This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Business Magazine Gainesville.
Executive and business owner participation in social media is on the rise. A December 2012 report from communications firm Weber Shandwick found that CEO engagement in social media grew to 66 percent globally that year. These executives aren’t just using Facebook to keep up with their grandkids, either, they’re utilizing the tools of social networks to expand their company’s digital profile and connect with consumers, colleagues and stockholders. Here are some ways to get the most out of executive-level social media.
Your personal opinion reflects upon your company, whether you like it or not. Chick-Fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy has been in the news frequently over the past year for his opinions on homosexuality. As recently as late June, Cathy tweeted dismay over the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The tweet was quickly deleted, with a Chick-Fil-A spokesperson stating: “He realized his views didn’t necessarily represent the views of all customers, restaurant owners and employees and didn’t want to distract them from providing a great restaurant experience.” The tweet lives on in screenshots and articles, though, and Cathy’s opinions have resulted in boycotts of his company. As a CEO or business owner, your voice and opinions are inextricably tied with your bottom line. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t speak your mind, just be aware that when you do, it reflects upon you, as well as your company.
Be choosy about where you spend your time.
You’re not likely to use Facebook to connect with your customers, business partners and the press. The best social venues for executives and business owners will be places like LinkedIn, Google+, and Quora, a social Q&A site. Quora is an especially great place for an executive or owner to build his or her social profile by answering questions and proving themselves an expert in their field.
Listen as much as you speak.
If you have a social media team, ask them how they use social listening tools like Hootsuite. Make sure that they keep you in the loop about what social media is saying about your company—both the good and the bad. Pick a few to respond to yourself—not as the company, but as you, under your name. This humanization of your brand often can win over dissatisfied customers and engender brand loyalty in happy ones.
Blog, blog, blog.
Whether it’s a once-a-quarter spot on your company’s blog or a monthly post on a prominent website in your company’s field, there’s no better way to get your message out than by putting it on a blog for people to read. Customers like to hear from the executives at the businesses they frequent. They like to hear how things are working inside the company and what’s coming next.
In that same Weber Shandwick study, it was found that at companies with social executives, more than half the employees responded that their social CEO made them feel inspired. Being a social executive bolsters your position inside your company and out, so work with your social media team to see how you can get involved. It might be the best business decision you make today.