The CEO social media challenge

Four tips on helping a CEO achieve social media success

May 2, 2014

On the surface, social media seems a simple idea. It offers two-way conversations for companies – with both employees and customers – providing a rich avenue of feedback for organisations to help shape products or services.

Of course, reality is not straight-forward. Social can be tricky even with a solid strategy in place.

With so much attention focused on social networking sites, it is inevitable that CEOs will question whether they should get involved. But should they? And what are the pitfalls?

And that, ladies and gentleman, is a conundrum that comms professionals are facing up and down the country.

With the value of employee engagement becoming headline news, effective communication is seeping onto the radar’s of grand fromages throughout the UK – particularly with the creation of think-tank Engage For Success.

Naturally, the instinctive reaction to is to do a little jig of delight and begin planning Yammer Q&As or Twitter profiles to address the masses.

But hold those horses a moment. Of course, getting your CEO on board with communication is a huge step in the right direction – a win before we’ve even started.

However is social always the right platform for a CEO to use to communicate?

Management expert Steve Tappin insists senior leadership needs to have the “vision and values to create a business fit for the 21st Century”.

He told BBC News: “CEOs need to be able to inspire and share their values with people throughout their organisation.”

But the generational gulf between those who occupy our boardrooms and their inevitably tech-savvy audience can easily be highlighted on the social landscape.

While some leading business individuals have had notable success – think Richard Branson on LinkedIn – others have found it challenging.

Here some tips we think are vital if your CEO is to become a social success story:

* Awareness. If their social postings aren’t talking in the same language as the audience, it won’t make any sort of connection. Understanding the audience is obviously easier when talking to an internal audience with demographics at your fingertips. Keep postings straight-forward and consistency, both in tone and timings.

* Personality. A CEO should never pretend to be someone they’re not. Social is all about personality. They need be themselves – not a character to entertain or cause controversy. It pays dividends in the long run.

* Ownership. Don’t ever post tweets/Facebook/Yammer for your CEO – unless the situation is dire. By all means provide close guidance in the early stages, but ensure they always participate too. They need to learn to use social, enhancing their understanding of the platforms and, in turns, its benefits.

* Policy. Sit down with your CEO and agree a structured way of approaching social postings – and stick to it. Consistency helps build a rapport with an audience.