Should social media matter to CEOs?

Social media is hugely popular — and not just with teens. It accounts for one in every five minutes spent on the internet; and, more than 60% of the users on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are over 35 years old[1]. Growth in smartphone use is a big part of why social networks are gaining acceptance, along with their entertainment value and expedient delivery of news and information.

Why does this matter to CEOs and senior leaders? Because it means they can no longer afford to dismiss social networks as a tool for strategic communication with customers, investors and other constituencies. Social media delivers today’s audience — like TV once did. And the risks some may associate with engaging on social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and even Instagram will soon be outweighed by the reality that opting-out will lead ‘analog CEOs’ to be marginalized while social-savvy ‘digital business leaders’ gain prominence.

Just ask Tangerine Bank CEO Peter Aceto, who is active on both Twitter and LinkedIn where he keeps his subject matter focused on leadership, innovation and customer service with a smattering of company news and some personal thoughts so people can get to know him. Why? Well for one thing, leaders today are judged on their ability to communicate. This is in part due to the level of transparency that is required of companies, and because people are talking about businesses on social networks whether the brand itself is there or not. So as Mr. Aceto acknowledges, “Why not be included in the conversation?”[2]

How does a CEO get started on social networks and what’s the business goal anyway?

Business goals vary, and are specific to individual circumstances. But let’s imagine you want to create recognition and a certain perception about your company or yourself as a leader. Maybe you’re new to the market. In this case, you can post and share content that will help customers, investors and others see you as progressive, innovative or entrepreneurial.

Maybe everyone knows your company but associates it with one thing in particular (like insurance) and your business plan has you branching out into new markets (like wealth management). Being a socially savvy leader can help. By establishing a presence and a following on Twitter and/or LinkedIn, you put a face on your company which builds trust. People are always interested in what the CEO has to say. Suddenly you have an audience and ability to maintain a dialogue on topics that can strengthen your reputation, broadly communicate your corporate values and expand on your expertise. Properly executed, this will very effectively reinforce your marketing and help with sales.

Through regular contributions and some interaction with others, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in whatever space and on whatever topics you choose. Once you are known and respected, your voice and influence increase exponentially. Is it worth the trouble? Is there business value? Ask GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt, Blackberry’s John Chen or Tangerine Bank’s Peter Aceto. They are just a few of the many senior leaders on social media today who think it is.

Janice Mandel

Principal, Signal Leadership Communication

[1] Source: ComScore US Cross Platform Future in Focus 2016

[2] Source: The Bank Executive They Call ‘The Social Media CEO’, forbes.com, 2013/01/30

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