Rob Swystun, Pristine Advisers
Social media savviness is now a skill that executives themselves need.
Gone are the days when a company had a social media account that they hired an unpaid intern to run. A company’s Twitter account, and not its news releases, are where people are turning to when they want information from a brand.
And the voice consumers and investors associate most with a brand is the CEO (unless, maybe, it has a mascot). CEOs that insist on staying behind their wall of officiality and letting others do the talking are now just seen as outdated.
“Conversations taking place on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Medium, YouTube, Instagram, and other social channels do not stop because management is not participating,” says Ann Charles, Founder and CEO of BRANDfog. (Turn your speakers off before you hit that link if you’re not a fan of muzak.) “When executives fail to speak for themselves, other voices fill the void and conversations continue without them. The opportunity cost for executives who ignore social media is the loss of voice, and it enables others to shape the brand story and influence brand reputation.”
As Alice Korngold, President of Korngold Consulting LLC, writing for The Huffington Post, points out, GM’s CEO Mary Barra recently played modern CEO when she took to Twitter to reassure consumers and investors that the company was doing all it could to handle the ignition switch recall and pointed them to videos where she herself answered some of the most pressing questions people had.
Barra did this at an especially pressing time for the company, as it’s in times of crisis when people really want to hear from the leader.
The aforementioned BRANDfog performed a Global, Social CEO Survey recently. The results, based on 1,000 US and UK employees in companies ranging in size from small startups to established Fortune 1000 companies across various industries, show indisputably that social media is now part of the CEO’s job.
The most important thing to take away from these results is that “people are more likely to buy from you if your CEO is on social media,” Korngold says.
Some bullet points for you to peruse:
- 61% of US respondents & 50% of UK respondents said they are more likely to purchase from a company whose values and leadership are clearly communicated on social media from a company’s top executives.
- 82% of US respondents & 71% of UK respondents believe CEO engagement on social media helps communicate company values and shape a company’s brand reputation.
- 77% of US respondents & 68% of UK respondents believe social media is a powerful tool for enhancing the credibility of executives with shareholders, employees, customers and media.
- 80% of US respondents & 67% of UK respondents agree social media enhances the image and reputation of executives.
Through social media, CEOs step out from behind their wall of official filters and build trust by engaging directly with people.
- 71% of US respondents & 61% of UK respondents agree that a company appears more trustworthy when leaders use social media as a public relations channel to openly communicate about its core mission, values and purpose.
- 77% of US respondents & 69% of UK respondents agree that executive use of social media makes a brand appear more transparent.
- 83% of US respondents & 73% of UK respondents believe CEO participation in social media builds stronger connections with customers, employees, and investors.
- 77% of US respondents & 68% of UK respondents believe use of social media by executives creates a channel for authentic engagement with shareholders, employees and customers.
Executive engagement in social media can help to mitigate risk.
- 84% of US respondents & 76% of UK respondents believe social media is an effective way to monitor conversations about a brand online and to help brands prevent potential reputation crises.
- 79% of US respondents & 68% of UK respondents believe that having socially active leaders can help to mitigate risk before a brand reputation crisis occurs.
And, of course, when you have people representing your brand on social media, you need a social media policy.
- 87% of US respondents & 79% of UK respondents agree that a social media policy allows a company’s leadership team to be proactive rather than reactive in response to online negativity.
The bottom line is that social media has gone beyond being the realm of your public relations and communications departments. Your leader is now expected to be a voice, if not the voice for a brand, particularly when the brand is going through a rough patch.