Should Your C-Suite Be on Social Media?

In today’s world, most people would be hard pressed to find someone (or even something) who doesn’t have a presence on social media. From tech professionals monitoring industry trends using Twitter to older generations using Facebook to keep up with their grandchildren’s lives, practically every demographic can be found on social media platforms. According to Statista, 81% of the entire U.S. population has a social media profile and 2.5 billion people across the globe are predicted to have a social media presence in 2018. This trend has resulted in companies shifting to social media for new ways to engage with their target audience. But what about executives; should they be engaging on social media platforms?

In short, the answer is a resounding yes.

Social media has become one of the most effective communication tools in this day and age, and these platforms are also becoming an integral part of marketing and engagement with customers. Social media provides companies the ability to exhibit personality and emotion through their content in a way that humanizes their brand. Instead of sharing press releases and quarterly reports, brands can use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat to live-stream events, give a behind-the-scenes look at their office culture, and even share industry insights from different employee’s points of view. With this in mind, a C-suite presence not only does the same thing in the context of company leadership, but also contributes to humanizing their company’s brand as a whole.

Why Should Your C-Suite Should Be Using Social Media?

Putting your C-suite on social media platforms provides your company with the opportunity to bypass traditional media filters and engage directly with your target audience, potential customers and key media contacts. Additionally, the use of these platforms “humanize” your C-suite and help build brand reputation. There are a myriad of other benefits to encouraging your CEO or C-suite member to engage on social media:

Elevate themselves as leading industry experts

To be an effective thought leader or industry expert, executives need a platform to share ideas and collaborate with others. By definition, a thought leader should be leading the way in their professional field, so it’s only fitting that they evolve with today’s communication channels and use them as a platform to share ideas and insight.

Direct engagement with customers

Social media platforms have become a sounding board for consumers to give their two cents about a product or service, whether good or bad. Being engaged on social media not only gives executives a better idea of what their target audience is saying, but it also provides leaders with the opportunity to chime in and let their audience know that their feedback is valuable.

Executives aren’t responsible for responding to everything that mentions their brand on social media, but the occasional “thank you” or “sorry for the inconvenience, please reach out to our customer service team so we can fix this” does wonders to humanize a brand and create effective brand communication. This top-level communication exhibits a leader (and company) that is focused on relationships and in tune with consumer input.

Engaging and building relationships with the media

In our experience with clients at Pinkston, we’ve seen the benefits of social media as it relates to media contacts. Often, journalists and reporters will look to social media as a tool to locate individuals with information and/or insight on a specific topic. Engaging on social media can validate depth of knowledge to a reporter and exhibit a willingness to provide meaningful insight.

Reporters are also flooded with email pitches and calls to sift through daily, so being able to communicate with others on social media (direct messaging on Twitter, for example) can help eliminate the misfortune of getting lost in an email inbox.

Learn from (or teach) others

One of the most effective ways for leaders to learn and grow is to surround themselves with other people who are in similar roles. While the opportunities to sit down in a room with other executives can be few and far between, social media platforms provide this in a virtual format all the time.

Hootsuite and LinkedIn’s recent study cited company leaders who are writing and sharing articles such as Why I Hire People Without Experience and Delegate You Control Freak! Others, such as business mogul Richard Branson, have tweeted insightful videos like My Top Tips for Entrepreneurs.

Content like this is great for consuming as a young professional or someone entering a new industry of work, but as a C-suite executive the opportunity to provide this content is available. Be a resource to others who are looking to develop their own skills, while at the same time building a library of content that is perfect for sharing on social media platforms and increasing engagement.

Address any crisis

While a company is (hopefully) proactive and takes steps to prevent crises from occurring, some things are just inevitable. Even if an unfortunate event is completely out your control, you should always be prepared to handle an issue such as this.

Executives should always engage carefully in times of crisis -- the last thing the company needs is a knee-jerk response from the CEO making matters worse. But having already established social platforms that are integrated with the broader crisis-response strategy puts the company and its executives into a stronger position to communicate directly with key audiences.

Who’s Doing It Right?

Richard Branson

Entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Virgin Group

Platforms of choice: Twitter and Instagram

Sir Richard Branson uses Twitter to share updates on his entrepreneurial efforts, post links to his blog on Virgin, share pictures from his travels and other insights for business leaders. On Instagram, he often posts photos that promote his travels dedicated towards community development around the world.

Takeaway: Sharing personal experiences that aren’t always directly related to work evoke empathy to help connect with your audience. This is one way to humanize an executive as more than just a vertically minded professional.

Gary Shapiro

CEO of Consumer Technology Association

Platforms of choice: LinkedIn and Twitter

As a LinkedIn Influencer, Gary uses the platform to write and share blogs as a thought leader on the intersection of business and technology innovation. On Twitter, Gary shares forward-thinking articles and insight on how U.S. policies can shape the economy and the future of technology.

Takeaway: Determine which platforms best suite the style of an executive’s shared content and hone in on those to engage with an audience.

Mark Suster

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist

Platforms of choice: Snapchat and Medium

Mark is known for periodically hosting “Snapstorms” via his Snapchat profile, where he posts 5-10 minutes worth of quick advice for entrepreneurs, as well as investors. His Snapstorms became so popular that he eventually launched to archive all of his videos. On Medium, Mark’s content is a more in-depth version of his Snapstorms, where he blogs as a thought leader on entrepreneurship and venture capitalism.

Takeaway: When it comes to socially sharing videos, production quality doesn’t matter, but content quality does matter. This is also another way to humanize a brand; the informal and candid nature of video portrays a sense of personalness.

Elon Musk

Founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

Platform of choice: Twitter

Elon might be one of the smartest people of our generation and his Twitter account gives you a taste of what goes on inside his head. He shares his insight on space travel, photos of SpaceX rocket productions, the future of technology, and even his thoughts on alien lifeforms.

Takeaway: Condensing big concepts into more digestible (but insightful) content is a great way to share ideas in a way that will more effectively connect to a target audience.

Steve Case

Co-founder of AOL and venture capitalist

Platform of choice: Facebook

As a key player in the development of the internet, Steve uses Facebook as a platform for sharing his successes and experiences in business. He is also a fan of Facebook videos, using them to promote entrepreneurship in America through interviews, host Q & A sessions, and share insights included in his recent book, The Third Wave. He was even filmed riding in pedicabs at SXSW 2017 as an opportunity to share his knowledge with budding entrepreneurs.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to have a provocative approach to content. This doesn’t mean stating outrageous and potentially harmful claims, but trying new and unique measures to voice messages in a way that brings attention to whatever your cause may be.

With the right social media strategy, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and even Snapchat provide ways to engage with target audiences and develop a brand that is perceived as more than just a company logo. Social media is becoming a key measuring stick for thought leaders, and if utilized effectively, any CEO or other C-suite executive can reap benefits for not only themselves, but also their company.

Hunter McKay is the marketing manager at Pinkston, Inc. Stay updated on all Pinkston content by following us on Twitter (@Pinkston_co).