Despite the brand disaster risks, CEOs need to be on social media

Once upon a time, a company’s website was its shop window and could make or break a brand. Now social channels have far more power. The way a leader presents themselves on social media affects how the public sees the business. This is why CEOs need to be active on social media, argues Lucy Willatt

Earlier this week I watched a clip of a CEO of a well-known UK business, walking off camera while being interviewed on the BBC. He was asked about his sizeable bonus, and whether he thought it was appropriate. He refused to answer, looked to his advisor for confirmation, and then walked off screen, blaming the journalist for a poor interview.

I jumped on to Twitter and LinkedIn to look this guy up. I wanted to see if he’d addressed the issue, maybe tried to explain why he did what he did. I was also keen to see if he had a presence on any platform.

Needless to say, he wasn’t on Twitter, and didn’t even have a LinkedIn profile (albeit it could have been deleted following said interview). The company Twitter account also ignored the ‘mishap’. Yet the interview had hundreds of mentions on Twitter and even made the news over in this part of the world.

The bulk of most brands’ value is linked to reputation. But the one thing often over-looked in the reputation treasure chest is the CEO having a presence and being active on social channels.

Research from Hootsuite has found that in Australia and New Zealand, 75% of businesses have a social media presence, but less than 10% of those businesses’ leaders are active on social channels.

Around 70% of unsocial CEOs worry about the perceived risk of engaging online, also citing lack of time, competing priorities, lack of expertise, uncertainty caused by past failures, lack of evidence on ROI, and legal discouragement, as reasons for shying away.

Yet, the same survey found that nearly 86% of executives in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia believe that having a CEO with a social presence is positive for the company reputation, and 76% believe it enhances credibility in the market.

Harnessing your brand’s secret weapon

Once upon a time, a company website was essentially its shop window. It could make or break a brand, alienate people with its jargon, unfriendly imagery, poor mobile version, or no useful information.

But now social channels have far more power. The way a leader presents themselves on social media affects how the public sees the business.

We’ve all seen the rollercoaster of a year Tesla has had because of over-amorous tweeting from founder Elon Musk. And we’ve all seen what happens when airlines, supermarkets and mobile phone providers don’t respond quickly enough, or with enough compassion.

High-profile social media fails always grab headlines.

Still, it’s hard to see why CEOs want to stay away from social engagement. Three out of four consumers say a CEO’s presence on social makes a brand more trustworthy, and companies with CEOs active on social media are perceived 23% more positively than companies with inactive CEOs.

These people, on average, spend more than two hours a day on social media. And more than 50% of social media users follow brands. That’s a huge window of opportunity for businesses to increase their visibility.

Consumers don’t want to hear from a corporate voice on social platforms, they want to engage with a person. They want to experience the tone, the style, and what that person stands for, the values that person holds, the person who runs the brand they enjoy following.

Risks of using social media can be managed very simply, with the proper strategy and guidance in place.

Lucy Willatt is an account director at Honner 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.