“Some CEOs say they’re too busy for social media. I say it’s part of the job.” Jack Salzwedel – CEO of American Family Mutual Insurance Company
Salzwadel’s advice seems to be falling on deaf ears if a Domo and CEO.com study is to be believed. The report, published earlier this year, found that fully 61% of CEOs of the Fortune 500 had no presence on any social channel and the usage of social media by even the other 39% is underwhelming. No one is saying this is a good thing, though, and digging deeper into the “why” of such low CEO participation reveals that many of the reasons are internal to them rather than business-driven. Apart from a belief that social media is a young person’s game and a fear of repercussions from sharing something inappropriate, among the chief causes cited by CEOs was a lack of understanding of what to do on social platforms. At Midas Touch, we work with a bunch of B2B clients. As we go about getting their company on the social media wagon, the question of how the CEOs in these companies should use social channels often comes up. Let me use this post to share the recommendations we usually end up giving.
First some caveats. In keeping with the “practical” nature of this guide – this is a “nuts and bolts” set of suggestions intended for CEOs of mid-sized companies looking to leverage social media to help their business get ahead. We are not really addressing loftier goals like branding or creating thought leadership. Using social media for personal branding is also a story that will have to wait for another day.
A TrackMaven analysis of content shared by B2B brands across the leading social media networks over a 12-month period starting mid-2015, revealed that across several measures LinkedIn was the most popular and effective platform. That’s reason enough to have it front-and-center in our plans too. Here’s what the time-strapped CEO should do on LinkedIn.
- Networking really is LinkedIn’s primary raison d’être. As soon as the, hero of our blog, CEO connects (meet, emeet etc.) with a customer, prospect or influencer, we recommend connecting on LinkedIn as well. As a matter of practice, the connect should occur very soon after the meeting so the interaction is still fresh in their minds. This also means that the LinkedIn profile of the CEO should be complete, with a professional head-shot and the relevant amount of information about the organization they represent.
- This CEO should post occasional, but regular LinkedIn status updates from their profiles. Except to share significant news, preferably the updates should be to about the industry at large rather than about their own company. This is to get into the eye line of a wider audience, positioned as someone with an interest in and a contribution to make to the space.
- Our, now emerging from social exile, CEO should follow the company’s LinkedIn company page and like and share the content being posted there, especially if it leads back to the company website. This will help the visibility of the posts.
- Keeping in mind that the CEO, who is the subject of our post, is time-strapped, having a regular blog may remain an ambition only. That being the case, blogs from the company blog absolutely can be posted from the personal profile of the CEO (with attribution). The topic of the blog, their tone and message and even the frequency of posting has to fit in with the overall positioning and network of the CEO. This helps to showcase the thought leadership of the company.
Last year Social Media Today reported that B2B Marketers who used Twitter generated twice as many leads as compared to those who didn’t. Most B2B Marketers rate Twitter as the 2nd most effective social platform behind LinkedIn. Here’s how the CEO can work Twitter like a (near) pro.
- Well, of course, create a Twitter handle and tweet regularly. Yeah – we already agreed that the CEO doesn’t have a lot of time so this does not have to be a flood of tweets daily. Let’s start with a measured, steady, sustainable pace. Remember, the tweets cannot all be promotional. We suggest a mix of personal thoughts that relate to the business, company news and content and also relevant content from the industry at large. People will follow the CEO if they see the twitter channel as a worthy source of informative content.
- Something that should please the sales team – this is also a good way to connect with senior prospects, customers, and decision makers directly. I’m fond of saying that if you start a tweet with @BillGates, it will reach the man – he won’t react to it in all probability but really which channel gives you that kind of direct access? With such great power comes great responsibility, though – these connections are not to be milked too blatantly, be slow, be sure and don’t be salesy.
- This is also a great place for our, now socially-savvy, CEO to listen. The aim is to participate in ongoing conversations by searching for #s (sorry – I should explain that is this an easy way for those in the know to identify tweets across the Twitterverse that refer to a particular topic) that are relevant. This gives great insights into what others have to say about the area you work in, or even what customers, prospects, and competitors consider important at the time.
- Now that our CEO has become quite the social media pro let’s up the ante. Next on the agenda – live tweeting. Think of the many events and occasions CEOs attend. This is the time to make the handle more active – live tweeting the occasional relevant impression from the event floor is a great way to contribute to a larger conversation and gain some visibility for your own and your company’s point of view.
I think our CEO is now ready for the social world – right? In closing a word of advice. Not from me, but from Marketing and Customer Service thought-leader Jay Baer. He said, “Focus on how to be social, not how to do social.” That’s sound advice for all CEO’s looking to dive into social media.