The social CEO

The social CEO

Social Media has been a communication channel for over a decade yet many organisations are still struggling to come to terms with how to use it constructively as part of their communication mix. 

CXOs around the world are getting involved; according to Weber Shandwick’s Socializing you CEO 2013 report, 50% of CEOs are engaging on their websites in some form which is a growth from 32% in 2010.  Whilst I expect this increase is down to the widely acknowledged fact that socialising your CEO increases confidence in the organisation with 49% of corporate reputation being  attributed to the CEO;  I’d be interested in seeing how many of those CXOs are actually writing their own content and how much of it is prepared for them. 

So, with the World’s CXOs beginning to understand the importance of social media in terms of their business, their reputation and customer confidence; why then are these very same CXOs so reluctant to join the conversation themselves, at a personal level?

The Forbes:  2012 Social CEO Report states that 70% of CEOs have no social media presence, only 4% of CEOs have Twitter account and 7.6% of CEOs use Facebook.  Whilst Shandwick describes an almost flat line growth of CEOs having at least one social network account, from 16% in 2012 to 18% in 2012.   Somehow this doesn’t stack up with the findings around corporate driven CXO participation.

Whilst George Colony, Chief Executive Officer of Forrester Research, states that “within 15 years CEOs will need to know the ins and outs of new media, social network technologies and social communities before they get the job.”; that is clearly not the case in 2013.

So for those of us who want to reach the senior executive level with our messages we’re left with the question of how do we, or can we even, use social channels to build a relationship with CXOs.  It’s a question which I’ve had the opportunity to take straight to some of Australia leading organisations, straight to the boardroom.

This is what I learnt:

I used to believe that there were two breeds of CXOs out there: Those that manage Fortune 500 businesses, and those that manage Inc.500 businesses. 

I used to believe that those managing monolithic Fortune 500 organisations were dinosaurs who hadn’t realised that a new marketing revolution was already in play around them; and the nimble, Inc.500 bosses were riding that revolution to increased customer awesomeness. 

I was wrong.

Size doesn’t matter.  It’s about who’s at the helm and whether they believe in traditional sales funnels and lead conversion approach to business, or whether they believe that new communication channels offer them the opportunity to listen to what their customers are saying, use them to help define and refine their product, and identify niche needs and market opportunities. 

Traditional vs Social CEOs.


·         Demographically they tend to be on the higher-side of 50

·         They are traditional in their approach to marketing

·         They are also traditional in their approach to management. 

And is where our window of opportunity opens.

·         They are quite hands off in terms of identifying and resolving business concerns. 

·         They rely heavily on their teams and influencer sets to provide recommendations

·         They tend not to verify recommendations themselves.

·         Confidence in recommendations comes from reinforcement within their peer network; and a working proof of concept or trial of some kind.

So to reach these guys you’re going to have to employ a propagation strategy which looks to influence their influencers; and you’re going to do this by a social distributed content strategy which will put all the information these influencers need at their fingertips.  Their job is to be informed and keep informed so that when ‘The Boss’ asks a question, they have the right answers.  This means they are content hungry, but they are after quality content which educates and expands on their own knowledge. 

OK, so let’s meet the Social guys:

·         They don’t have an age bracket, they have a common mindset. 

·         They are opportunistic, daring, not scared of risk and open to new ideas and opportunities. 

·         They have a solid understanding of the opportunities that social brings.

·         They understand that they are the human face of their organisation

·         They understand that being active in the social space projects openness onto their brand

·         They use social to expand their own influence but also to meet influencers and agitators

These guys don’t see social as a broadcast channel, they don’t even really see it as a way to have conversations; they see it as a pulse, a heartbeat recording the health of their market, sector, business and customers.

Avid propagators of content, they are also avid consumers of content.  So to reach these guys is easy, you just need to have a solid content marketing strategy which provides useful and timely content that adds to or sparks the debate.  Get this right; create valuable content which aids, influences and evolves their current thinking, and you’ve created the opportunity to become an influencer and trusted resource to the people who are going to shape the future.

Don’t believe me?  In the beginning of 2013, Morgan Stanley announced that one of their financial Advisors secured a $70 million account on the back of propagating and nurturing contacts through social channels, in this case LinkedIn. 

That kind of speaks for itself.

Kirsty Robinson is group account director, Reading Room

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