The value of social media for a company is something that most business owners and administrators accept. However, many CEOs, from local business leaders to national chain managers, are wary about putting themselves on social media as a way to promote their business. This reticence is understandable, but something that CEOs need to get over. According to a study by the PR firm Weber Shandwick, more than 75 percent of global executives say that having a social CEO humanizes the company. This is just one of many pieces of research that shows the value of having a CEO on social media.
There are many benefits to having a CEO that’s active on social media. Besides giving the company a human face, it shows that the company is innovative and instep with the most competitive trends. It allows CEOs to foster stronger relationships with the news media and key stakeholders. It’s also a way for CEOs to reach new new audiences. Met Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard has 265,000 connections on LinkedIn, and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase has 145,653. These are just two of many CEOs that are beginning to embrace social media as an engine for engaging consumers and building stronger relationships with customers.
CEOs that use social media to develop a rapport with their target audience also gain a loyalty that can have a tremendous effect on the viewpoints of others. An experiment that was published in The American Association for the Advancement of Science showed that loyalty is a factor in how people respond to comments and posts on social news aggregation sites. When people saw a positive comment from a web administrator they viewed positively, the likelihood of the content being rated positively increased 32 percent. It’s not just an issue of going with the crowd. The researchers measured this kind of “positive herding”; it was still 25 percent higher than the average for content where the first comment was from a respected person who commented positively. CEOs can be that respected person if they use social media to develop a more personal relationship with consumers.
Being active on social media also affects how employees view the CEO. In the Weber Shandwick study, the researchers asked the executive staff of CEOs who were active on social media and those who weren’t, what words describe their CEO. The study revealed that 43 percent of executives with social-media-active CEOs described their boss as “inspiring”, compared to only 26 percent for CEOs not on social media. CEOs who participated on social media networks were also more likely to be described as good communicators, open, accessible, and good listeners.
By being active on social media, CEOs are able to establish better communications with their employees. Not only are social media channels a good way to get out certain types of messages, and promote events. They also give employees a way to communicate directly with the CEO, which might otherwise be impossible for large companies. In the Weber Shandwick study, executives thought that using social media for employee communications was as important as consumer communication.
Despite the fact there is enormous potential in social media, more than 66 percent of top CEOs have no social media presence at all. Some CEOs remain reluctant because they feel social media is something for young people (a notion that isn’t supported by research), that its untypical for their industry or region, or because they feel it is too risky. However, the reticence of others presents opportunities for the CEOs who are willing to embrace new media; there is still time to establish themselves as authorities in their industry. They can then leverage that influence into sales leads or other kinds of partnerships.
The Weber Shandwick study quoted a Fortune 500 CEO who said the real risk for CEOs is not taking advantage of social media, “There are risks and concerns with all kinds of things that you do as a CEO. You just focus on the positives and you manage whatever the risks might be.”
The statistics on CEOs and social media are pretty telling, but the story of Warren Buffett drives the point home. Warren Buffett has only tweeted twice since he started a Twitter account on May 2. The first tweet said “Warren is in the house.” The second tweet, later the same day, said “Read my new essay on why women are key to America’s prosperity:http://cnnmon.ie/18eXfik .” He now has nearly 542,000 followers. With just two tweets, he was able to spread his message to more than half a million people. While this is certainly exceptional, even non-Warren Buffett CEOs gain an average of 800 new followers each day on Twitter. With that kind of audience waiting just a click away, regardless of the risks, CEOs need to embrace social media.