Our digital era is in full flow and everything from socialising to selling and building relationships is done from screen to screen. No surprise, then, that there are trust issues when it comes to the corporate world. A lack of true human interaction is perhaps what drives consumers to feel the need for authenticity when they are considering buying a product or service.
It is for this reason that corporations need to get social. We’re not just talking social media advertising or having a profile on LinkedIn. For a company to truly be social, there needs to be a culture shift from top to bottom in terms of strategising, marketing, delivering and hiring.
We know that the buyer journey has changed. As global public trust in top executives is at an all-time low of just 37%, content shared online by employees leads to eight times higher engagement and 25 times more re-shares. According to Forbes, after watching a video on social media, an impressive 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online.
It’s clear, therefore, that there’s a need for increased buy-in of social business at the C-suite level. Currently less than 10% of executive leaders in Asia Pacific are active on social media, despite the fact that companies with active leaders are perceived 23% more positively than those with inactive leaders.
In fact, a social C-suite could to be the solution to several business woes because executive social media engagement results in higher brand recognition, higher levels of employee engagement and performance and, perhaps most importantly, an increase in public trust.
Firstly, it means accepting the disruption and discomfort of our social age. The shifts in technology and methods of communication have dramatically altered the expectations held of business leaders.
Below is an extract from 'The Social CEO: How Social Media Can Make You A Stronger Leader' by Damian Corbet - Tribal leader Sarah Goodall wrote the opening chapter.
Here are the fundamental changes that have led to these new expectations:
Recent findings suggest a social C-suite is an asset. We know that we are working within a trust economy where leadership is no longer synonymous with authenticity. People don’t believe logos. They want a human-led approach.
When it comes to the social executive, the Global Social CEO Survey, from Brandfog, reported that 75% of respondents consider social CEOs to be better leaders. In fact, the entire C-suite will improve their public perception by being active on social media.
And that’s because social businesses are proven to achieve better results in terms of sales, more quickly than those who rely on more traditional methods of customer engagement. In fact, the same report showed that 55% of respondents believe that social CEOs positively influence purchase intent.
This thought leadership and influencer status is where your leadership team should be aiming. To back this up, Brandfog’s statistics show that 70% of respondents say executive engagement on social media leads to brand trust.
According to Hootsuite research (2017) - Nearly 70 per cent of executives still believe it’s risky to participate on social media. Perceived risks centre around compliance, confidentiality and the close inspection of working practices that comes from raising the brand profile.
Fears often grow out of a lack of knowledge so it’s critical to give your C-suite time to get to grips with what a social culture looks like and can achieve. Here are Tribal Impact’s 5 top tips for getting your C-Suite settled with social:
1. Support them with content and start small: Tribal Impact’s Coffee Cup Routine is a great habit-forming ritual which makes social activity feel a natural part of the working day.
2. If they quite simply don’t know how to use social media, something that’s very common at C-suite level, give them the chance to take in just the information they need to know. They only need to focus on the elements their role needs. Again, providing a range of appropriate content can get them over the first hurdle which is often a lack of inspiration.
3. If they are traumatised by transparency, reassure them with a clear set of guidelines. A business should never be social without a policy which sets out boundaries and helps people to make the right decisions when sharing content.
Clear guidelines on when to engage and when to ignore are also important at executive level as they may be asked to comment on a wider issue which may not benefit the brand.
If you operate within a closely governed industry, such as the financial services industry, make sure the relevant additional red tape is covered in your policy e.g. financial promotions.
4. Reassure them that this isn’t meant to be a quick win. Becoming a social business is a huge cultural shift and it needs to happen gradually. As they take small steps towards advocacy and thought leadership, the results will speak for themselves. Make sure relevant performance metrics are captured and presented back regularly.
5. A lack of direction in terms of content can be a massive stumbling block. Without a clear social strategy, you might not see such clarity of results. Understanding your executive's angle and purpose online is key and your leadership team may need some third-party guidance here.
Research shows that, in 2016, only 40% of Fortune 500 CEOs were active on at least one of six major social networks. This report by CEO.com goes on to say that of the Fortune 500 CEOs that were included in the research, 69 were active on more than one channel and just 15 were active on more than two.
It’s clear, then, this is far from a crowded space. Any benefits of social leadership are there for the taking. Emerging social C-suites are pioneers, not followers.
We’ve already discussed the benefits in terms of perception, trust and authenticity and their importance in today’s business world. But there are a host of related benefits too, including:
Tribal leader Sarah Goodall has written the opening chapter for 'The Social CEO: How Social Media Can Make You A Stronger Leader' by Damian Corbet. This book explores why organisations need to do more to succeed in the Social Age and why CEOs need to 'get social' to survive. It covers the hows and whys of utilising social media in order to make them stronger leaders.
So, what makes a social executive? Is there a personality type that works more effectively on social media?
Of course, it’s important for leaders to remain true to themselves when posting content, but here are some of the likely characteristics that natural digital executives might display:
A social leadership program is a structured set of activities to identify, introduce, onboard and support leaders with social transformation. In order to successfully transition your executives to become a social C-suite, you need to keep them comfortable with the concept of sharing more widely.
They need to know the risks of a public profile are understood and have been mitigated. They need to understand that getting this right; becoming a social leader and influencer; needs to be done properly. It needs authenticity. In other words, this isn’t a ‘done for you’ service, the content needs to come from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Your program will be focused around connecting leaders to employees, customers and communities, both regionally and globally. And that’s not just for their content to be shared. A social leadership program will integrate social listening, publishing and other tools which can help them to stay on top of their public profile.
Of course, your social leadership program also needs to be measured. You should use holistic measurement criteria across the whole program, regardless of level or location.
And finally, your social leadership program should share best practice for content and governance.
Once their social profile is up and running, these executives are going to have to find their own way with networking and relationship building. However, they are a time-poor bunch and so there’s nothing wrong in giving them a head-start by creating and launching a social leadership program.
It’s far more convincing to show people something that exists and which they can get on board with immediately, than trying to sell them a concept. In a nutshell, here are Tribal’s reasons to put together a social leadership program:
LinkedIn has seen huge growth over the past few years LinkedIn the platform is the place to be to share ideas, network locally and globally, develop your own brand and benefit from the opportunities it is driving, both personally and professionally.
Optimising your profile is essential to maximise all those benefits - here are our top tips on how you can go about that:
Your background photo appears behind your profile photo. Upload an image that represents you, your role or industry.
Add a professional photo of your face. Fill 60% of the frame with your face and avoid edited photos, busy backgrounds and unrecognisable images
Replace your job title with a keyword optimised statement that summarises what you do, who you help and how you do it.
If you share, engage and/or write content on LinkedIn you will see this box appear.
Expand your headline. Write in the first person and communicate your passion.
Certifications are a great way to showcase your knowledge and professional achievements. Add them here.
Add at least 2 from past or current connections to add credibility.
Update your email to a professional one. Customise your public profile URL to remove the random numbers at the end. If on Twitter, secure a similar URL to your Twitter handle.
Expand on your headline. Write in the first person and communicate your passion for the work you do. Humanise the story of you. Use keywords throughout so you are searchable.
Adding media can embellish your profile and direct your readers to learn more. Include case studies, videos, interviews, articles you’ve been featured in, public presentations you’ve delivered.
Expand on your education. Write about projects you’ve done and remember to include keywords.
Review your skills – remove the ones you don’t want and add the ones you do want. Ask your colleagues to boost your endorsements.
Detail out your awards, languages, professional bodies and publications here.
We offer a service to help get leaders active on social media. Our Expert Social Kick Start Program helps busy experts and leaders create their social footprint, find and connect with influential peers and build their reputation from the ground up, starting with LinkedIn and Twitter profile optimisation.
The program is ideal for leaders who need to build the professional profile quickly and professionally and want to establish their credibility online as an expert. For more information on this service, check out the Social Kick Start page.
A great way of honing your social skills is to find examples of those doing it already. Here’s our top 5 social leaders:
Tech geek; experienced blogger; admits his lack of social skills; made the transition because he values feedback for development purposes and connection with customers.
Most active on Twitter; posts a real mix of fun and serious; personal and business content.
Company leader – inspiring story – passionate about technology and the team around him. Truly puts employees in front of logo.
Regularly posts motivational thoughts; walks the talk by showcasing his leadership style and strength on social media.
Hugely successful Chairman and CEO, credited with guiding Southwest Airlines to become the largest civilian carrier.
Uses Twitter to focus on his employees (nearly every post mentions them along with his bio); authenticity, values and personality comes through strongly in his feed.
Chairman and CEO of American Family Mutual following a career spent entirely in the insurance industry; has presided over much growth, both financially and from a community perspective.
Regularly posts on LinkedIn and Twitter; mix of brand promo and his own passions, sport and good causes; proves that even leaders in heavily regulated industries can be social.
With a history of fundraising roles in the cancer charity space, Kate has worked her way up to CEO from grass roots levels at Teenage Cancer Trust.
Promotes and amplifies the work of her charity. Charities can use social to raise awareness of the causes they represent; highlighting stories that matter most to them to attract volunteers and differentiate themselves from other charities.
In summary, becoming a socially engaged business is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s a ‘must do’. Our digital era is progressing at a rapid rate.
This presents huge opportunity for businesses, but it also opens the door to a much busier playing field.
According to Daniel Priestley in his book, Entrepreneur Revolution, “today’s teenager can sit in their bedroom and have access to more tools for building a global enterprise than Coco-Cola did when they grew internationally.”
This means that even the top businesses need to watch and learn from the changes being made by online collaboration. According to LinkedIn, 75% of B2B buyers use social media to support their purchase decisions.
According to Citrix, 50% of today’s workforce consider themselves to be digital natives and that figure is expected to rise to 75% by 2025. As arbiters of social engagement, these digital natives have expectations in terms of the companies in which they work and the world in which they live.
Any company without a social footprint will risk dropping out of the competitive market. Corporate culture has always been a differentiator for those who work within it. Now, the way you run your company could affect everyone from employees to customers and prospects too.
Learn how a socially active C-suite can increase brand recognition, employee engagement and trust from the public.
This eBook is designed to help you open up the conversation about social leadership and engage your C-suite in social activity