Not very long ago, social media was low on a CEO’s list of priorities; or it didn’t make the list at all. Even though a strong social presence is becoming increasingly important to business leaders, social CEOs are still a rare breed. According to ceo.com’s 2014 Social CEO Report, 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all. What’s more, of those who do, two thirds use just one platform.
Social CEOs Get In on the Action
For CEOs, social media is an invaluable tool. Especially when it comes to learning what people are saying about the company, what competitors are up to, and what customers are asking for. Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefonica UK, sums this up perfectly, saying: “For me, Twitter is the digital equivalent of walking the shop floor. I’m out there seeing what’s going on and hearing what customers are saying in real time. And as the figurehead of my organization, I get involved. I respond.”
The fact that Dunne identifies himself as the “figurehead” of his company is a key. On social media (as in all other situations) CEOs are their company’s leading brand advocate. It is therefore in their interests to get involved directly with the conversations that are taking place. Again, this is something Dunne highlights: “I believe that any leader should want to be part of the conversation they have accountability for […] to do that, you need to be comfortable with the conversation you get exposed to – the good and the bad.”
Social CEOs Lead by Doing
Social media is breaking down hierarchies and democratizing business. But rather than something CEOs should fear, this is something they should embrace. It allows them to access market intelligence in real time, connect directly with employees across business units, and reinforce relationships with prospects, partners and clients.
Social networks also enable CEOs to develop a collaborative environment in which openness, transparency, and employee empowerment come to the fore. Staying competitive in today’s interconnected business landscape requires creativity and flexibility. Two qualities that require CEOs to lead by example and establish an active, approachable presence on social media.
Social business is a far cry from the command-and-control image with which we often associate CEOs with; it involves transversal collaboration through strategies such as social selling, content marketing and employee advocacy. But you only need to look at highly acclaimed social CEOs such as Richard Branson, Pete Cashmore and Arianna Huffington to see that going social has a tremendously positive impact on a CEO’s personal online image; and, as a consequence, the reputation of the company they lead.