Building a brand’s digital footprint with the use of social media requires time, energy and insight that may elude many executives. Branded corporate Facebook pages or Pinterest boards are commonplace these days, but many wonder about the executives behind the brands. Do they need a social media presence too?
With so many obligations and responsibilities, you may relegate your personal social presence and profile to the “get to it later” category, believing that it doesn’t make a difference. Think again. In a recent Brandfog CEO and social media study, data confirms that leaders who are active on social media contribute to their overall brand awareness and even build trust, loyalty and purchase intent among consumers — all attributes that can make a dramatic difference to your brand’s digital success.
The importance of corporate leadership having a social media presence is on the rise. In fact, the CEO/social media survey shows that between 2012 and 2013, the perception that C-Suite and executive participation in social media leads to better leadership increased from 45 to 75 percent.
One of the most interesting survey insights centered on the importance of social media in crisis situations, revealing that social media has become modern public relations for executives. Eight of ten of U.S. respondents and 71 percent of U.K. respondents believe that social media has become an essential aspect of PR and communications strategy for C-Suite executives and brands.
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, provides an excellent example of an executive who knows how to use social media. Branson has a blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and is on Twitter, Instagram and Google +. A look at his 20 most recent posts reveals that each post features a photograph and a link back to the Virgin site.
Only one of Branson’s 20 most recent posts was directly related to selling a product — his new book. Six posts were directly or indirectly related to the Virgin brand. For example, one is a photograph of a telegram to a couple recently married on Necker, a resort island Branson owns. Another is a link to a story about how a Virgin Australia passenger went from frequent flyer to Virgin Galactic astronaut. And the others? They run the gamut, including a photo of Branson looking at the ocean, with the quote, “’No ocean; no life. No ocean; no us.’ It’s time to look after the ocean.” Another is a Nelson Mandela quote paired with a photograph of Branson with African children, in celebration of International Youth Day.
Few executives have Branson’s flair or resources. However, reading and watching to learn what works from those who do social media well is a must. Beyond Branson, you might also consider following others to observe a variety of approaches from business leaders excelling at social media. Consider following Jack Welch, Marissa Mayer, Ryan Holmes, Katya Andresen or Guy Kawasaki.
Whether you are already a social exec or just getting started, communicating on social media can be overwhelming. Where should you start or how should you continue to build your social media presence and brand? What content should you share? How much time should you invest and is it time well spent? All are valid questions.
Here are some best practices for the modern executive:
01 BE RELEVANT.
Having your own voice is very important — your personal voice gives credibility to your social media presence. As an executive, and therefore, a figurehead for your brand, posting content that is relevant to your brand is essential.
Relevant content is only half of the story though. What benefit would you get from posting a really insightful article on a platform where you have no followers? None. When beginning your journey with social media, it’s important that you are present on the right channels. For example, B2B executives might make more sense and have a better fit with the LinkedIn community, where B2C leaders get a better response on Facebook or Twitter.
02 BE SUPPORTIVE.
Using your social media presence to communicate information about your company’s core mission and values has the potential to go a long way. In fact, the CEO and social media survey found “that roughly two-thirds of U.K. respondents and nearly three-quarters of U.S. respondents believe that a company whose C-Suite executives and leadership team use social media to communicate about core mission, brand values and purpose is more trustworthy.”
03 BE TIMELY.
While remembering number one on this list, you should try to cash in on trending topics. If you see a relevant, breaking news story, don’t waste any time or you could miss your spot as a frontrunner on the trend.
Replying to and commenting on fan (fan being defined as a person who likes or follows one or more of your social media profiles) posts in a timely manner is also important. After all, it’s our fans who make us socially successful.
04 BE A GOOD LISTENER.
Your audience doesn’t just want to listen to you all day everyday. It’s important to listen to your “friends” and participate in two-way conversations as often as possible.
You don’t want to simply push information out. Instead, focus on optimizing the posts you do create by responding to comments and tagging additional people who would be valuable to the conversation. Remember that it’s a conversation.
05 BE VALUABLE.
You are a leader. So don’t be afraid to choose a side, voice your opinion and take the role as thought leader. Provide value to your brand and fans by sharing your vast amount of knowledge with them. That is exactly how you can become a thought leader and an entertaining social media presence.
Social media is a balance between creating your own content — opinions, photographs, observations, etc. and sharing relevant information from other thought leaders and responding/engaging with your fans. A good rule of thumb is that 80 percent of your content should serve the reader and 20 percent should serve you and your brand.
06 BE ENCOURAGING.
Send out positive feedback to your employees and don’t forget to tag them. You can tag your “friends” on Facebook by simply typing in their name. Facebook will do the rest. On Twitter, simply include their @username.
This is a great way to get your employees engaged and potentially create some effective brand ambassadors — not to mention the potential positive effect it could have on productivity.
07 BE CONNECTED.
Social media is all about connections. Take advantage and connect with peers, influencers, colleagues, mentors and anyone else who can provide value to you and your brand.
08 BE CONSIDERATE.
Do not under any circumstance spam. Social media spam usually refers to bulk messages and/or comments or other unsolicited links or comments.
09 BE AUTHENTIC.
While you need to keep your brand and business goals in mind, it’s still important to be you. You are human and authentic and real. Don’t just regurgitate company posts. Use your voice.
10 BE OBSERVANT.
Learn from your posts. Pay attention to what resonates and what doesn’t. Study your past posts to evaluate what people responded to and ask yourself what made these posts more successful. No one expects you to hit it out of the park every time, but you should learn why some posts did well and some didn’t.
11 BE AWARE.
You should also be aware of the risks associated with hot button topics. You will need to decide if the risks are worth the rewards. If you can’t decide, talk to a colleague. If they are wavering on the issue, steering clear of the subject is probably a good idea. In fact, if you’re contemplating if a topic or comment is a good idea, it probably isn’t.
12 BE FUN.
Ultimately, social media is a place to have fun and be entertained. So cut loose a little and have some fun with your fans — they’ll thank you for it.
At the end of the day, you are a very busy person and might not have the time to put these best practices to use. What then? If you don’t have the adequate time to build and satisfy a following on social media, consider investing in a social content planning tool that would allow you to schedule your posts in advance. The other option is to find a person who understands your voice and could assist you with the task. Regardless of the path you choose, find the platform that makes the most sense for you and your business and diligently listen for several weeks to understand how the platform works. You’ll learn a lot from following thought leaders.