Social CEOs: Top Leaders and Social Media Equal Good Business

By Andrea Ruttenberg

Top leaders need to adapt and there’s no better way for that than embracing social media.

CEOs’ use of social media really runs the gamut—from sharing quirky personalities to teasing and revealing new products.

The use of social media provides a direct line to consumers and stakeholders.

Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has more than 30 million Twitter followers. This social media CEO’s top tweet of 2019 received more than 185,000 retweets and about 794,000 (and counting) likes and thousands of replies.

Many noticed his social media presence when he threatened to take Tesla private in a 2018 tweet. As a result of that message, Tesla’s stock skyrocketed and Musk was fined $20 million by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Committee for fraud. Now, Musk must get permission from his lawyers before he posts any Tesla-related tweets.

There is ample evidence that social media use is good for CEOs and their companies.

Why Social Media CEOs Are Better
According to Brunswick, 65 percent of U.S. workers think CEOs should share information about their companies through Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or other platforms, especially during a crisis. According to a survey done by Sprout Social, before joining a new company, most American workers say they check the CEOs social media presence first.

DDI research found social CEOs are better at several core leadership skills, including influencing, communication, cultivating networks, driving results, and making decisions. They’re also better at empowering others. Likely because they’re better leaders, social media CEOs are more likely to lead companies on either the Glassdoor or the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work.

DDI’s latest analysis found 40 percent of the CEOs on Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) 2019 Best Performing list are active on LinkedIn, Twitter, or both. This percentage doubled since HBR’s 2016 list.
There is a directional relationship between rank on the 2019 list and social media use. Those ranked higher are slightly more likely to be active on social media.

Social Media CEOs Are More Transparent
Why are social media CEOs better CEOs? A big reason is transparency. They build trust when sharing their thoughts, feelings, and rationale. Employees and consumers know these CEOs’ priorities or their values and can read them first-hand. In fact, CEOs who use social media are perceived as more accessible, approachable, and “human.” Their transparency is rewarded with greater brand loyalty and purchase intent, especially during times of crisis.

For example, T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere used his personal Twitter account to field customer concerns about the Experian data breach in 2015, even though T-Mobile was not responsible for it. He tweeted a link to the company’s official response, answered several customer questions throughout the night and kept customers updated.

Legere offered personal attention to customers and his social media presence grew. His Twitter account has nearly 6.6 million followers. He continues using it to build trust and brand loyalty by showing off his personality. He’s become a glowing example excellent customer service.

What social media CEOs are saying
What are CEOs talking about on social media?

DDI analyzed the Tweets and LinkedIn posts from the 2019 HBR Best Performing CEOs and found three main themes.

1. Promote new products/services/partnerships/publications
Most CEOs use social media to talk about their products and services. The top Tweet of 2019 for Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced the release of 2nd generation AirPods. It received over 69,000 likes.

2. Share awards/positive reviews
Many CEOs use social media to highlight awards and positive publicity. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of Schneider Electric, tweeted about his keynote presentation at The Economist’s 2019 Innovation Summit in Chicago.

3. Highlight issues they care about
Many social media CEOs use it to talk about topics that are important to them. The top tweet of 2019 for Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff focused on gun violence in America.

HBR’s 2019 Top Performing CEOs used Twitter to highlight sustainability and environmental issues, diversity, cyber security, and other social issues, including support for military veterans, mental health, homelessness, immigration, privacy, and affordable housing.

What else are they talking about? Find out at DDI’s Blog!

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