CEO’s are increasingly being drawn into social media conversations. Sometimes unwittingly, when their personal social media impacts their business reputation. More often deliberately, as part of personal brand building or corporate communication.
Back in 2015 the CEO of US tech company Hootsuite shared an Instagram image of his hand holding a festive drink with the caption ‘Cheers to my homies.’ The company had just completed a restructuring and made 65 people redundant. The two were unconnected but in the subsequent social media storm comments included ‘bet that tastes sweet now that the dirty work is done’.
I’m indebted to my friends at Talent in the Cloud for highlighting a few commonsense rules for swimming in the strong currents of the media. They recommend deciding on your social media identity, and fighting the natural inclination to separate your business and personal accounts. Doing so creates more work and may erode your personal credibility, especially when you make a mistake.
The best public personae are human. Sir Richard Branson strives to reply personally and adds personal comments and pictures. Asked how much time he devotes to this he says, ‘I make sure to check in at least a couple of times a day.’
Talent in the Cloud recommends buying a platform that enables you to consolidate what’s happening on all social media accounts. This allows for closer management and make cross-posting much easier.While many of us are juggling Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, we should also consider visual channels like Instagram and You Tube to highlight company events. East African battery and solar company Chloride Exide last year posted staff performing an impromptu song and dance, and received ten times more interest than their previous posts and memes had ever generated. Evidence of team spirit and happy culture resonate well with consumers.
As a CEO, your messaging should point readers and viewers in the right direction. Ideally by posting links to the relevant part of your company website or blog – driving traffic towards your team, who should be briefed and equipped to handle it. Building traffic, interest and potential leads for the business will also help you to rationalise the time you spend being active on social media.
According to Forbes magazine, most Fortune 500 CEO’s don’t use social media. Many say they are too busy, others fear opprobrium, and still more reject the idea that their messaging can be created for them by others. For some leaders, sharing their corporate direction with a broader public seems treasonable. And to be fair, many CEO agendas aren’t interesting enough to share. As with most aspects of CEO life, this is all about control or the loss of it.
But when almost all your customers, partners, staff and competitors are active online, surely avoidance is the wrong strategy. My own recommendation is to practice scarcity. To appear from time to time when you have something interesting to say. And leave the ‘Happy Easter’ and cute kitten memes to the chatterers.
Chris Harrison leads the Brand Inside