7 Rules for the Social CEO

Posted in: Brand Reputation, Social PR, Storytelling, Twitter

On: February 13, 2014

Many traditional CEOs find social media to be a scary place.

Anyone can, and usually will, contact you. Sometimes you get praise, and sometimes you get grief for the real or perceived failings of your company or products. It’s the Wild West and very difficult to lock down and control. There are countless stories of social media mishaps made by big organizations run by smart people.

It can be pretty overwhelming. No wonder many CEOs and other organizational leaders stay away.

Not every CEO should engage in social media. It may just not be needed for the business, or it may not work for their personality. That’s ok.

But for some, maybe even most, there are tangible business benefits to getting into the social media scene and doing it well.

Social media can help define a leader’s “personal brand.” That’s important. Large organizations are increasingly defined by the leader’s personality and persona. Social media creates a stage to define that brand. Twitter is often the network of choice for CEOs.

Some CEOs, like Tesla’s Elon Musk or Virgin’s Richard Branson use Twitter brilliantly. Bill Gates uses social media effectively for his advocacy on global issues, even doing a lauded “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit.

Here in the Maritimes, Dr. Richard Florizone, the new president of Dalhousie University, has embraced Twitter in his role. And Susan Holt, who heads up the New Brunswick Business Council, continues to make Twitter an important part of her communications mix.

So if you’ve got the big corner office, you carry the weight of your organization’s brand in large part on your shoulders. If you are in the social fray, or thinking about entering, keep these rules in mind:

1)   Have something substantive to say – offering only empty platitudes, marketing-talk or other peoples’ quotes (or even worse, press release links) is a waste of your energy.

2)   Listen – pay attention to what’s being said about you and your organization. There are plenty of tools available to monitor and measure your place in online conversations. Your team should already be doing this.

3)   Respond – based on the size of your organization, it may be impossible to respond to everyone who reaches out to you – regardless of whether they are fans or haters. But when you can, take a moment to respond to both kinds of comments. It shows that you are listening and that you care. You’ll want to avoid prolonged debates with the Trolls though – there’s no winning there.

4)   Talk like a Human – avoid jargon and show you have a personality – you’re not a CEObot, you’re a human being. Celebrate your employees and customers, comment on your industry or what’s happening in the world. You can even share the obligatory Internet cat videos if that works for you.

5)   Be quick – social media works at lightening speed. You can’t bog down in process like some organizations. The good news – you’re the CEO. No one needs to approve your Tweets or posts.

6)   Be consistent – as a CEO you don’t have time to spend all day Tweeting away. But try to be consistent. Make it part of your daily routine. Or have someone on your team flag opportunities for you to engage in a meaningful way.

7)   Be aligned with your business – make sure you understand what is happening in your company’s overall digital strategy. You want to know what campaigns or content is in the market and support that, not trip over it.

By now everyone recognizes that social media is not a fad. It is only becoming more entrenched in the way we live and conduct business. CEOs and other organizational leaders can achieve real competitive advantages by using it the right way. What’s holding you back?

One response to “7 Rules for the Social CEO”

  1. Susan Holt says:

    Thanks for the shout out Allan. I’m open to any tips you have on how to improve my tweeting!

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