C-Level Executives and Social Media: Striking a Balance

Today’s social media landscape calls for c-level executives to be accessible and available; however, due to the speed at which information now travels, many are apprehensive to join these platforms. Besides the potential for a social media gaffe that turns PR nightmare, many c-level executives feel they are too busy to spend time tweeting while running businesses.

These concerns are valid – there have been a number of cases where one wrong post or tweet spirals into a national (and at times, international) story about a company’s poor judgment and insensitivity. Similarly, anyone who has spent time on Twitter knows there is a nonstop stream of information to keep occupied reading, and Facebook boasts 20% of all page views on the web.

Crisis Management

Nevertheless, some experts believe that for c-level executives, being an active presence on social networks is now part of the job description and will only help a business in the long run. According to Bill George, former Medtronic Inc. CEO, “People want CEOs who are real. They want to know what you think. Can you think of a more cost-effective way of getting to your customers and employees?”

This is an important point – social networks have created an environment where corporate talking heads are no longer acceptable. Users expect to have a relationship with the companies they do business with. A lack of one of these relationships signals a problem in the mind of the user.

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Still, the pressure on c-level executives is more complex when legal ramifications are taken into account. A misleading tweet or misunderstood post has the potential to develop a life of it’s own at a rapid pace.

Perhaps that is why “seven in 10 Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on major social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+, according to a recent report by CEO.com and analytics company Domo. Among those who do 4% have known Twitter accounts and 8% use Facebook under their own names…by contrast 34% of all Americans are on Twitter and 50% use Facebook.”

For executives who want to take part in these discussions and help actively promote their business, there are options to do so. To start, enlisting the help of a public-relations staff or copy writers will help ensure that updates do not contain easily avoidable grammar or spelling mistakes, and don’t cause friction with current events. Similarly, these professionals can help determine the proper tone for social networks based on the business and industry. A Twitter account for a retail store executive will be entirely different than that of an insurance company.

Overall, a social media presence for c-level executives runs the risk of inviting criticism, complaints, etc. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that these conversations are most likely going on whether or not a person or business is represented on the platform. By taking part in them, businesses and their executives have the change to clarify and set the record straight, while developing relationships with consumers and giving a business a more human and genuine feel.

Sources: The Wall Street JournalJeff Bullas.

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