Most CEOs are still reluctant to use social media. 

The latest Social CEO Report from Domo and CEO.com shows that, while social media use by Fortune 500 CEOs is (slowly) increasing, only a handful use platforms like Twitter regularly.

Why is this the case? Social media would seem to be a fantastic tool for CEOs. If only more of them could see that. It’s not a burden, or a waste of time, or a liability – it’s something that can really add value to their working life. So why are so few CEOs embracing it?

The answer, I think, is perception. Most perceive social as all of the things mentioned above: a burden, a waste of time, a liability. And remember, there are two basic channels of concern for many executives:

To be seen as successful as an executive, you typically need good financial returns.

So … who has time to spend on Twitter, if the bottom-line ROI isn’t there?

That’s the common thinking, I think.

This perception is down to lack of education and exposure to social’s benefits. A bit of education and ‘hands on’ experience could go a long, long way in changing those perceptions.

So, having said all that, what exactly are the benefits of social media for CEOs?

I’ve compiled the list below to highlight what I think are the benefits. You may disagree with some of them, or perhaps you can think of benefits I haven’t included. If so, let me know!  

The bottom line: 77 percent of buyers are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media. (Source: MSLGROUP). Need I say more?

Personalized news feed: With so much noise out there, wouldn’t it be nice for CEOs to have their very own news channel? Social media offers that. You select who you follow, who you listen to, who you ignore. Build Twitter lists of key influencers; join exclusive LinkedIn or WhatsApp groups; subscribe to selected blogs. You control the input – no-one else.

Building a support network: Social media is like networking on steroids, it really is. It allows you to develop an unrivalled global community that is only a click away. I never cease to be amazed just how helpful and quick to respond my own social network is. These people become your friends over time – and friends help each other.

Market intelligence: Social networks like Twitter allow you to keep close tabs on market developments and trends (in real time) and to potentially spot trouble (and opportunities) early.

Personal branding: Social gives you a unique opportunity to get your voice heard in a way that has never before been possible. By becoming a ‘thought leader’ in your field, your own standing improves – and this in turn allows you to build up your own personal ‘brand’ and influence as a leader. Many of the other writers on Open for Business cover the concept of ‘personal branding’ extensively, so poke around this site.

Corporate branding: Companies are no longer in control of the message or how they’re perceived – social networks have seen to that. People are talking about your business whether you like it or not. The CEO can play a powerful role in redressing the balance by being the ‘face’ of the company on social media. To see what I mean, look at the Twitter profiles of CEOs like Peter Aceto and Paul Frampton. They live and breathe their brands – and it’s refreshing to see.

In fact, here’s what Aceto — the CEO of CEO of Tangerine Bank in Canada — once said about social conversations:

“I would rather engage in a Twitter conversation with a single customer than see our company attempt to attract the attention of millions in a coveted Super Bowl commercial.” 

Think about a marketer — who are often taught to worship at ‘The Shrine of Big Numbers’ — saying that. That’s incredible!

Everyone important is on Twitter: Just think about that for a moment. Virtually every industry expert, journalist, editor, academic and politician is on Twitter. It’s where they share their thoughts and impart their knowledge. Follow them and be the first to hear what they have to say. As Dionne Lew describes it, Twitter is the ‘global brain’.

Customer feedback: OK, most CEOs don’t want to handle customer complains – that’s not their job – but just think how useful it could be to know what customers think of your business. Platforms like Twitter allow you to monitor keywords and hashtags related to you company – so you can observe comments (positive and negative) without having to respond in person.

Recruitment: Having a social CEO sends a powerful message to potential employees (especially younger ones) that your business is modern, forward-thinking, open and has a culture of collaboration. To Millennials – this is like a honey pot.

Internal communications: Social media isn’t just about interacting with the outside world – it’s just as important within the organization. Talking to your workforce via an internal social network or CEO blog is a great way to connect with them, listen to them, find out about problems early – and make them feel valued, no matter how large or geographically spread the organisation is. And if employees see you active on external social networks like Twitter, they’ll see you as an open, transparent leader – and be encouraged to be more social themselves.

Eureka moments: These happen all the time, especially on Twitter, where you see – in real time – people’s thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, frustrations and, if you’re really lucky, their Eureka Moments – those flashes of inspiration that they just have to share with their followers. It’s an exhilarating experience and, of course, can be the spark of inspiration for you

Evolution: The printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the Internet, e-mail, mobile phones – social media is just the next stage in this communications evolution. Who knows where it will lead? We don’t know, but it’s a one-way road and the sooner you get on board the better, or you’re in danger of being left behind.

Fun: don’t forget that social media can also be fun. People share anecdotes and stories about their lives that can brighten up your day.

Don’t just take my word for it. Many other people far more eminent than me have been saying the same thing for a long time. People like Dionne Lew and Ted Coiné, to name just two.

But take note – establishing a presence on social media (and I don’t just mean LinkedIn), takes time. Time to find the right people to follow. Time to build up a following. Time to find your voice. Time to see the benefits. So don’t put it off – start now.

I’ll finish with a quote from Stephen Kelly, CEO of The Sage Group, who is further along the social media journey than most leaders. Where did I get the quote? Directly from him, on Twitter: 

“Social is vital to me to engage with customers, partners & colleagues.”

Simple.

About Damian Corbet

With almost 20 years’ experience in B2B PR and communications and, more recently, social media, Damian helps organizations and leaders connect with stakeholders.

He’s especially interested in the impact of social media on the C-Suite. He recently founded The Social C-Suite (http://thesocialcsuite.net/) to help leaders get the most out of social media for personal branding, networking and business intelligence. As well as the website he also manages The Social C-Suite LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook groups and @TheSocialCsuite Twitter account.

Damian was born and raised in Zimbabwe but now lives in London. Follow him on Twitter at @DamianCorbet.

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