Professor David Dubois said it well when discussing the need for social media among leaders. “Traditionally, leaders’ ability to influence has been based on the extent to which they harness their power and strength. Authority and the ability to guide others through hardship have historically been central to the growth of leaders,” he said. “The advent of social media has driven this change in social dynamics and new research shows that the most influential CEOs today are social leaders, open to listening, engaging in dialogue with stakeholders and responsive to their followers.”
Across all industries, the need for transparency is becoming increasingly important, especially in today’s digital world. In fact, 86% of Americans stated in a recent study that business transparency is “more important than ever before.” In response to this rising expectation, not only should organizations be active on social media, but so should their leaders.
Unfortunately, according to the Connected Leadership Survey, only 48% of S&P 500 and FTSE 350 CEOs have social media accounts. Meanwhile, the benefits are huge. Socializing content can build stronger brand awareness, increase trust and loyalty, position executives as industry thought leaders, manage their reputations, and communicate important information quicker and in the ways in which consumers expect to receive it.
Getting started can be overwhelming, especially for those not already on social media in their personal lives, but it doesn’t have to be.
1. Have a plan.
First, a CEO needs a social media plan that determines the goals of actively participating on social media, which sites to participate on, and the brand and image they want to project. For instance, if you’re a CEO of a consumer brand that targets a younger audience, consider participating on sites like Twitter and Instagram over LinkedIn, which is more of a business-to-business site. You may also consider a friendlier, energetic and trendier look and feel versus a traditional corporate headshot.
2. Create social media sites.
Once social media channels have been selected and a brand determined, you must then create the actual accounts. The time needed will vary based on the channels selected. Most are simple and can be done solo, but some organizations may prefer to hire a creative firm. Twitter, for instance, is easy to set up, requiring your name, Twitter handle, background picture, location, website URL and birthday (though optional), as well as a brief overview of yourself.
The design elements should be consistent with the desired brand and may require a photographer or custom work, but CEOs can also opt for royalty-free images from sites like Shutterstock.
3. Connect with target audiences.
Next, you must establish a following. But you should not use bots or spammy tactics that typically only yield fake accounts rather than actual people! Instead, focus on growing a following organically, which may take some time.
First, follow individuals who you want to become your followers. Often, follows are reciprocated. Second, post content regularly. And not just any content. It must be valuable, meaningful content, which brings us to our next step.
4. Create and share meaningful content.
To grow and retain a following, you must create and post relevant content that your audience finds helpful. Keep in mind that consumers do not want to be sold to; therefore, posting anything that could be viewed as pure advertising will likely be a turnoff. The most influential and liked social CEOs do not sell. Instead, they solicit ideas and share educational content that engages. Think Elon Musk or Richard Branson.
Additionally, I encourage sharing or reposting content from others that your audience may find helpful, which will cut down on time spent creating content. Also, leverage hashtags.
5. Engage and participate (consistently).
Social media is not a one-and-done tactic — CEOs must stay active. In fact, I’ve seen estimates that suggest the sweet spot for Twitter is 15 posts per day for greater engagement. But whether it’s three times or 50 times, a frequency must be set and maintained. You don’t want to run out of the gate, posting several times a day for a few weeks, and then drop off or go dormant. To avoid this pitfall, establishing a social media calendar can be helpful.
How can leaders know if the Twitter frequency is working to build strong engagement? Twitter has built-in analytics to help individuals and organizations determine what’s working and what’s not.
In a world that revolves heavily around social media (even our political system), CEOs can no longer ignore it. Not only is there an expectation to be active participants, but there is value in doing so. Some of the most influential and well-liked executives have become social media gurus, and CEOs across all brands would be wise to follow suit or else risk being left behind in their antiquated ways.