Upper Level Management – Why Have A Social Presence?
According to various studies, roughly a quarter of the world’s population have a social media profile. A 2016 report by Statista shows that the US has the highest percentage of users, with 78% of the population having at least one social media account. And yet, a mere 39% of Fortune 500 CEOs have a social media account. Why?
The foremost reason still given is that they are busy people, with little time to tweet or post blogs. Some also argue against using their precious time in pursuits they believe are best left in the hands of millennials.
With 6 out of 10 of the most influential CEOs in the US avoiding social media, the question arises: Why should those in the C-suite have a social presence?
Is Social Media Only For Millennials?
Despite the greluctance to appear on social media, a few CEOs have embraced it with gusto and reaped the rewards. And it’s not only the young ones.
At 66 years of age, Richard Branson hardly counts as a millennial. And as the chairman of a holding group comprising over 400 businesses worldwide, he is unlikely to be awash with spare time. Yet with over 9 million followers on Twitter, he is the classic example of a high profile CEO with a presence that is seen and enjoyed by millions. He is the ‘face’ of the Virgin Group, which benefits from the publicity and transparency he inspires.
Bill Marriott, the 84-year-old chairman of Marriott International, has long been admired for his blog ‘Marriott on the move’. Bill doesn’t own a computer but dictates his blog into a digital recorder. Someone else types the blog but they are his words. You can even listen to them on his blog. The company credit millions of dollars of sales to Bill’s simple, friendly manner. His honest approach to a range of topics have enabled his blog to act as the face of the company in times of difficulty.
Not Without Risk
It takes time and effort to venture into the world of social media. And is not without risks. Which doesn’t endear it to most CEOs. But the dangers from of unwise comments are neither new nor limited to social media.
Greg Gopman’s image became tarnished after a rant on Facebook against homeless people in San Francisco. It led to him becoming the former CEO of AngelHack after a media backlash. The good news: such mistakes are rare.
Valuable In Good Times
A recent study by UK-based BrandFog showed 71% of those surveyed felt a CEO active on social media not only promoted the company’s values but also boosted the brand’s reputation. Which CEO does not want to achieve that and at minimal cost?
In good times the benefits are enormous. Inspiring leadership and industry influencer are attributes demonstrated by a ‘social’ CEO. This can affect the quality of those joining a company. A LinkedIn study said the number of executives changing jobs and drawn by such a motivating presence is as high as 76%.
It is not just the executives that are swayed by comments from the C-suite. Other studies show that over 77% of respondents would prefer to buy from a company whose CEO expressed their values through social media. This has a direct impact on revenue.
CEOs want to measure results but success on social media is not easy to quantify. The number of followers is a valuable yardstick but doesn’t measure the impact of a blog or tweet. Neither does the number of items posted. Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has only tweeted seven times since starting in 2013 but has 1.21m followers! The blogs linked to his tweets clearly make the desired impression.
In a crisis, financial or tragedy, the press demands information. When surveyed, 57% of UK journalists turned to blogs and 75% to sites like Twitter to gather their material. A well-managed media presence gives them what they need before they come asking.
The CEO of AirAsia, Tony Fernandez is an example of a ‘social’ CEO. When one of AirAsia’s planes crashed in December 2014, he was quick to use Twitter to announce the recovery efforts and to express compassion for the victim’s families. Fernandez’s emotions were genuine, and the public responded accordingly.
Connect With People
It can be hard for a CEO, used to the dry pages of business reports, to blog successfully. A glance at the blogs of less-followed CEOs quickly shows why. A blog that describes in wearisome detail the P/E expectations for the coming year is unlikely to receive interest outside the boardroom. But when Bill Marriott announced on his blog that his dog, Murphy, had died there was an outpouring of condolences. People cared.
A blog needs to do more than impart industry knowledge. Such expertise is valuable as the post should educate but it must also connect with the readers. It ought to be human, expressing opinions and hopes. It should entertain.
An outsourced CEO blog is a liability. Company staff and the public are quick to spot an impostor. However, many CEOs need guidance at the outset and there is no shame in that.
Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric sought help from an in-house social media expert. The blogs were his own and popular but the intricacies of social media can be complex. He now focuses on Twitter, with over 43k followers
Don’t Be A Stranger
Several CEOs are taking their first tentative steps into this new world, perhaps inadvertently. Two fifths of the F500 CEOs already appear on their companies’ YouTube videos. A search on LinkedIn for current CEO titles shows 2.7 million profiles. Many view LinkedIn as the ‘safest’ entry point when joining social media.
Whatever route a CEO takes to make their presence felt, it is important they do not delay. Around the world, all ages are engaging in social media and expect corporate leaders to be present. People are questioning their absence. Anecdotal and empirical evidence shows the enormous benefits to be had in good times and bad.
Tweet today but, unless you’re Warren Buffet, we’d advise posting more than seven times over three years.
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