Driving Forward > Digital Marketing Blog

A Managed Approach to Using Twitter to Create a “Social CEO”

Several months ago I explored a topic facing the C-Suite of many Fortune 500 organizations as it applies to Twitter – the challenge of creating and establishing a direct and active presence on the channel for the CEO.

In this post I stated that while social media has been a core part of the marketing landscape for several years now, one key group within Fortune 500 organizationsthat has been slow to adopt it is the C-Suite. While this group comprises the core of a company’s leadership, when it comes to social media many members have opted to sit on the sidelines rather than actively participate in the conversation. This observation was further supported by the 2013 CEO.com Social CEO Report, which stated that just 5.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are now on Twitter.

Furthermore within this post I outlined the importance of understanding the risks and rewards of your CEO being on Twitter in terms of evaluating the opportunity and providing context for how to proceed. While I do feel this post did provide some good context for how to evaluate the opportunity, I also made a point to highlight that while the social numbers for Fortune 500 CEO’s may currently be small, its no longer a matter of “if” they will be on Twitter, but “when”.

So, what happens “when” the time comes? What should you do?

While I’m sure that there are many ways that have been considered, I believe that if you are going to be successful, it’s key to take a “managed approach”. As many CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are likely new to social media, and Twitter in particular, just letting them loose on the platform is a mistake in my opinion. Rather, I would recommend a phased approach, in which each step must be successfully managed and completed in order for the CEO to graduate to the next level and ultimately establishing their own handle. In doing this, not only will you be able to assess the impact of your CEO having a presence on Twitter, it will ensure that they are able to successfully navigate and manage the platform as both a person, and your CEO.

  • Step 1: Start with the existing corporate handle
    • Let the CEO contribute tweets to the current content stream
      • Get the CEO involved in the conversation, but don’t have them be the focus
    • Let people know that the tweets the CEO contributes are directly from them
      • Many organizations, such as the Obama campaign, https://twitter.com/BarackObama , will designate a particular signature, -bo in the case of Obama, to showcase that the tweet is from someone in particular
    • Monitor the reaction and sentiment that their tweets receive
      • This enables you to see how the social sphere reacts to the CEO’s participation
    • Consider having them focus on “non-product” topics, showcase their “human” side
      • CSR Initiatives
      • Employee initiatives
      • Company awards and acknowledgement
  • Step 2: The CEO Takes Over Twitter for a Day
    • This puts the CEO out in front of the channel, but within a defined time-frame and in an environment that can be tightly controlled
    • This strategy will enable your CEO to “test the waters”, but as the face of your brand’s Twitter presence
      • Will enable them to see what is out there and what might await them
      • As we were able to see with Vangaurd, this will prepare them for the fact that they will encounter folks who support them, as well as naysayers.
    • This also provides the your organization with a “Social Event” that can be promoted before, during and after
      • Promoting the “event” is key, as it will ensure that users are aware and can participate
      • In the case of Vangaurd, they did pre and post videos with Bill McNabb which helped to provide some context
  • Step 3: The CEO gets their own handle
    • The key here is that they need to “stay active”
      • Too many people approach Twitter with great enthusiasm, only to tweet for a month and then abandon the channel
      • Staying active is critical if they are going to truly reap the all the “pro’s” noted earlier in this post
    • Have them focus on key topical areas
      • Provide your CEO with guidance about what to a tweet about, and very importantly, what not to tweet about
        • Focus on CSR
        • Focus on acknowledging employees
        • Wishing people “Happy…..”
        • Do not talk about politics/policy or truly personal beliefs such as religion
    • Encourage them to use their handle as a tool to monitor the conversation
      • Connect with key thought leaders
      • Monitor topical hash tags

As for the amount of time you should allow for each step prior to the CEO getting an individual handle, I will say that I don’t have a definitive answer. I think the key here is to assess how effectively they navigate the each phase of the process and the nature of the social climate that they have not entered into. Hence, you want to make sure that what they are doing is beneficial to the organization and that your CEO is ready to move ahead. Therefore, I feel that it’s key that you look at the associated time-frame within the context of your company and the individual CEO that you are working with. In short, while this process may be consistently applied, every company, category and person is different, and its key to recognize these factors.

Ultimately, I do believe that when it comes to Fortune 500 companies using Twitter to create a “Social CEO”, understanding and evaluating both the Risks and Rewards and then taking a managed approach towards execution, are imperative to the process. Not only will it ensure that everyone understands the challenges that await them prior to establishing a presence, you will also be able to test the waters in a safe and calculated manner. And as I noted in my last post, most importantly, rather than just having a “CEO who is on Twitter” you’ll have leader who is prepared to leverage the platform, understands its value and is able to transition from being just a CEO, to being a truly “Social CEO”.

Dev Tool:

Request: blog/twitter-social-ceo
Matched Rewrite Rule: blog/([^/]+)/?$
Matched Rewrite Query: post_type=post&name=twitter-social-ceo
Loaded Template: single.php