A social approach to leadership is no longer a nice to have. It’s an essential differentiator and reputational must. As a busy leader there’s a temptation to sweep social media off as another fad. A time-consuming task to add to an ever-increasing to-do list. It’s often considered important but not urgent and therefore mistakes are made.
When leaders understand the benefit of managing their digital footprint, they soon realise it’s a behaviour change rather than a tick box habit. According to research, Social CEOs:
Strengthen company reputation: According to a CEO survey by BrandFog, 93% of respondents agree that CEOs who actively participate in social media can build better connections with customers, employees, and investors. More than that, 85% agreed that having a socially active C- Suite leadership team can mitigate risk before a brand reputation crisis occurs.
Deepen trust with their buyers: 80% of consumers are more likely to trust a company with a CEO who engages in social media (TheSocialCEO.org)
Engage their employees: 78% of employees prefer to work for a CEO who engages in social media (TheSocialCEO.org)
Attract talent to the organisation: Millennial executives are 71% more likely than Boomer executives to say that the CEO’s digital reputation influenced his or her decision to accept their job. (Weber Shandwick)
However, despite all the upsides most c-level executives remain absent from social channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Of those that are present on social media, they rarely engage.
According to Weber Shandwick of those who were found to have a profile on social media, only a portion are posting and engaging. Fewer than four in 10 public company CEOs and private company CEOs have posted on any of their platforms within the past 12 months (38% each) and are even less likely to have engaged online, i.e., interacted with others (22% vs. 34%, respectively)
So, what mistakes should CEOs avoid when building their digital profile online? We’re going to outline them here along with some ways to avoid them.
Don’t Leave It To Chance
The first, and most obvious, mistake to make is doing nothing. When CEO’s aren’t actively managing their digital brand, they’re leaving it to chance. Worst case, someone else may start building their own brand around their name making it even difficult to own their digital footprint.
How to avoid: Leaders need to own their digital identity across all platforms. Chances are, their name is already taken however, by using sites like NameCheck.com, leaders can quickly see which social platforms and domains are available. Keep playing around their name (using middle initials, keywords etc) until you find one that’s available on all platforms. For example
Don’t Be Everywhere
Trying to be everywhere is one of the biggest mistake’s a leader can make. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Instagram and Weibo. It starts with good intentions but managing social channels can easily take up at least 3 hours per week per channel if you want to post and engage regularly.
Be where your target audience is hanging out and prioritise your time accordingly.
How to avoid: For many, this is the hardest step. They don’t know which channels to select, how to build a content strategy and they don’t have time to learn how to publish posts effectively.
Pick your channels wisely – go where the conversation is. Do you want to engage with employees? Consider Twitter. Want to engage with customers? Consider LinkedIn. Want to attract the next generation of talent to your business? Consider Instagram.
Source: Sprout Social 2019
As a business platform, most of our customers prioritise LinkedIn as the first platform of choice because they want to engage with customers and prospects. Then business leaders may move Twitter to establish influence and thought leadership. I would also suggest leaders consider more visual platforms like Instagram – a great way to showcase the culture of their organisation.
Don’t Be Inconsistent
Inactivity it quite possibly worse than invisibility. Followers will expect activity. They want to know leaders are accessible, human and engaging. The moment channels go dark and fall dormant is the moment that followers disengage. They turn away and stop listening.
In fact, according to research BuzzStream and Fractl from over 15% said they would unfollow on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter if it posted more than six times a day. Over 20% of respondents said that they would unfollow a brand on both Facebook and Twitter if they believed the content was boring or repetitive.
It’s hard to win back the attention of an audience that’s tuned out so try to avoid this. Don’t disappoint.
How to avoid: During our Social Kick Starts we always get asked “how many times should I publish to LinkedIn each week” to which my response is “how many times do you feel you can comfortably commit to publishing each week?”
It’s way more important to be consistent. Build a content schedule so you know what you plan to post and when. Avoid over delivering in the first week and forgetting about it for the following 3 weeks. If you have never shared content before on LinkedIn, try starting with once every 2 weeks and see how you go.
Optimal posting for LinkedIn is twice a day because 2 posts will reach approximately 60% of your audience. Anymore than that you run the risk of becoming a nuisance and people will start unfollowing you – worst case, disconnect from you.
Don’t Overly Promote Your Business
Product focused posting isn’t what social media is about. According to a BuzzStream survey, 45% said that they would unfollow on social media because of too much self-promotion. Talking about the brand, products or services offers little value to followers so don’t do it – no matter how tempting it is.
How to avoid: CEOs need to consider their objectives on social media. Employees will want to follow their journey, gain insight into their values and beliefs. Customers will want to hear about the business direction and strategy. Investors will want to see leaders in tune with industry trends.
Leaders at this level will need to learn how to tell stories. Creating thought leadership content will be important. However, visual and video content will be essential for building trust with followers. People want to see authenticity and transparency. This isn’t always easy but with practice, it becomes natural.
Don’t Ignore Engagement
Finally, engagement is the golden rule when it comes to social media. There’s nothing worse than an employee or customer taking the time to comment on an executive LinkedIn post or tweet only for it to be ignored.
One thing is ignoring engagement, another is being brave enough to ask for it. Engaging isn’t just about interacting with those who engage with you (e.g. like, comment or retweet your social posts). Some CEOs go further, such as Joel Gascoigne from Buffer below. He invites engagement and wants to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you're a Buffer customer, what would you most like to see us add or improve in the product?— Joel Gascoigne (@joelgascoigne) December 16, 2017
How to avoid: Engagement makes an executive accessible and transparent. It also gives them the power to hear, first-hand, how they can improve their business.
It will be impossible to engage with every interaction on social media. Executives are often overwhelmed with engagement because of their position but interacting with some will go a long way to building loyalty and trust with followers.
The easiest way to make sure CEOs are engaging correctly is to check Notifications on their social platforms. This highlights when they’ve been mentioned or if someone has commented on their content (amongst other notifications).
However, more advanced users may setup Google Alert or Talkwalker Alert using their name so that every time an article or news story mentions them, they are notified.
Here’s an example search string I use:
“Sarah Goodall” AND “Tribal Impact” AND (“employee advocacy” OR “social selling” OR “social business”
Leaders who are active on social media embed their behaviour into their daily habits. They’re likely active on their phone, engaging and sharing when they get a spare few minutes.
But they don’t live on social media. They’re just smart with their activity and use tools to optimise their time. Our coffee cup routine is a great place for CEOs and leaders starting out on the social media journey.
Remember the key mistakes to avoid:
For additional reading on using social media as a CEO, check out the book that Sarah recently co-Authored: The Social CEO: How Social Media Can Make You A Stronger Leader.