It comes as no surprise to anyone whose not been living in a cave for the past ten years that social media and blogging is on the rise. Of the masses of bloggers out there, a growing number of CEOs have decided to join the ranks and share their thoughts in a blog format. Whether sharing thoughts about the trends and issues they face, asking questions that genuinely bewilder them and, to varying degrees, talking about their personal lives, hobbies and passions, these CEOs have decided it is worth their time and investment.
Hearing straight from the CEO or top management, as well as being able to contact you, is more important now than ever before. Customers are looking for ways to talk about your company, share with friends, and have a dialog which makes them feel appreciated. Using social media can put you in touch with your most lucrative customers, prospects and influencers.
Beyond that, C-suite level engagement in social media can lead to better communication, improved brand image, and more transparency with customers, employees and investors. Consider the results of a recent CEO Social Media Survey that found that 82% of people surveyed were more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team communicates via social media about their core mission and values.
Also, since employees have typically developed more social savvy, so must company leaders. The same survey showed that employees feel that companies with CEOs who use social media are much better positioned for success. In addition to enhancing the brand, employees believe that social CEOs help the company on most every front including recruiting, trustworthiness and sales.
“Transparency, vision and open communication are key to great leadership and corporate social responsibility strategy today. What’s more, customers expect to hear from the executive leadership team on social media channels, as a direct way to connect and engage with the brands they love and causes they support.”
~Aman Singh; Editorial Director, CSRwire; Forbes.com contributor
With all of this to gain, it’s surprising that more CEOs aren’t taking advantage of the social platforms available to them. Forbes cites that CEOs are virtually invisible on social media sites, with 70% having no presence on social media sites such as blogs, Facebook or Twitter at all.
CEO’s afraid of going social are doing shareholders a disadvantage. A perfect example of this is what happened with Facebook and its recent stock decline after it went public and then the spike it took when Mark Zuckerburg finally broke the silence and addressed the issue with a public announcement. Within three hours of Zuckerburg’s speaking out stock prices jumped up three percent, proving that communication with shareholders is key, especially in times of crisis or question.
Step One: Evaluate
The first step is to evaluate what you stand to gain from blogging. In most cases, blogging creates the opportunity to have informal conversations with your customers, employees, partners and the media. Being able to dispense insights, news, musings and information in a direct and conversational style that invites discussion has many benefits. While it doesn’t replace formal corporate communications such as press releases, it offers the CEO an informal channel to communicate the company’s branding messages.
“While news releases are a necessary element of our communications, they are to my blog what formal wear is to business casual. The blog allows me to speak in a way that was not available to our brand 10 years ago. The blog is a unique tool for me to convey news, highlight the contributions of my colleagues to our business and provide insight into the varied aspects of my life and role as CEO.”
Some CEOs target their blogs to get in front of a situation and appoint themselves thought leaders. Sue Allon, CEO of Allonhill, a Denver-based provider of credit risk management services, started her blog to help establish her company’s reputation as a trusted independent party in the area of mortgage securitization due diligence. With her own name so identified with the company, building trust and a close association between the company and her personal brand became the strategic goal of her blog.
Once you have determined what you stand to gain from blogging it will help define your approach and how you want to move forward both internally and externally with your blog.
Step Two: Impartiality, Authority and Repetition
Brand building can be done through a CEO blog but you need to invest the time and learn to embrace an often cynical audience. To win them over, you need impartiality and authority. Customers don’t want to read a sales pitch. You not only need to distill a lot of information into a coherent and cohesive summary but in a non-sales style. The true learning and “winning” starts after you press publish and readers chime in via email, in the comments section and on counter-posts. This is where you can engage and share with your followers, customers and prospects. And to accomplish any success with your blog you need to invest time. It certainly is worth it though, in ways you may find surprising. If finding the time to come up with the editorial content yourself with demanding schedules is too difficult, enlisting the help of staff or ghost writers can help. Just be sure that your voice still rings through in the final content.
Step Three: Creativity
Let’s talk content. Be creative. For your customers it could include how-to videos, statistical data or other information that is useful to them. Ask them what they’d like to see your company provide on a regular basis via social media.
For your employees, do the same. Ask them what they’d like to see. It could be inspirational videos, a contest offering for the best [fill in the blank] or share an employee success story. Make it entertaining. Make it humorous! Just be real. Make your internal social media strategy all about them. They each have a story to tell and sharing those stories with other employees creates loyalty to your organization because it shows an interest in them.
Bill Marriott, CEO of Marriott hotels, has done an excellent job of this with his blog, engaging employees by talking about everything from his cars, to management changes at the top, to fun and interesting stories from various hotels, such as a recent one about “unexpected guests” (owls) that were nesting at a Marriott property.
Blogging is also a powerful way to share your voice on a larger platform when you push it out to industry trade publications, local business journals or industry bloggers. By providing them interesting information about your company, your customers and your vision for the industry they cover you can convey your message and field questions and answers to multiple stakeholders at the same time in a most efficient, effective manner.
At the end of the day, you’re simply using social media to offer value, building your brand and grow your company. It will require some dedicated time, energy and effort but for the “Return on Influence” it provides, we see it as not only worth doing, but also worth doing really well.
Here’s a few quick CEO Blog Do’s and Don’ts. For more on c-suite level and corporate social media blogging contact Michael Thomas.
CEO Blog Do’s/Don’ts
- Take a top down approach from executive level to employees.
- Have a strategy and plan in place before starting.
- Leverage the blogging platform to communicate a clear message not just on the industry trends and challenges but also how certain issues impact the market as a whole.
- Weigh in on industry issues. Provide your take on trends. And, give your take on current events in your niche. Becoming a thought leader online has many advantages–most of which is differentiating your business and making it more “human” by putting your biggest voice forward.
- Educate as well as engage.
- Keep posts short, clear, compelling. If short on time, consider a V-log ( a video recording), takes less time to record and post.
- Encourage feedback.
- Use “corporate speak” and too much industry jargon. Your own voice is critical.
- Wait for a crisis to start blogging.
- Use the blog platform to promote the company and its products and services. People aren’t interested in coming to a blog to read more about the products, they want to learn and gain insight into your expertise and knowledge about what’s going on internally, and in the industry and how they will be impacted by that.