Social Media Leadership: The Story Every CEO Should Read (and Tell)
According to the "2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index", just 19 of the CEOs of the world's top 500 companies use Twitter - and that' being generous and including those who have somebody else tweet on their behalf. That number is low, but it's hardly surprising. After all, most social media marketers tell businesses to use Twitter at a very detailed, tactical level - listening to customers, engaging in conversations, solving customer problems, running competitions to gain followers, and so on. It's not that some of these aren't important for a CEO to know about, but they aren't what a CEO should be doing on a daily basis.
Some people have criticized CEOs who don't use social media, using the argument that they aren't using the communication tools their customers and employees use. But that doesn't make sense. After all, they probably don't drive the same cars, live in the same sort of houses, or have the same circle of friends as their customers - and that alone doesn't preclude them from doing their job. And just because they don't answer phones in the call center - like their employees - doesn't mean they are out of touch, either.
That said, most leaders - whether they are CEOs, business owners, entrepreneurs, or influential intrapreneurs - could gain a lot from using social media. But only if they use it properly.
The secret is social media leadership.
If you're a CEO, think of social media as another means for spreading your message - just as if you were the guest speaker at a networking event. This is not about spreading your marketing message by pushing your products and services - just as you wouldn't turn a speaking engagement into a product pitch. Rather, it's about sharing your insights, knowledge, ideas, wisdom and inspiration with those who care to listen.
If your job is to focus on strategy (and if you're a CEO, it is), then use social media platforms for talking strategy.
You do need to communicate your strategic message to various stakeholders - including customers, clients, shareholders, employees, the community, media, investors and regulators. Social media platforms give you another communication channel.
Can you do that in 140 characters or fewer? Sure, although Twitter is not your only social media outlet. But even if you do have Twitter alone, you should be able to articulate key components of your strategic message in 140-character tweets (If you can't, you'll probably struggle to get your message across elsewhere as well).
But that's not the only way to make a point. For example, think about one of your key strategic initiatives and messages for the next 90 days, and look for examples of where that message appears in the world. For example:
- An online news story related to it (tweet about it)
- A TED.com video about this message (embed it on Facebook)
- An example of an employee who has implemented this strategy in their day-to-day work (post their photo online)
- A customer testimonial proving that your company is on the right path (post it to your blog)
- A presentation from an industry conference (tweet about it)
- A personal anecdote from a recent business trip (blog about it)
And that's social media leadership.