Social media for CEOs: You’re spooked by Twitter

Public disclosure, social media horror stories, employee issues and brand damage are all wonderful conversation blockers to the use of Twitter across a large-scale organisation.

Reputation sensitivity is vitally important to a public company and how social media impacts upon this is only beginning to emerge. Yet this should not be an excuse for CEOs to ignore the potential of Twitter.

A recent case study by Brandfrog sums up the existing reasoning for CEOs and their inertia toward social media.

‘The next generation of business leaders will require new talents and a different set of skills to successfully grow their companies. While an excellent venue to champion company values and enhance the reputations of senior executives, social media demands transparency and ongoing, high level interaction. These demands are precisely the reasons that social media may be viewed as too time consuming and risky for the C-Suite.

Yet in order to effectively lead a company, management competencies will have to be reinvented around a new set of principles including transparency, integrity, collaboration, and consistent communication with stakeholders about company vision, mission, and values through social media channels’.

Social media comes with plenty of ‘bark’ and if strategically approached, minimal ‘bite’. It requires a structural change, a high level of engagement and an attitudinal shift from the assumption that a company has complete control of their message.

As John Maxwell says, ‘Leadership is influence’.

If this is true, then the 21st century CEO has been given the perfect tool in Twitter. It is an exceptionally powerful in developing and influencing values, actions and beliefs throughout a large organisation.

Unfortunately most CEOs are suffering from fear, uncertainty and doubt about social media.

CEOs, where are they?

The majority of CEOs are confused by what they hear and see about Twitter. Their role models are generally poor, with CEOs assuming high risk is the status quo. This is due in part to the skewed and dominant coverage of social media crises. Worse still, companies are experiencing spikes in social media related issues with customers and employees that are creating further disruption and frustration.

The context of social media for the CEO is foreign due to their age and experience.

None of this is conducive to CEOs having an objective discussion to learn about and apply the use of Twitter for their organisational benefit. Fear, uncertainty and doubt hasparalysed them and Twitter remains the landscape of rock stars or something that can be left to the marketing department.

CEOs are viewing the use of Twitter from the wrong perspective, externally instead of internally. Companies have been quick to consider the use of Twitter for external communications in response to an increase in the power of the consumer’s voice. This process has been given to a company silo without the CEO having to engage in the use of Twitter itself.

The CEO misses an opportunity to contextually learn, understand and apply Twitter’s capacity to build culture, corporate knowledge and far richer communication across their organisation. They will remain frustrated, uncertain and doubtful.

Twitter is highly dynamic and has enormous potential as an internal communication tool in a large corporate environment. One crucial element of successful adoption by a company will be a CEO leading by example. Proactively applying the strategies and etiquette of using Twitter will only be truly understood by CEOs when they are open to having a go!

Taking the time to learn the rules of ‘engagement’ and develop a style that is consistent with their leadership role will enable a CEO to prosper with this new form of communication.

Building a CEO’s confidence is an important step in the journey of adoption and the following are important to consider:

Understand the purpose

Identify the true purpose for adopting social media. An effective way to explore the pros and cons of social media is with the fellow leaders or those at a similar level in a corporate environment. Twitter will form an online touch point that will increase the transparency of a CEO and a company’s values, beliefs and actions. ‘You are what you tweet’ and CEOs will be judged in this manner.

Know the governance policies

Fair Work Australia demand that all workplaces have a social media policy. As a CEO it is a must to review all of the policies and guidelines that your organisation has developed with regard to social media. Understand these policies in relation to those it may influence such as public disclosure rules and regulations. This will significantly mitigate risk level of a CEO and increase the confidence.

Consider the brand

Brand their Twitter handle appropriately. A CEO of a company should brand in association with that company. This will assist in followers identifying with the official status that they hold. The Twitter profile should be fully complete with a professional photo of the CEO, a company background and/or logo, the company bio and website. This will differentiate a CEO’s professional Twitter account from a personal Twitter account as well as any rogue impostors.

It is crucial to understand a poorly branded Twitter profile will give a negative and confusing message to a discerning viewer.

Seek out specialist advice

Seek out a specialist in the area to assist with the photo, header and bio that reflect the purpose, values and mission of the company and/or CEO. Social media is 20% tools and 80% content. Solid content is the social currency of engagement. It will differentiate a CEO from the rest and build their authenticity amongst the organization and beyond.

Have a personal filter

A CEO should carefully consider what content they will and will not post. Stuart Grimshaw, CEO of the Bank of Queensland has an excellent ‘personal filter’ that determines the content he will post. He calls it the ‘Will this bite me on the arse?’ filter! He asks this question of himself before each Tweet.

Be prepared

Consider the potential of a crisis in relation to the content that a CEO is going to publish. There are plenty of high profile social media gaffes. Reviewing examples of these provide excellent learning opportunities for a CEO.

Lurk before you lead

To gain confidence, a CEO should take the time to follow peers and others of interest tothe corporate environment in which they work. Lurking and reviewing what others post will clarify what content they will post, assist in finding their Twitter voice and develop their personal style.

Social media is clearly here to stay and Twitter is a great tool for the CEO to begin to understand and effectively interact in the social media landscape.

John Maxwell describes a leader as, ‘one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way’.

CEOs show some courage adopt, adapt and be the leading role model in the social space of your organisation. Twitter is a great place to start.

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