I recently came under a bit of scrutiny for my active social media presence.
As a startup CEO and someone who has spent the majority my career in a leadership capacity, I have seen social media as part of my job for as long as I realized its viability for building a brand.
It is so clear to me that the customer is "Out There," so why wouldn't I want to be "Out There" with them?
However, for others it must not be quite so clear.
For those less familiar with the power of social media, an active social presence can be misconstrued for something else.
This is often perpetuated by the fact that many of these non-digital natives aren't familiar that you can be quite active in social platforms without a whole lot of actual activity. Such as using certain automation and multi-platform sharing tools to spread content and communicate without actually "Manning the Controls" at any given time.
Beyond this, my more recent confrontation came as to whether my activity in social and blogging was too self-serving rather than something being done for the greater good.
Now this was a good question.
Not because I believe that my Twitter handle has distracted me from hard work or that my blog is limiting my ability to lead an organization. But rather because it was the first time that it occurred to me that someone could see it that way.
And you know what I always say..."Perception is Reality"
Executives Using Social -- Some Background
There has been some debate across the interwebs as to CEO's and other high-level leaders role in using Social Media, Blogging or Publishing in other capacities. We know that many CEO's of larger companies aren't very active on Twitter and most others don't do a lot of writing nor do they use other highly engaging social media platforms.
At first glance, I would suggest that the lack of activity is due to their highly important roles which do not allot time for "twittering" or "socializing."
I agree in principle with the "busy" claim. However I don't agree in its entirety.
In the near future, I think executives are going to be expected more than they are today to use Social Mediums to become closer to their customers. For companies that think Social Engagement is just the rank and file connecting to the consumer are missing the mark. Consumers buy products and services from companies that deliver what they need. However, today more than ever, they take into consideration other factors such as a company's social good, their sustainability measures and perhaps most importantly the face of the company and whether or not it is led by someone who they respect.
If you doubt what I'm saying here, just think about Chik-Fil-A or Netflix. Both companies came under major fire due to mishandled PR and their respective CEO's saying things that many of their customers didn't agree with.
In an era of outspoken business leaders, saying the wrong thing can be quite detrimental to a business. The list of examples are bound to get longer as time goes on.
In the case of the examples noted above, both companies have overcome their blunders to continue moving forward. But I am convinced if their leadership was better connected to the consumer they may have been able to avoid these mistakes in both strategy and judgement.
Executives Using Social -- Good Idea?
So beyond the large conglomerates and fortune companies. What about executives from the rest of companies out there?
Presidents, CEO, VP etc... After all, the Fortune 500 only represents, well, 500 companies. There are millions of successful businesses out there.
What should the role of these business leaders be in terms of being social and producing compelling content?
For me, I don't see being visible in social media as something extra -- I see it as a business imperative. And the longer any company and its leaders steer away from connecting through popular platforms with their consumers. The easier it will be for more social businesses and their executives to shift market share from the companies that are busy burying their heads in the sand.
But what about the role?
Executives Using Social -- Roles and Responsibilities
Obviously if you are busy running a company you can't be on Facebook all day. Beyond the perception it creates, there just isn't that much day-to-day value that a CEO can bring to a company by spending their time that way.
I look at it more simplistically.
The executives of a company should use social to build the credibility of their company by showing that they are credible in the business and industry that they represent.
At times the credibility may build a reputation for both the company and the individual, but the key is that the intention is to drive businesses closer to those in which they serve.
If businesses and their customers are all people, then connecting customers to a companies leaders just makes sense.
And since people ultimately buy from people, a company should probably show that those in charge are credible, capable and whenever possible, likable.
Nonetheless, in a connected world it is becoming more important every day that business leaders become more connected to their stakeholders.
Executives Using Social -- A Commitment
I'm committed to using the tools and technologies to be closer to my partners, my employees and of course my customers.
This commitment will not sway even if some on the outside see the efforts as self-serving.
Deep down I understand that my role is to build the strongest brand I can for my company. Being social and active is a contributing factor to the brand we will ultimately build.
For you, as a business leader, I recommend the same.
A socially visible brand isn't an option any more. The effects of ignoring this may not be felt immediately for all, but trust me when I tell you that if you believe that your leadership is reflected in your company then do not expect your indifference to be invisible in the social community.