In this age of influencers, social media celebrities, and thought leaders spreading the word on all the platforms and everywhere in between, it can be a challenge to carve out a niche for your business on social media. But the secret to rising above the noise may be closer than you realize: your CEO (a.k.a. your in-house influencer).
In fact, CEO sociability is at an all-time high, and it’s proving more valuable than ever in times of crisis like today’s COVID-19 pandemic. So, whether you’re an executive ready to jumpstart your presence on social media or a marketer looking for ways to build thought leadership in your organization, a social savvy CEO can be a huge asset to any marketing communications program. With the right mindset, smart best practices, and the expertise they already possess, any CEO can shine using social as an effective communications strategy.
The number one benefit for CEOs joining social media is to give your organization a face and strengthen connections between your company’s stakeholders and your leadership. While some brands certainly excel at being personable and approachable online, none of them have the same level of humanity as an actual person. CEOs need to capitalize on that distinct advantage and share more than just business updates and insights.
Yes, you should share company news, interesting articles, press releases, etc., but don’t stick to just the headlines and leave your personality at home. CEO thought leadership on social is about expertise, but it’s also about the unique perspective of the executive — and that’s what will make your content stand out.
And remember to talk with your followers, not at them. Social media is certainly a soapbox at times, but it’s even better as a conversation, so start one. Ask your followers a question or for their opinion on a trending topic. You can do this with a simple post on LinkedIn, a poll on Twitter, a quiz on Instagram stories, or whatever engagement tool these social platforms think of next. Just make sure you act like a human and not a newswire.
Play to Your Strengths
Whether you’re a social CEO or a marketer looking to expand your top exec’s thought leadership online, identifying the platforms and content that will mesh well with your CEO’s personality and the audience you’re trying to reach is key. If there is one skill that all CEOs possess, it’s prioritization. You cannot be all things. The same is true on social media. So use what you have.
That applies to every aspect of social media:
- Pick your strongest platforms: Select the one (or two) that your target audience is most active on and start there. Better to put your full effort into one great social account than three to four mediocre ones.
- Leverage your built-in audience: There’s no need to start from scratch when you don’t have to. Send an email to your employees and contacts sharing your social media channel(s) and ask for a follow.
Give It Time
You will not be an overnight social media influencer. That’s hard for some execs to hear, but it’s true. Building an audience and earning consistent engagement takes time. You can help things along with targeted, paid campaigns, but ultimately it’s going to require you to build trust by regularly sharing content that your followers are genuinely interested in. Be patient, authentic, and diligent and you will find your audience.
Learn From the Best
Countless CEOs and other execs have built incredible communities on social media (and not just on LinkedIn). So, as you reevaluate your own or your CEO’s social strategy on the various platforms, take a page from their profiles (and posts) and learn from them.
Being on LinkedIn is a no-brainer for every business leader, but exceptional CEO social content takes advantage of LinkedIn’s more corporate audience, without losing that human touch. One excellent example of a stellar CEO presence on LinkedIn is Ed Bastian of Delta Air Lines.
This executive’s LinkedIn posts frequently include very personal perspectives, including a heartfelt post on the death of his mother. This kind of authenticity and transparency not only makes Bastian more personable on LinkedIn, it showcases the human side of Delta, giving customers a face, a name, and a person — rather than just a logo and ads.
Next to the professional confines of LinkedIn, Twitter can feel like the fast lane. And with 350,000 tweets per minute and a mere 280 characters to work with, it certainly is a high-speed environment. But that doesn’t mean CEOs need to fire off a tweet every 20 seconds to be successful on the platform.
Take a look at GM’s Mary Barra. Her cadence is consistent, but by no means breakneck. But her tweets are engaging, personable, on brand, and on message. For example, one of Barra’s initiatives with GM is a program to inspire girls to pursue careers in engineering and other STEM areas of focus by regularly discussing this passion project on Twitter, Barra’s content becomes more than GM promotion and extends content to an audience beyond Fortune 500 enthusiasts and motorheads of the world.
For many, Facebook is a very personal platform reserved for connecting with family and friends. So it might surprise you that it’s also one of the best-suited platforms for CEO thought leadership. Exhibit A: The Public Figure page. This allows CEOs and other thought leaders to build out a professional presence (similar to a company page) that’s separate from their personal profile.
We’re big fans of Bill Gates’s public figure page — a collection of human interest stories from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as coverage of many speaking events. What connects all of the posts is a consistent, conversational tone that’s suited to both Bill Gates and Facebook — the perfect thought leadership pair.
Similar to Twitter, Instagram is a place where CEOs can really let their personalities shine. Instagram’s ability to host both picture and video content gives CEOs the freedom to get creative and experiment with different types of visuals (like pictures, podcast audio, videos, graphics, etc).
A CEO whose IG presence we admire? Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX. Blakely has the perfect blend of lifestyle, insightful business leadership, and on-trend meme-ified posts, all while maintaining her bright, colorful, and uplifting aesthetic.
As organizations look for more personal ways to connect with target audiences, the C-suite provides brands an abundance of opportunities to put their best face forward. With the right strategies and plans in place, the social CEO could be your organization’s secret to building more personal connections with your customers.
For more social insights and inspiration for your social media marketing for your CEO and beyond, check out our digital marketing newsletter The Spark.