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As social media tears down the walls between brands and consumers—and puts a premium on visibility and engagement—companies are finding that getting their CEOs out in front of online channels is becoming a more essential part of a brand’s business strategy.
When public relations firm Weber Shandwick looked at the online activity of CEOs from 50 of the world’s largest companies in 2010, only 36% were considered “social”—meaning they engaged on a company website, appeared in a video on the company YouTube channel or had a public and verifiable social network profile or blog. In 2012, when Weber Shandwick studied the same brands, nearly double that percentage were deemed a “social CEO,” at 66%.
Videos seem to be where an increasing percentage of CEOs are looking to communicate their message and shape the image of the brand. Participation on a company website video or YouTube channel more than doubled between 2010 and 2012.
Social networks, however, did not see a significant jump, rising to 18% from 16%. This is likely a reflection of the quickness with which social networks move and the potential pratfalls of actively engaging on social networks, as well as the possibility of critics or pranks hijacking a CEO page or dialogue.
When Weber Shandwick broke down social visibility more granularly, nearly every channel saw an increase in CEO participation. Facebook made the biggest leap among the social networks, with one out of 10 CEOs using the channel for visibility, up from 4% in 2010. However, Twitter was notably the only channel that saw a decrease in CEO participation. This is likely because engagement was high in 2010—double Facebook’s level—and enthusiasm may have waned as marketers discovered that the fast-moving mircroblog was too contentious and time-consuming a place for CEOs who first and foremost need to protect the brand image.
Unsurprisingly, when social media branding firm BRANDfog surveyed employees in the US and the UK in Q3 2012 to find out what companies were getting out of CEOs’ social engagement, the highest percentage of respondents said that CEOs’ use of social media was most effective at raising the brand’s profile. Increased brand loyalty was also a significant outcome.
Managing C-suite social engagement is not only about presenting the company to outsiders. It can also be an internal tool. Nearly 70% of employees surveyed at companies where C-suite social engagement was managed told BRANDfog that it made their CEO a more effective leader. And 81% thought a CEO’s presence on social media helped in talent acquisition and employment branding.
Having some kind of CEO presence on social channels is becoming an almost necessary part of doing business—whether for brand image or company transparency. Eight out of 10 employees deemed it important to communicating with customers and investors. On the flip side, almost half of respondents said CEOs who did not engage on social channels risked becoming out of touch with their customers—an indication that, over time, not engaging on social media will be considered a liability more than a choice.
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