Three reasons your CEO should lead a company’s social media program

By Jim Stiliadis

Thought leaders on social media have traditionally comprised of tech boffins, marketing agency folk and the early adopter crowd. Among the c-suite, take-up of social media has been painfully slow, with only 39 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs having a social media profile, and even less in the ASX200.

With some of the highest social media adoption rates in the world, why haven’t more ASX200 senior executives embraced the opportunity to connect with customers, stakeholders, investors and employees through social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook?

Stalwarts like ex-ANZ CEO Mike Smith, who two years ago wrote about his ‘light bulb’ moment in social media belief, was, at the time, Australia’s best practice example of a social CEO. Through numerous trips to Silicon Valley he witnessed the rapid pace of digital disruption; seeing the democratisation of customer influence through social channels.

He became Australia’s first LinkedIn Influencer, an invitation-only program reserved for less than 1000 of the world’s foremost thinkers, leaders, and innovators. He’s left a legacy of a social-enabled employee culture at ANZ, citing customer and employee engagement as key benefits:

 

With social media the opportunity is to have a more direct, deeper and authentic relationship with our most important audiences including customers, staff, investors and other stakeholders. Ultimately that’s a prize that’s worth having in terms of customer satisfaction, corporate reputation, attracting and retaining talent, gaining market share and reducing the cost of doing business.

 

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With social media the opportunity is to have a more direct, deeper and authentic relationship with our most important audiences including customers, staff, investors and other stakeholders. Ultimately that’s a prize that’s worth having in terms of customer satisfaction, corporate reputation, attracting and retaining talent, gaining market share and reducing the cost of doing business.

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This is where we start to capture the true value of social media, beyond niceties and novelty.

At Six O’Clock, we specialise in working with organisations and executives to protect and enhance brand reputation in times of adversity as well as in periods of strength and growth. A socially enabled CEO galvanises trust, credibility and consumer goodwill; providing an authentic distribution channel for mission-critical organisational communications.

This is important not only when crises hit, but it also has flow-on effects for other critical business functions such as internal communications, marketing, communications, investor relations, talent attraction, and so on. If you’re trying to mobilise a time-sensitive, first-to-market communications strategy, who better to capture that excitement than a CEO who is actively engaged and tapped into ‘real-life’ consumer and employee sentiment?

Cast an eye over the Twitter accounts of Australian leaders like ex-Telstra CEO David Thodey, current CEO Andrew Penn, or in the US, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple’s Tim Cook and Virgin’s Richard Branson, and you’ll see best practice examples of a CEO leading and defining social media engagement for their organisations.

Here are three organisational benefits of having a socially-enabled CEO

1. It protects and enhances corporate reputation Establishing your CEO as an authentic, credible spokesperson is important for all communications, not just for social media. A CEO that listens, provides leadership and engages in intelligent conversation in social media is one of the most powerful assets your organisation can possess. It can build a bank of goodwill and respect by providing considered commentary during the bad times and the good. There is no stronger example than Telstra’s CEO Andrew Penn, who used Twitter to listen and speak to customers directly during a recent outage, addressing their frustration personally and transparently.

2. It helps you get closer to your customers

It can be uncomfortable listening to what people think about you, but social media provides a real-time platform to understand public opinion of your business, your brand, your customer service and your products. You won’t find many organisations without the term ‘customer experience’ scattered throughout the corporate strategy. Social media provides direct insight into customer experience. There’s perhaps never been a better vehicle for understanding customer experience than through social media. The world’s leading social organisations are those who listen, analyse and act on social media feedback. From Nike to Barilla, social listening provides instant feedback on what people, think, do and feel.

3. It stimulates employee advocacy, positive culture and helps attract the best and brightest

You’re looking for a new job. When researching the two companies you’re interviewing with, you see that Company A has an active social CEO, regularly articulating the company vision, their passions, current projects and significant issues.  At Company B, their CEO isn’t on social media, and digital content is scarce. Which one gives you a better sense of the culture of the organisation?

A social CEO gives the company a personality, a spokesperson and a leader that employees can connect with. Embracing social as an internal communications tool can create employee advocacy, and enhance brand and employer reputation. This involves planning, training and a step-change, but it’s worth it. Great companies are those who use the power of their employee networks to protect and promote the brand.

Social media usage will only continue to grow with a younger demographic entering the workforce and millennials projected to make up 50 per cent of the Australian workforce in five years; 75 per cent by 2025. 

Not sure where to start? An 0ff-the-shelf digital makeover program helps executives and CEOs navigate social media with ease. Drop us a line or give us a call if you’d like to know more.

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