How to set your CEO up for success on social media

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A terse email from your CEO arrives in your inbox: “Have you seen this?”

It’s a forward of a LinkedIn post from a competitor’s CEO, featuring a massive amount of likes and shares.

“We need to get me on social.”

This very email exchange is occurring – and will continue to occur – at companies of all sizes. More than half of Fortune 500 CEOs still don’t have a social media presence on any platform at all. However, one of the most powerful drivers of behavior change is seeing someone else’s successful results, so my money is on this tide shifting profoundly in the coming years.

But while “being on social” sounds great on the surface, many CEO efforts – even the successful ones – can flounder and fail. It boils down to a lack of strategy, commitment and misaligned expectations.

At Provident, we’ve launched numerous CEOs on a variety of social media platforms, helping them grow their thought leadership brands and enhance the reputations of the companies they lead. Here’s how you can ensure your CEO's foray into social media is a success.

Strategy

When you set out to determine your approach, lumping all of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube under the label of “social” is a surefire recipe for failure. The rules of engagement, cadence of posts and indeed the very purpose of each of these networks is vastly different. Yet too often CEOs’ default stance is to be active on all or most of them. Resist!

The goals you’re trying to accomplish, the audience you’re trying to reach and the medium in which your leader is the most comfortable and engaging should determine the platforms on which he or she is present. Trying to engage employees and connect with potential new talent? Head to LinkedIn. Do you run a major consumer brand and want to engage in conversation with your customers directly? Twitter and Facebook are excellent.

Commitment

Success in business takes time. Leaders understand that. Yet when it comes to social media, so many expect overnight success. The reality is that unless you have an audience hungry to hear from you because you run a big company, or you have or a decent-sized budget to promote your content, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll hit a home run right out of the gate. Some of today’s household names on social took months and years to establish themselves. Be sure your CEO understands that, and that his or her expectations are set accordingly.

To scale your audience, your CEO will need to produce great content that entertains or gives away value, is easily findable and shareable, and which helps readers or viewers navigate their lives more easily. And developing that sort of content will take some time, testing, failure and optimization.

Authenticity

Too often, that “we need to get me on social” email implies that someone else is going to do it. The PR, social media or marketing teams, for example, are often given this task. The reality is that if your CEO is unable or unwilling to spend a bit of time to at least provide the nuggets of insight or content for a written piece, or if all you’re going to do in terms of video is capturing your leader speaking at conferences, you’ll find limited success. That’s because authenticity is the currency of every social media platform.

When you’re creating social media content, you’re asking for your audience’s most precious resource: their time. In return, they expect to get what they came to see: authentic content directly from the leader. So, when you’re posting on LinkedIn on your CEO’s behalf, ensure they’ve reviewed and put their stamp on the content. If you’re shooting video, the authentic, two-minute selfie shot on a phone will trump a slick, overproduced piece of corporate video content any day.

Above all else, deciding to launch on social should feel more like a strategic conversation rather than an edict delivered from your CEO. By weighing the relevant considerations, understanding the platform dynamics and commitment required, you’ll be able to show your CEO that you’ve got expertise to share as you frame out the next steps – and that’s exactly the position you want to be in to create value for your leader and your organization.