CEOs are not social, for good reasons. But I believe that some should be — as a means of talking and listening to customers, attracting new employees, and strengthening their company’s brand. So how should CEOs do it?
Start with the POST methodology:
1) People. Target the CEO’s audience.
2) Objectives. Create a clear reason for the CEO to be social.
3) Strategy. Establish how many times the CEO will be social per month; who will support the CEO; who will teach and coach the CEO.
4) Technology. Decide what technology platform is appropriate for the CEO.
Here are my recommendations on POST for the CEO:
For people, have the CEO focus on talking to and listening to customers. He or she is already doing this (if not, you’ve got bigger problems) — so no leap is required. Bill Marriott from Marriott International and Tony Hsieh from Zappos lead this charge.
The objective: attracting new customers and increasing the allegiance of present customers. Buyers, especially in the business-to-business world of long-term relationships, want to know the thinking and strategy and passion of the ultimate leader. Like it or not, the world is becoming increasingly transparent — the CEO will be more visible, not less, in the future. The product brand, the company brand, and the CEO brand are intertwining to create positive (or negative) emotional responses from customers and clients. You may want to stay in your bunker, but your competitor may be headed out into the masses to press the flesh and win customers. This imperative intensifies in crises, cf., Toyota and BP.
The best strategy for the CEO is what I call “social light.” Social heavies post on Twitter five to six times per day and on their blog once per week. Unless you’re a brilliant thinker or have a natural publishing instinct, it’s tough to be a social heavy and not be a blowhard. So the CEO should engage a lighter social model consisting of:
1) 12- 24 Twitter posts per year.
2) Six to eight blog posts per year.
3) Checking their blog once per month to answer questions or comment on comments.
4) Searching Twitter and Google once per month to read relevant posts about their company, industry, or products.
Now admittedly, this is a far cry from the “Get into the conversation” conventional wisdom of the social heavies. And it contradicts the “Post incessantly to build followers” high-school behavior of many social players. But let’s face facts — most CEO don’t have the time or the capacity to play those games. They’ve got companies to run.
If you are deploying the social light strategy, make sure you tell the world up-front. Clearly state in the “About this blog” section what the expected frequency of the postings will be — to clearly separate the CEO’s social light profile from the social heavy world. And a final note on strategy: build a solid social team around the CEO that can continually monitor the CEO’s sites and support his or her efforts.
The final “T” in POST is technology. This is easy: the CEO should commit to Twitter and to whatever blog platform is standard in his company — WordPress, TypePad, etc.
Of the CEOs of the top 100 companies in the world, none are presently social. What about the future? Within ten years, social will be a required skill for CEOs in 30 of the top 100. And by 2030, social must be mastered by all large-company CEOs. If you’re a 30-something executive who aspires to the CEO-ship, get started now.