What We Can Learn from Fortune 100′s Most Social CMOs


At the Business Next conference in San Diego earlier this year, the results of a corporate behavior study revealed that just one in five Fortune 100 CMOs are active participants in public social networks. That being said, a late 2012 Fast Company infographic revealed that on global average, 62% of Fortune 100 companies maintain active Twitter accounts, 49% own Facebook fan pages, 45% manage a YouTube channel, and 36% write corporate blogs. It stands to reason, then, that a significant percentage of CMOs that have invested heavily in social media within their organizations are not, in fact, using it themselves.

So what’s going on? Are CMOs reluctant to adopt social media? Are they just too time-strapped to maintain active profiles? Do CMOs even trust the social teams they manage to add value to their organizations?

Let’s take a look at a few CMOs that are taking advantage of social media to promote their personal brands.

Fortune 100s Most Social
CMOs at General Electric, Google, Apple, IBM, SAP, Dell, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Cisco Systems and Raytheon rank as the top ten most social. From LinkedIn and Twitter to Facebook, these executives get first-hand experience with social media by using their personal public accounts. And they aren’t just sharing what they had for lunch; these CMOs use social media to announce company news and launches, discuss their upcoming speaking engagements and conferences, chat about travel and share their bylined articles and blog posts. They also share inspirational tidbits, promote content from thought-leaders in various industries and share what they learn about everything from branding to corporate responsibility. These social media activities help CMOs stay relevant, build relationships and boost their credibility among peers. They make their personal brands very valuable, and the images they cultivate reflect on their corporations. They act as high profile brand evangelists. And organizations aren’t paying them extra to wear those hats. Socially active executives are unbelievably valuable: they duplicate the efforts of expensive branding campaigns just by sharing their thoughts.

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These savvy CMOs represent just 20% of the Fortune 100 group, but they’re by far the most innovative. They’re bringing a lot more to the executive board than a strong pedigree; they’re bringing a following, and brand awareness with it.

CMO Hall of Fame
When Forbes Magazine rated it’s top 20 Most Social CMOs, GE’s Beth Comstock rated #1. Comstock, one of the most adept of today’s new crop of technology-savvy CMOs, maintains a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Her profiles show up on a remarkably wide variety of ancillary social media sites like Quora, Tumblr and BtoBonline as well. She also maintains a busy round of speaking engagements and gives dozens of interviews with online web news sites like BusinessWeek, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. She has her own article on Wikipedia, as do most of the other most social picks. Named GE’s first Chief Marketing officer in more than 20 years, Comstock has set the bar for social media engagement for CMOs. She believes that the world has too many problems for a single company to solve on its own. Social media is a powerful tool for creating partnerships around shared objectives, and today’s social media tools help build long-lasting partnership commitments.

Forbes’ #3, Apple CMO Phillip Schiller, maintains an impressive social media presence and is considered by Forbes Magazine to be one of the most influential CMOs in the country.
His followers number more than 66,000 on various sites scattered across the web. Schiller is an aggressive social media user, but a selective one. He recently closed his Instagram account, citing changes in the service which damaged the small community environment that made the Instagram experience of value to him. Of course, his account closure may have had something to do with Instagram’s development of an Android mobile application, as he deleted it soon after the release. Product loyalty among CMOs is a powerful thing.

Follow the Social Leaders
There are only 100 companies from which these statistics were drawn, so what about the rest of us? What can we learn from these CMOs? You don’t have to run an enormous marketing department at a Fortune 100 company to mimic the effects they see from staying active on social media. Top social CMOs run their personal brands like a small business to gain social influence, and you can too. Build a social community by pinpointing message, audience and platforms. Positioning is a key factor in building a meaningful personal brand through social media. Identify the types of topics you want to discuss and share. Are you focused on social business or digital marketing for healthcare? The more specific, the better. Next, determine who is interested in the type of information you plan to share, and which social media platforms they frequent. The top ten most social CMOs focus their efforts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but your audience might be on Tumblr or Pinterest. Beyond sharing content, social CMOs also create content. They blog, engage in video marketing, participate in book speaking engagements, present at conferences, author bylined articles for industry and trade magazines and websites and become a trusted sources to journalists.

Despite the apparent reluctance of many Fortune 100 CMOs to embrace social media for their personal brands, the forward-thinking CMOs have clued in to the advantage social media networks can offer their companies and their personal brands. They use social media to establish their credibility as experts in their field and to help them keep their fingers on the pulse of ever evolving markets. It’s no accident that CMOs of tech companies have led the way in using social media. Social media is tailor-made for tech marketing. It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that social media marketing is limited to tech business as a tool for establishing not only strong corporate branding, but also healthy personal branding.

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