Let’s face it, for most of us, social networking is addictive. We keep our calendars, contacts, friends, recipes and diaries on our mobile devices, and just one click away is the rest of the world waiting for our opinion on their dinner plans, child’s photo or next business strategy.
But when does it become too social (and maybe inappropriate) for senior executives to participate in social networking?
As I write and guide brand positioning strategies and protocols for corporations around the U.S., we simply cannot ignore or overlook the importance and accessibility for senior executives to participate in social networking discussions. The issue isn’t asking CEOs to stay off social networks, the opportunity lies in teaching them how/when/where and why to participate in ways that support the corporate initiative.
CEOs looking to post as the leader of a company or organization should strive to be:
- Honest. The social space is too reliant on transparency and honesty to try to “pull one over” on loyal or unsuspecting audiences. CEOs should be truthful and honest in replies, posts and comments. If the truth could pose a conflict (confidentiality, corporate risk or legal action pending), then guidelines and protocol must take over. When these guidelines are in place in advance, CEOs can take the guesswork out of how and when to respond to online discussion.
- Consistent. If your goal is to have the senior leadership appear on Facebook once a month, then do that. If your CEO wants to Tweet all day long, then that can become the norm. Consistency in message and frequency is key to establishing a voice and credibility in the social space.
- Responsive. Social equity is earned by using the online community for dialog, not monologue. When someone asks a question or shares an idea, it is important to respond to that comment just as you would in person.
- Alert. Pay attention to what’s being discussed and debated online. When the discussion turns political, religious or legal, should you participate? Based on your personal brand goals and the protocol of the corporation, senior executives may or may not want to engage in debate online. It is much smarter to have this decided in advance rather than to find yourself in the midst of a debate that is not consistent with your values or those of the company.
- Authentic. While the CEO will likely take to the social networking platform after training and coaching, the most successful way for him or her to engage online is to speak in their own voice, sharing their own passion and concerns and letting their genuineness shine through. Authenticity is king online.
When senior executives engage in social networking, they can humanize the company brand and increase employee morale. We have seen many successful cases where CEOs become the face of the company in social media and this new personality for the company affects everything from shareholder value to employee recruitment. As always, strict monitoring, guidelines and protocols (in place in advance) ensure that risk is mitigated online.