The days where CEOs are generally seen as removed from the workings of the frontline employees and from the concerns of the customers are numbered. Social media is now fast becoming the biggest bridge for business executives to connect with their entire company and consumers the world over.
In IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study, where they talked with over 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries, only 16% of these executives utilize social media as the number one platform for engaging customers. On the other hand, 57% believe that they will end up having social media as their go-to channel for customer interaction in three to five years.
Communications firm Weber Shandwick reinforces the movement of CEOs to social media with two studies, one released in December 2012 and the other done with KRC Research released this May. The 2012 study showed that global CEO engagement rose from 36% in 2010 to 66% in 2012. In the latest survey with 6,000 business leaders from 10 global markets, 76% want social media engagement from their CEOs.
There is simply no denying the growing importance of social media for the men and women running businesses. However, simply creating social media accounts won’t be enough to take advantage of this engagement avenue’s maximum potential.
Here are five tips on how CEOs can leverage the power of social media for the benefit of their businesses.
1. Listen to Customers
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Social media have given the billions of people around the world a chance to have their voices heard. Whether it’s by posting status updates on Facebook or sharing a picture on Instagram, social media users want to be heard. It’s your job then to listen to what they’re saying.
There are a number of tools that will make the process easier like Social Mention which will give you email alerts for posts and trends based on the keywords you type, and TweetDeck which lets you organize how you view tweets on Twitter. RSS feeds are also a reliable source for staying up to date with what your target audience is thinking about.
2. Implement Branding Guidelines
A business’ reputation lives and dies by its brand. If that brand isn’t managed well, it will lead to a PR disaster that can bring any company down. In the realm of social media where word travels fast, you must then be extra careful about how your brand is presented.
You must then set strict guidelines on your social media activities to ensure your brand maintains consistency on all social media channels. Is your company supposed to keep a professional image or something that relates to the common man? Do you have a logo, a mascot, or a set of colors associated with your brand that you can use when sharing photos or videos?
3. Engage with Care
Listening is just one half of the equation in social media. You have to participate in the discussions to show your customers that they aren’t just talking to empty space. Identify the concerns, and answer concisely with a friendly tone. Talking to your fellow business leaders through social media is also a good way to form fruitful partnerships, gain relevant insight, and develop your personal brand by sharing your own ideas about the industry.
In conjunction with maintaining a consistent brand image, you have to make sure that whenever you do decide to engage in social media, what you will be saying adds value to the conversation without potentially damaging your brand. As the CEO, your word will likely be seen as representative of your entire company even if you don’t mean it as such.
4. Manage Your Direct Participation
As a CEO with a lot of important meetings to attend and decisions to make, you can’t expect to be on all social media sites all the time to listen and communicate with customers. You have to know when and where you should focus your efforts.
You can choose one or two social media accounts to use. You may opt to use Twitter, where people can directly send their concerns to you and you can get any message out quickly in return. Or perhaps Vine, which lets you record short videos for simple but powerful messages you can deliver to your audience. There are other media available as well, like the Facebook Pages, YouTube channels, etc.
5. Use Mobile-Friendly Social Media Services
Social media activity never truly ends, as people are constantly sharing opinions, links, photos, etc. even when on the go. For your customers’ convenience in engaging with your business online, invest your resources in building up your social media presence with mobile friendly services.
Thankfully, most platforms have already been developed with mobile devices in mind. It’s up to you then to stay on top of the issues that your audience raises so that you can respond immediately wherever you are.
CEOs can no longer expect to operate behind closed doors in this age wherein consumers have the ability to reach out to businesses. Executives must learn to adapt, as they have the duty to lead the charge to a future where customers and companies have a harmonious relationship.