEOs say their CEO’s social media presence makes them inspired (52%), and technologically advanced and proud (41%).

CEO sociability provides a multiplicity of benefits, such as:

  • Share company news and information
  • Improve company reputation
  • Demonstrate company innovation, “humanize” the company, improve employee communications and build media relations
  • Improve business results
  • Help CEOs to build relationships with the news media
  • Show innovation
  • Enhance credibility
  • Help CEOs to know the company
  • More effective crisis management
  • Help find and attract new customers
  • Unfiltered direct communication with consumers
  • Attract and retain top talent
  • Valuable asset for sharing corporate social responsibilities and causes

To have success with social media, CEOs need to understand that it is not just another marketing tool. It provides a two-way channel of communication, allowing them to connect and engage with large numbers of people quickly.

An example of a talented social CEO.

Sir Richard Branson, world renowned entrepreneur and businessman, has been called the consummate social CEO. Through his participation in social media, he has developed an emotional connection and appeal with customers, employees, stakeholders and the general public.

Branson was named as the world’s top social media CEO for 2013, by the World of CEOs. The chief executive candidates were appraised by their number of Twitter followers, number of tweets, LinkedIn Influencer followers and their Klout score. Branson has amassed over 10 million Twitter followers and an equal number of LinkedIn connections.

Richard writes his own posts for his blog, which averages over a half million visitors per month. He shares inspiring leadership stories and quotations, thereby creating online conversations about fresh business ventures. He also raises awareness for charitable initiatives or other things he finds of interest or fun.

“Above all, remember to be authentic and organic, answering questions in a straightforward manner — there’s no need to check with your PR team first. You know your products and services, and people will see through any effort to parrot slogans or broadcast a marketing message.” Richard Branson

Because their CEO tweets and blogs daily, most Virgin employees engage directly with their customers through social media. They use it to find out what customers want and need. 

How Will CEOs Respond Organizationally and Personally?

A new report from Strategy Analytics states that there are over 2 billion social media users.  If this is where the customer’s and employees are CEOs should be there too.

Additional Articles of Interest:

photo credit: CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies Time to Rethink Global Drug Policy via photopin (license)

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

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