Risk aversion, time constraints, fear of negative feedback and a
lack of a social media strategy are the primary barriers to C-Suite
social media engagement, according to the respondents of
BRANDfog’s 2013 CEO, Social Media Leadership Survey.
The group of 800 U.S. and U.K. employees also overwhelmingly
believes that CEOs active on social media can
raise the profile of the corporate brand, effectively communicate
the company mission and values to employees
and partners, attract new talent, and increase brand loyalty
and purchase intent.
Unsurprisingly, the roles of the CEO and enterprise stakeholders
are changing. Those ready to evolve can benefit from
the shift, but to ensure executives aren’t unproductive, uninspiring,
damaging to their personal or brand’s reputation or
worse, finding themselves jobless, the C-Suite should adhere
to certain guidelines.
Don’t Be Stupid
Anyone paying attention knows there are an increasing
number of platforms that marketing, PR and legal teams
must monitor and regulate. Regardless of the various virtual
podiums, one rule has stood the test of time.
“The best policy is don’t be stupid,” said Bunchball
Founder and Chief Product Officer Rajat Paharia. “The
best social media policy is to think about what you are
posting, and if you think it would have a negative effect,
ask someone. [On the other hand, if you set a stringent social
media policy] the lack of clarity or new set of rules can
also lead to people not even bothering. They’ll say, ‘Then
maybe I just won’t do it.’”
Marketing, sales and customer service pros typically get
their social media guidelines in black and white. The C-Suite
should review and comply with the same standards. For example,
Intel’s next CEO (not yet
named at time of print) should follow
Intel’s three rules of engagement: disclose,
protect and use common sense.
Intel even includes this under the
Use Common Sense rule, “Did you
screw up? If you make a mistake,
admit it. Be upfront and be quick
with your correction. If you're posting
to a blog, you may choose to
modify an earlier post — just make
it clear that you have done so.”
Mistakes, however, can be costly.
In 2012, a CFO from a Houston-based
retailer was fired after he “improperly communicated
company information through social media.” His tweets — albeit knowingly or not —
influenced stock prices. Comments on earnings, closeddoor
meetings and other not yet publicized information
can fall under selective disclosure, which violates insidertrading
laws. As with all things social, real-world rules
apply. Staying informed, compliant and cautious are
three ways for the C-Suite to stay off the SEC’s radar and
in good graces with its company and followers.
Find Your Balance
Clearly, the C-Suite must navigate rough waters when
using social media. C-Suite members must make a decision
about whether to include non-business-related material
on personal pages. There are two schools of thought.
The first is that the C-Suite is made up of people who have
lives that include families, vacations, opinions and experiences
(both good and bad), so to be authentic, they should
share their off-the-clock happenings. The second is to keep
it all business all the time.
“I watch some other people’s accounts, and you’ll see
things about the industry and then there are tweets complaining
about bad service,” said Paharia. “I am following
them for a reason, not because I care about their opinions
about customer service, but for more of what their opinions
are about industry things.
“If you look at my tweets, you’ll see very rarely there is
something personal — almost never. People follow me for
a reason, because over time they know what to expect.”
This balance may also depend on the network. Twitter,
Google+ and, especially, LinkedIn are examples of where occupational
content is expected. For many, Facebook has different
expectations. For instance, when Paharia posts
something work related on Facebook, he feels as if he is
spamming his friends. He’s not alone. Many professionals
have both personal and professional profiles to overcome this.
Having both could be counterproductive though. Instead,
the better option may be filtering what others see from them
and what they see from others.
Filter, Filter, Filter
In the matter of interest and productivity, executives should
filter who they follow (Twitter), who they should allow to
show up in their news feeds (Facebook) and what individuals
they connect and interact with (LinkedIn/Google+).
“It’s kind of the double-edged sword of social media,”
said Paharia. “On one hand it gives you a giant CB radio;
on the other hand, it can be a giant time suck. You can get
engaged with unproductive interactions and conversations.
It’s about finding your own personal balance. When there
are interesting, high-fidelity conversations happening, I
love to give input. When there isn’t, I don’t.”