The CEO and Social Media – Friend or Foe?

Published: 9th June

When it comes to social media, today’s CEOs have made a remarkable transition over the past five years.

A recent analysis by Weber Shandwick found that 80% of the chief executive officers of the world’s largest 50 companies are engaged online and on social media.

Being social was once considered too risky, because CEOs feared that saying the wrong thing online would ignite a firestorm of antagonists, dissatisfied customers, and disgruntled employees, who could threaten the company’s reputation.

Now, having a digital strategy across multiple channels is the new “must do” to neutralize criticism. It’s become more important to transparently tell the company’s story and join the conversation.

Social media is an important new leadership communications tool that just might improve female representation in the C-Suite as well.  And it has been seen that Women executives are raising their voices through social. Weber Shandwick examined the social media usage of female executives on Fortune’s 2014 Global Most Powerful Women in Business list. It was found that 76% of them are social.  This high rate is in line with that of the top 50 global company CEOs we analyzed.

So, social media presence = power?

It’s clear that having a social presence, no matter how small, puts CEOs in a better position to share their stories and connect with a large audience. Plus, there may be reputational benefits that come with being online.

To avoid being called a dinosaur when it comes to social, here are a few tips from Leslie Gaines-Ross for how CEOs can improve their social engagement:

  1. Listen closely. For those CEOs still hesitant to embrace social media, listening and watching should be the first step. Monitoring the online conversation is a way to gather data on stakeholders and gauge what is being said about their companies.
  2. Choose platforms wisely. For those hesitant to throw themselves out there online, find the right social vehicle. You can start internally or on your corporate website with a short welcoming video on your Careers page. Or you can start with a basic profile on LinkedIn before working your way up to a long-form Influencer post.
  3. Embrace a “media company mindset.” Take hold of the trend in narrating the company story and use the company website or YouTube channel as a media platform to publish thought leadership or content. CEOs should be featured regularly, even if it is footage from a speaking engagement or a snippet from a town hall meeting.
  4. Develop a thick skin. No one likes to hear criticism, but you have to learn to take the good with the bad. As CEO, try not to take it personally and tell yourself that you are in this to listen and learn.
  5. Do it yourself. Outsourcing sociability might save time but employees can sniff out inauthenticity in a nanosecond. You can get assistance but it is always best to be the editor-in-chief.
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