Social Media A Leadership Tool
I’m amazed at how many CEOs don’t use Twitter. Most still prefer LinkedIn and Facebook. Chief executives are missing an important opportunity to position themselves as leaders. They’re proving to be out of touch and possibly out of step with key stakeholders, including potential partners, customers and employees. Yes, Twitter matters.
According to a recent study by Domo and CEO.com, only 8.3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have Twitter accounts, up from 5.6 percent last year. However, among all CEOs on Twitter, only 69 percent have posted tweets within the last 100 days.
The average frequency of CEO tweets has remained flat. This year, CEOs averaged 0.488 tweets per day, compared to 0.493 tweets per day in 2013. Even though more CEOs are on Twitter, many are not actively using the service, which means they are missing important opportunities to engage key audiences.
About 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence on any major social network, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Instagram.
One positive trend, however, is that a progressive generation of top executives is emerging, including Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Jonas Prising of ManpowerGroup. Among all active Fortune 500 CEOs, Prising has been on Twitter the longest, at 2,145 days, followed by Nadella at 1,961 days, according to the new Social CEO Report.
CEOs are engaging with their audiences in a variety of ways. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, for example, have different styles. Zuckerberg spends most of his time on Twitter communicating back and forth with his audience. Meanwhile, Immelt and others almost exclusively use it as a one-way communication channel to offer thoughts and updates.
“We’re seeing a new generation of CEOs leading the social revolution in the executive suite,” said Josh James, founder of CEO.com. “These social leaders understand that if you choose not to be a social leader, you can lose touch with key stakeholders. Social media gives business leaders a way to build their personal and corporate brand, while listening to the community at large and responding to issues that matter most. It also gives them a powerful communications channel to drive understanding and alignment around key issues.”
The study also found that LinkedIn remains the most popular social network for Fortune 500 CEOs, but it’s slipping. This year, 25.4 percent have LinkedIn accounts, compared to 27.7 percent last year. More than one-third have 500-plus connections, up from 18 percent one year ago. About 19 percent have joined user groups on various topics of interest and expertise.
The report also found that more Fortune 500 CEOs are migrating to Facebook. This year, 8.3 percent of CEOs have Facebook accounts, compared to 7 percent last year. I will save my commentary about that trend for another post.
I also was reluctant to join Twitter. After all, how much can we say in 140 characters. I was wrong. I find Twitter to be a powerful tool for news, information and to build relationships and networks. I find Twitter much more interesting and dynamic than Facebook or LinkedIn. I use them all for slightly different purposes. The audiences are typically different and the tactics for reach (and engagement) are different.
First of all, I follow the leaders on Twitter. News outlets. Thought leaders. Peers. Clients. Role models. Hopefully, they follow me back.
Secondly, I follow people whom I hope to attract as allies for my advocacy issues. I hope that they will follow me back.
Third, I follow people who follow me and/or interact with me on Twitter. These three steps are the foundation to building your Twitter presence. There’s much more to it than that, but it’s about that simple.
As you follow your new Twitter feed, you will see the latest posts from everyone that you follow. Follow some of the leaders to see what they do and how they do it. Everyone is different in goals and tactics. If you are a leader, your followers want to see you on Twitter. They can’t follow you or support you if you aren’t there. With each Tweet that you read, receive and post, you will learn more and define your style to fit your needs and goals.
I post about issues and updates that matter to me. It can be a photo, a link to an article or just a thought about current events and future possibilities. I like to provide positive recognition as much as possible on Twitter. Remember, Twitter is a glass house.
I like to retweet posts from others that help raise awareness and understanding about my favorite issues. When you retweet from someone, it creates another notification for that person and you can begin a relationship around the post. I like to tweet directly to people to get their attention and interaction.
Most importantly, I think about Twitter as a chance to build relationships, build brands and influence thoughts. I don’t think about Twitter as a sales channel, but it is a place generate awareness, understanding and support. You can close the sale in a better forum.
Hashtags do matter. If you want to expand your reach, add a hashtag that will connect your post to a broader online conversation. Some people search Twitter for certain topics that relate to your business or your issue. If I’m posting information about climate change or endangered species, for example, I will end the post with #ClimateChange or #EndangeredSpecies. Don’t punctuate it or include numbers or spaces because those characters break the tag or thread.