Ted Coine & Mark Babbitt in their HBR article The 7 Attributes of CEOs Who Get Social Media talk about the attributes of CEOs who are active on social media platforms. They share data of the CEOs who are on social media and it seems a fair amount of them in USA are on social media to some extent. In India, I do not see many of them actively engaging on digital social media platforms. I have a feeling that some of them may get there very soon and some of them who are sitting on fence with a presence but very limited or cautioned activity may get active slowly after testing the waters.
Authors of the HBR blog, between their 7 attributes suggest a personality that is outgoing, likes to engage with the customers or employees to get first hand raw information and have no issues in getting their hands dirty if the situation demands. They are obviously more open minded then the most. Triggered from this article, with a more Indian bias, here is what I think a CEO who plans to engage on social media needs to know:
- You need to have a thick skin – the moment you make yourself available online, you will hear all kinds of things – bouquets & brickbats. Lot of these will come loaded with an agenda, which would take some attention & effort on your part to decipher. Competition and their customers & your unhappy customers will leave no opportunity to make you look bad.
- Listen – Before you do anything an social media, learn to listen. Listen to what your customers are saying – not just to you or about your business but to each other or to others brands. Listen to how your competition is engaging with your potential customers. Listen and based on what you listen, make your social media strategy. Once you start engaging – start engaging with your unhappy customers as much as you do with your happy customers.
- Define your Purpose – By all means promote yourself and the brand / organization you represent but have a bigger purpose for your presence on social media. Can people who may find you inaccessible, reach you on social media? Can people share radical ideas with you social media? Do you want a feel of your customer’s world and the potential opportunities hidden there?
- Learn – Whatever may be your prime purpose, never forget that there is no better place to learn than standing out their and observing, listening & learning.
- Budget Time – Life on social media demands a lot of your time. It can be addictive, and you may end up spending precious time on it. Have a rough budget and if possible a schedule of the time you are going to spend on social media. Your followers will get used to your frequency and your timings. There may be a temptation to respond as soon as possible but that only means you will either spend lot of time or would end up hiring someone to manage your social media – an option not too recommended, for that is exactly what you want to avoid by being there yourself.
- Avoid any Mediators – As far as possible avoid anyone else handling your handles. At most you can use them to broadcast what you want to tell your followers – to take care of the donkey work of right tagging and hashtags and pushing it at right time, but you must read and respond to responses yourself. This is where you will get raw information and provide a personal touch to your communications.
- Keep an wye out for new hires – Social media can be a great place for spotting talent. You can observe people through their work, check their credentials before you speak to them, gauge their interest in your company and subtly invite them to your organization.
Social media for CEOs comes with immense intangible benefits if used smartly. It is a tool and it is up to you how you use it to your advantage.