Help your CEO overcome their fear of social.

If your CEO says being personally active on social isn’t a priority, do you believe them?  I wouldn’t.

What they really mean is they are scared of it.

But is non-participation in social media really an acceptable option for a business leader in the age of engagement and increased transparency? Of course you could argue that a CEO has many things to do that rank above being active on social media. Fair enough. Keeping on top of financial performance, managing regulators, keeping staff happy etc are business critical issues.

But leadership is also about articulating a vision and values for the business. This is where social media comes in. It should be seen as an essential communication aide to support the work of the CEO in this area.

The opinions of the CEO used to be preserved for the financial press. But investors, staff, customers and partners are waiting to hear it ‘straight from the horses mouth’. They want to know what is happening now. Not tomorrow . They want authenticity. Not the truth filtered through the lens of the PR team or a journalist.

A survey from Weber Shadwick backs this up. See the reasons below.
CEO-Bloggers WS

So what are the barriers to stopping the CEO being active on social media and how can we overcome them.

Barrier #1: Fear of loss of control.

Fear is a powerful emotion, especially in a CEO who is worried about how their thoughts and opinions might be judged by the outside world. Why broadcast my emotions in real-time to be seen by our shareholders and regulators? “What happens if I say something that I later regret and it is used against me?”

The fears above apply to all aspects of business life. An ill-judged comment in a private meeting might be used against you. As we have seen with Professor Tim Hunt, saying the wrong thing in any public forum can have far-reaching negative effects. Social media is no different. Social media should be treated no differently to talking at a press conference.

Solution: Be planned. Make sure they think through what they are saying and the context. Make sure the advisors review what they want to say before you say it. Yes,  you might loose some spontaneity but better safe than sorry.

Barrier #2 Lack of understanding.

Social media can sometimes seem overwhelming. There are so many social media channels to use, each with its own lexicon and technology. On top of that, there isn’t a week that goes by without changes or ‘improvements’ being added made to social networks. Its probably made worse by the fact the CEO ‘s children effortless adopt and use the latest social media and have an innate understanding of the unsaid etiquette that goes with it.

Solution: Be focused. Focus down on one or two platforms (probably LinkedIN first and Twitter second). There is no substitute for them getting their hands dirty – let them have a play before they actually start publishing. Another idea is reverse mentoring – partner them up with a digital native employee (perhaps a recent graduate!) who can give them one-to-one coaching.

Problem #3 Too busy.

This is probably the one I hear most of all and it is generally used to mask the issues of the fear and lack of understanding! Yes, it takes time to think of something relevant and intelligent to say.

Solution: Use timesaving tools. Get them kitted out with some essential tools social media tools. Tools like Buffer, mean they can schedule when the have some downtime, so that it appears when they know they are likely to be busy. Using social apps on their mobile access and engage on the go. The technology available means being social can be done anywhere in the chauffeur driven car to the airport the airport, maybe during a Board meeting. And of course, having a content plan in advance will help smooth things through during the frantic schedule.

What else can we do to persuade our CEO’s to get social?

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