How to become a socially successful CEO

Gina Jones

Monday 26 January 2015

Find out why CEOs are embracing a new culture of social sharing that allows them to become more connected with employees, stakeholders and customers.

The key to long-term success means being able to combine the technological knowledge of digital natives in the workforce with the strategic insight of management. This means CEOs need to embrace a new culture of knowledge sharing that may not adhere to the traditional hierarchical structures, but will ultimately allow them to become more connected with their employees, external stakeholders and customers.

To get the most from social media, it’s essential that business leaders understand the difference between ‘actionable social information’ and social noise. “Actionable social is useful information that can be acted upon to improve business results,” explains Hayes Drumwright, founder and CEO of crowdsourcing and funding website PoPin. “Social noise, on the other hand, involves a vast overload of data that drowns out the underlying message or meaning.”

CEOs need to approach social media as strategically as they would any other area of their business; consider carefully what your goals and ambitions are, what you hope to find out, who you might want to interact with to garner this information and how much time you are willing to invest. Most of all, think through what you will do with this information once you have it. “Leaders need to contain, control and curate social media conversations, rather than hosting social free-for-alls,” advised Drumwright.

Eight habits of successfully social CEOs

1) Listen as well as talk

Even if a CEO is not actively posting on social media, monitoring what is said by customers, investors, competitors, employees and other stakeholders is critical. Spending a few minutes each day reflecting on what’s going on in the wider community is a good way to stay connected with your market and can give early indicators which help your decision-making process within the business.

2) Speak authentically

While the CEO is the most public and powerful face of a brand, social media platforms require a degree of spontaneity. Not all posts can be perfectly prepared, corporate-sounding statements. You also need to be able to react quickly and seize opportunities.

3) Engage in conversations

Social media shouldn’t just be used as a broadcast medium. Those who are most effective in the social space understand the value of a two-way exchange and are regularly asking and answering questions. Industry peers, investors, media and prospective employees should all be on your hit-list of people to engage with regularly.

4) Energise your people

As well as listening to what customers are saying about your brand, social media is a great way to monitor what employees think and keep them engaged. Internal social networks like Yammer and Huddle can also be a great collaboration tool and a place to celebrate successes outside of the usual company meetings.

5) Use a variety of tools

Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can help CEOs keep an ear to the ground, even while they’re on the move. With these you can filter conversations based on keywords like your company or product name, as well as competitor names. When you’re publishing content, having a carefully crafted plan for cross-channel sharing and using something like Buffer to schedule your posts is critical for success.

6) ‘Own’ your brand

Some CEOs leave managing their brand on social media to others, but as CEO you can do more than anyone else to show what your business is all about. Self-authoring CEOs come across as more genuine and are also able to better leverage those online relationships offline for the greater good of the business.

7) Show you care

Social media is a wonderful platform to connect with the wider community and share your commitment to social responsibility. Offer advice, share your latest community initiatives – all of this enhances your brand and contributes to the success of your business in the long term.

8) Continually look forward

Social media moves fast, with new platforms and technologies popping up all the time. If you’re listening to your audience, you’ll soon catch on to what they’re using. Knowing what the trends are and assessing when might be right for you to invest some time and money is worth doing if you want to stay ahead of the competition.

Ultimately, social media at C-level has become the norm, but those who do it best are the ones with a clear intention and strategy behind their activities. Much like networking in real life, social media engagement is about bringing something helpful to the table and also being able to read other people. It’s as much about emotional intelligence as business acumen, and will continue to be a key driver in leading change for the foreseeable future.