The Industry Numbers Are In
Many CEOs have already jumped on the social bandwagon. In June of last year, CNBC reported on the 10 most connected CEOs on social. Walmart’s CEO topped the list, and executives from leading brands such as Delta, GM, Shell, PepsiCo, Pay Pal, Nasdaq, and Verizon rounded out this impressive field.
“Social media…provides an unfiltered forum for corporate leaders to listen to their communities and to connect by sharing their successes and challenges,” said Adena Friedman, president and CEO of Nasdaq in the article. “Social media projects the human side of the corporate world.”
A Human Touch in the B2B World
For B2B professionals, platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook offer a quick and easy way to keep a pulse on key industry issues and trending topics important to your business network. More importantly, engaging socially gives you an opportunity to share your own professional perspective, personality, and human side.
Executive social media is business-critical in other key ways:
- Enhancing Your Network – Social opens the door to connecting with the people in your network in an easy, interest-relevant way.
- Value Beyond Dollars – The value social can bring to a business is worth more than revenue alone. It offers ways to build better relationships with customers or your network. Additionally, you can provide a better understanding of your business offerings and your point-of-view. And you can track your efforts based on meaningful engagements.
- Company and Personal Brand Building – Social is a proven platform to help communicate your organization’s brand values, as well as position yourself as an influencer and brand evangelist. Executive social programs for individuals can help reinforce the company’s brand by sharing information that is supportive of customer environments. And it also elevates executives as thought leaders when they offer enlightened viewpoints on market trends and innovations generated from their organizations.
Chart Your Social Path
Using executive social does come with its own its set of challenges. It’s often difficult for executives to make time for social, but if you’re going to commit, you need to plan.
- Consider Content Selection and Cadence: Create the umbrella of messages and content plan you wish to deliver and on what social channel. Also, establish a formal cadence of what you’ll post and how often.
- Audit Your Industry: A best practice is to also do a social audit where you examine the social activity of thought leaders in your field, influencers, or competitors. This establishes a baseline of information that is currently being directed at your network. It also provides you with the guidance to create content that adds value and is differentiated, too.
- Determine Your Social Voice: In terms of your individual social personality, remember that any social activity needs to be authentic and to ensure that it comes from your own voice.
- Don’t Fear Oversharing: We see the executives that have success are engaging with their audiences by posting and sharing with consistency. Whether it’s sharing his/her point-of-view, coworker or company content, or influencer content, being active can take many shapes and forms.
Executive Social in Action
A recent example of an executive social program comes to mind when Outlook worked with a fintech company. For background, the founder is from Gen X, and the CEO they’d hired to get them to the next level with the investment community is a Boomer. During a meeting with the entire executive team, which also included Millennials, we witnessed distinct generational views on how to best build relationships with the people that matter most to the business. When it came to social channels, everyone in the room agreed that LinkedIn offered untapped value. How? The company could use it to connect and engage with their banking and credit union customers, investor/analyst networks, and their own teams.
Where things got tricky and caused hesitation were concerns of overlap of information delivered from all parties. Taking the time necessary to map out what it is that these executives wanted to say was also a concern. To counter the concern of overlap, each executive team member also agreed to their areas of expertise and what type of information they were comfortable sharing on social media platforms. After much discussion and debate, the CMO recognized an opportunity and committed to the build out of an executive social media initiative that aligned with the company’s current social media program. It started out as a pilot with a subset of the executive team and is now being rolled out to the rest of company leadership.
The Right Mix
When you look at Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s LinkedIn posts, he rarely talks about the latest software the company is introducing. Rather, he often writes about how technology is addressing real-world problems in areas like healthcare, world hunger, and drug development. Or he shares how tech provides opportunities to improve population health, reduce waste or limit global warming.
However, that’s not to say social shouldn’t also be used in the sales process. When it is, it works. More and more companies are embracing “social selling” on many platforms, which offer your sales organization a wealth of opportunities to connect with customers and reach new prospects. The key is to be an educational resource to your network.
First and foremost, you want to use social as a vehicle to tell stories about the value you can deliver, not just promote your products’ features and functionality. That means using social to share insights on your customer’s environment, business operations, process innovation, and technology application. A B2B enterprise technology sale now includes influence from 86% of the employee base who are making the investment decision over a 15-30 month timeframe. Leveraging social platforms appropriately is part of the support needed to convey the right information to each individual across the entire buyer journey. An executive social program should be part of that effort.
From large enterprises to startups, don’t miss the opportunity to harness executive social for your business. Need some help getting started or to revitalize your current program? Connect with me on LinkedIn and we can begin a meaningful dialogue.
Author: Jeff Rappaport, CEO, Outlook Marketing Services
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