First, social media isn’t a passing fad. The primary reason a CEO has to be social is because that is where their key contacts are already interacting profitably; the shareholder who asks questions at the AGM; the banker who extends you credit; customers; government ministers; bloggers; journalists. Even if a CEO is not yet interacting, they need to spend enough time online to at least to listen in and understand this critical shift in the business world.
The first step is getting a CEO to fully appreciate the value of the information shared on social networks. If you get her to start following the right people and start incorporating time to read her feed for at least 15 minutes a day, she’ll start to find information that’s relevant and helpful. Over time, social networks will become a trusted news source.
Second, leaders need to be visible. It’s fine to be seen walking the shop floor, open plan office or at business and social events but social media is a very effective way of listening, spotting trends and being seen and heard. Take an example: the CEO of a technology company tweeted about a product feature that she liked. Two weeks later, in a meeting with engineering, she was shown a product with that particular feature already built-in. They never had a meeting to discuss it: she never sent a memo. The sub-contractor took the cue from Twitter and worked out how to rapidly incorporate the feature.
Third, personal branding. Social capital is a concept of how value is built up online, particularly by those who have influence. A CEO’s social capital precedes them to conferences, key speeches and meetings. People can see clearly who they are, what they stand for, when they intervene and comment.
Fourth, adding value. Consider the results of a recent BRANDfog survey in July 2012: employees feel that companies with CEOs who use social media are much better positioned for success. As well as enhancing the brand, employees believe that “social” CEOs help the company on almost every front including recruitment, trustworthiness, stock valuation and sales.
Finally, authority. Barak Obama has total command of social media: he has won two elections with its help. He has a team to manage it for him and they rang rings around Mit Romney. Obama doesn’t do all his social media posts or responses but he is accessible 24/7 to his social media team and he gives personal responses whenever he can. During the recent Presidential election campaign, he held a groundbreaking live social media interview on Reddit, with no editing from his team. He addressed concerns of citizens during the Hurricane Sandy clear-up on…social media. It was a factor that helped him win his second term.
CEOs have onerous duties and can affect their share price, if they are a quoted company. Good CEOs delegate enough to give themselves space for thinking time and social media is a constant stream of information that can help their intelligence, visibility and decision-making.