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So your CEO wants to be on Twitter

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Social CEO Risk and Reward
While social media has been a core part of the marketing landscape for several years now, one key group within Fortune 500 organizations that 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.

Nowhere is this scenario better illustrated than in the use of Twitter among CEO’s of Fortune 500 brands. According to a study done by Brandfog.com, while 61% of Fortune 500 brands engage with customers via Twitter, less than 2.5% of all Fortune 500 CEO’s actively participate on the platform. Therefore, while it’s clear that Fortune 500 brands view Twitter as key to their marketing and communications strategies, it’s also clear that to-date it’s not been a priority for CEO’s to have a direct and active presence on the channel.

However, this is starting to change. While the numbers may still be small, more and more organizations are beginning to realize that the C-Suite, particularly CEOs, need to have a presence on Twitter. Whether it’s via customers, investors and/or partners, in todays connected and ever more transparent business environment, there is an expectation of being able to use social media to connect with an organization’s senior leadership. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that many CEO’s are now realizing the power of social media and starting to wonder and ask how they should approach creating a presence on channels such as Twitter.

So, when it’s decided that your CEO wants to be on Twitter what should you do?

When viewed in the context of a Fortune 500 brand, the answer is not so easy. Yes, it’s easy to set-up a Twitter handle. Yes it’s easy to start tweeting. And yes, it’s very, very easy for a CEO to get into hot water very quickly if things are not thought through.

First off, it’s important to understand both the risks and rewards of your CEO having a presence on Twitter. While many reading this blog post may say that it’s a no-brainer for a CEO to have a Twitter presence, when you are a talking about the CEO of a Fortune 500 brand it’s a much larger decision. It’s important to understand the risks, as well as the rewards in terms of evaluating the opportunity and providing context for how to proceed with your CEO.

Risks

  • A CEO’s words have power
    • No matter what they may think about a topic, when the CEO chooses to tweet, it’s not just coming from “a person” but rather it’s coming from “the CEO”
  • A CEO’s Twitter presence is a direct extension of their personal, as well as your corporate, brand
    • Do not think that you can separate the two, as the general public will see them as intrinsically interlinked
  • They need to have a filter
    • Unlike the average person, a CEO does (or should) not have the luxuries of talking about personal politics or controversy. As tempting as it is, they need to sit on the sidelines
  • They’re exposed and open
    • Many CEO’s operate in a very insular world, where access is controlled
    • A CEO who decides to go on Twitter must be ready for the fact that they will see not only the good, but also have to address some negativity

Rewards

  • Increased transparency and connectivity
    • Twitter offers a window into who the CEO is and provides a means to directly connect with them
  • Twitter can be used by the CEO to publically motivate and inspire employees
    • Acknowledge key efforts
    • Recognize key accomplishments
    • Great source for showcasing employee recognition from top leadership
  • Unique opportunity to leverage relationships with key partners and suppliers
    • Twitter offers a way for your CEO to interact and connect with key individuals and customers
  • Enhance your customer experience efforts
    • According to Brandfog.com’s recent survey, 89.3% of respondents stated that CEOs who participate in social media can build better connections with customers
  • Be perceived as a first mover
    • As noted earlier less than 2.5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are on Twitter
  • Identify and stay abreast of trends, conversation and key influencers
    • This can be done by just following and monitoring key topics and/or hash tags
  • Raises company profile, builds trust and brand loyalty
    • People are able to see the CEO in a human, not just corporate, light
  • Great opportunity to share CSR initiatives
    • Way for CEO to talk about the company and its values without directly commenting on the direct business or the category
    • Aligns the CEO with the company’s social endeavors

Ultimately when it comes to social media and the C-Suite, it’s not a matter of “if” they will get involved, but rather “when”. While less than 2.5% of all Fortune 500 CEOs might only be on Twitter today, that number is only going to increase. The option of a CEO sitting on the sidelines and not having a presence is soon just not going to be an option. Customers will expect it. Employees will demand it.

However, before your CEO decides to jump into the mix, its important that you take the time to understand both the risks and rewards associated with their participation on the platform. Because, when it comes to Fortune 500 CEOs, we’re talking about some very, very high profile indivduals, so its imperative that you take a managed approach towards creating their social media presence, and with Twitter in particular. By taking the time to understand and evaluate the risks and rewards of your CEO being on Twitter you’ll enable them to avoid the pitfalls and leverage its benefifts. 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 ready to transition from being just a CEO, to being a truly “Social CEO”.

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