In the past, executives were privy to more information about their company’s products and services than any other stakeholder. The advent of social media, however, is compelling executives to adapt their role in order to remain knowledgeable and competitive in the market. Some of the largest B2B discussions are now taking place online through social media outlets like LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook, SlideShare and Twitter.
The benefits of strategically using social media platforms to help grow a business eclipse any reservations executives may have about joining the conversation. Contributions to social media are important for every employee, including executives. An active social media presence is more than just a tool for the PR department to manage communication between the company and its clients. Sales teams can leverage the power of social media outlets to identify qualified leads. Marketing professionals can empower customers with platforms to share their personal brand experiences and attract prospects. If social media is a core business strategy, then where does this leave CEOs and other top-level executives?
The extensive reach of any social media platform provides an opportunity for CEOs to shape the online dialogue about their brand. Through this lens, social media becomes a powerful tool for CEOs to present a company’s strategy and promote the values of the company through their digital voice. An active CEO is also able to engage, respond and navigate brand exposure in a timely and direct fashion. However, this doesn’t mean that a CEO must be present across all platforms or personally commit a great deal of time to managing the company’s overall social media content.
Here are five quick strategies that CEOs like you can put into practice today:
Step One: Pick a Platform
Based on your particular leadership style, pick one platform that you think best aligns with your personal approach. For example, if you like to share timely information and brief updates, focus on Twitter. If you prefer to post images showing people what you're up to, consider Instagram or Pinterest. Or if you're the kind of person who prefers to think through and share 2-3 sentence ideas, Facebook might be your best fit.
Step Two: Commit to Consistency
In the social world, you can always do more. People who post images once a day could do it twice a day, and bloggers who post once a week often try to add articles more frequently. But quality is more important than quantity, so as a CEO commit to what you are comfortable with. That might mean a few images a week, or a post every three days, or a few tweets every afternoon. But being selective but consistent, you create positive anticipation as your followers look forward to your next meaningful update.
Step Three: Align Your Voice
This may sound easy, since most people presume that a CEO's voice would automatically align with that of the company they lead. However, CEOs often struggle to find a consistent way of sharing about their own experiences as a company leader without some coaching. Ask one of your communications staff members to spend time with you a few times a week brainstorming and shaping ideas around your personal voice, while at the same time helping you think about how that voice can strengthen and amplify the company's brand.
Step Four: Engage Proactively with Unfiltered Feedback
A CEO with an active online presence is likely to be more informed because she or he has direct access to unfiltered customer perceptions and feedback. This is incredibly important in an age where the customer has such easy access through social media platforms. This means you need to be prepared for the sting of cutting sarcasm, frustrated venting and other blowback typical of customers who are less than thrilled. By the same token, customers who have experienced the best of your business will be just as positive in their engagement. Observing the 'good, bad and ugly' of customer perceptions can keep your awareness of the company's real-life activities grounded in reality. Just remember that a handful of frustrated customers can feel like a stampede online, and conversely, that small compliments should be aggressively echoed to boost your team.
Step Five: Embrace Social Inside Your Company Culture
Social media is not only an excellent way for CEOs to remain aware of their company’s public face, but it’s also an important tool for removing silos, breaking down internal communication barriers, and improving the overall performance of the business inside your office walls. Employees are more likely to remain competent and productive as a result of an active social media strategy that cuts across the various functions of a company, and where they know that ideas they share and insights they offer are taken seriously. Some companies use public social media platforms for this purpose, and others opt for private social networks. Either way, the goal is to harness the power of social to provide real-time engagement between the CEO and team members at all levels.
As a CEO, you need not be challenged by the demands of a consistent social media strategy. Rather, by taking these five simple steps, you can champion this new form of two-way communication and enable it to lead your business toward the benefits of improved executive oversight, and ultimately, increased productivity and profit.