Should CEO’s be on social media? That is the question many boards, PR advisers, marketeers and C-Suite occupants are faced with these days. Partly driven by existentialist angst (“I Tweet therefore I am”), partly a desperate act of “me too”, many CEOs are in a dilemma about how to engage with the new media.
While it might sound like a good idea to have a CEO blog, in the wrong hands or used inappropriately, it can come across as inauthentic, too corporate, or just crass.
The use of CEOs as “personal brands” is nothing new – think of Richard Branson, Anita Roddick, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch etc. And while social media has the potential to extend the CEO’s reach to customers, shareholders and employees, it also abhors a vacuum. If companies do not take control of their public persona, their customers and employees (supporters and detractors alike) will fill the void for them.
I am seeing this debate play out in different ways:
First, there is a difference between a personal brand and a business brand, so it is important to establish boundaries while recognising how the CEO’s personal standing can be used effectively to complement the corporate presence.
Second, having the CEO recognised as an expert can enhance personal influence but may not directly benefit the company if it is not relevant to the business – does Warren Buffet’s prowess on the ukulele boost instrument sales, or help the share price of Berkshire-Hathaway?
Third, if CEOs do choose to outsource their blog content, make sure it is genuine and aligns not only with the CEO’s personal values but also with those of the company, customers, shareholders and employees.
Finally, CEOs or Boards struggling with this topic, or those worried about whether to take the plunge into social media would be advised to consult Dionne Kasian Lew‘s new book, “The Social Executive”, which is sure to become an essential guide on the subject.