Friday, October 24, 2014

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CEOs-Roll Up Your Social Media Sleeves

by fouts

Social business- CEOBy Frank Strong
His sleeves were rolled up. His tie was loose. He swore.  It was all public.

It may sound like a recipe for disaster for any CEO edgy enough to take center stage in a content marketing strategy…except when it works.

Armed with $9.8 million in new venture funding, Dollar Shave Club CEO Mike Dubin spent some of that money on a YouTube video that cast him in the leading role. The company earned an incredible amount of media coverage which put the company on the map. As of the time of this writing, about a year later, that video has racked up some 9.4 million views or about as many views as venture capital dollars invested.

While many senior business leaders shy from this type of public role, Dubin is embracing it. A quick look at his Twitter stream will demonstrate, it’s not just lip service, he’s actively engaged. Just this week his engagement earned him an unsolicited compliment from an Advertising Age editor, who also appears to be a subscribing customer.

dubin learmouth exchange on Twitter - social business

The lesson is clear: CEO’s that are active in social media and content marketing efforts ignite conversation. And now is the time to engage, because the competition is scarce.
Objections from a publicly traded company
Critics will say a public company could never engage in this manner or face the wrath of investors or regulatory authorities. Tell that to Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors which is publically traded and personally took The New York Times to task for a review he flatly called “fake.”

In a short period, Musk took a lot of criticism for his approach. A Forbes contributor wrote that “Musk reacted to Broder’s story the same way that a proud father would if he heard someone call his daughter ugly at the school play.”

Musk held his ground and earned what amounts to a correction of sorts from the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan. Speaking of the reporter that wrote the initial story she said:

“Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending.”

Writing for the MediaBistro’s 10,000 Words, Lauren Hockenson might have summed it up best when she wrote about three takeaways, “Never underestimate the power of social media to become a megaphone for a cause.”

Arguably, Musk earned the attention by virtue of his position as CEO.  While I think there’s truth to that, I’d also point out that Musk has 148,000 followers on Twitter.  That didn’t happen overnight, it happened because he’s actively worked to cultivate a community long before he needed to rally that community to his cause.

He gave something before he asked for something back.

Social CEOs drive results
These anecdotes are powerful indications that senior leaders can drive business outcomes with their participation. There’s also data to support this assertion.

Brandfog, a marketing consultancy, published a survey of employees that found engaged CEOs both add value to a brand’s visibility and galvanize the work force:

The survey found that social engaged CEOs are either very effective or somewhat effective at:

  • Raising a brand’s profile (87.5%).
  • Increasing brand loyalty (83.9%).
  • Communicating a company’s mission and values (82.5%).
  • Attracting new talent (80.9%).
  • Increasing purchase intent (80.8%).

There’s a caveat to all this, however, in that the magic doesn’t happen overnight.  Rather it requires dedication and consistency. As marketer, sales trainer and author, Scott Stratten says, publishing a few posts on Twitter once a month is about as effective as showing up to a networking event, saying hello, and then turning around and leaving.

A matter of priorities
It’s an understatement to say that senior executives are busy. The time demands of the top executive at a publicly traded company are unquestionably taxing. It boils down to one question: what’s the best way to spend time to deliver results for a company.

Executives often look at this problem as a dichotomy:  they can run a business or they can evangelize. Some businesses are addressing this by either hiring another executive to either focus on operations or evangelism.

In either case, it’s always a matter of priorities and the top executive has the latitude to set those. Even if Apple doesn’t embrace social media, Steve Jobs led that publicly traded company and also found time to answer customer emails,

It’s a far fetch to say that CEOs that do not engage in social media will be out of business in five years. On the other hand, those that do can – and do – drive results for their business.

After all, everyone admires a senior leader willing to roll up their sleeves.

Frank Strong is a classically trained PR professional with new media savvy.  Find him on Twitter, Google+ or read more from him on his blog:  Sword and the Script.

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Have you read my book yet? “Social Media Success! – Practical advice and real-world examples for social media” is available on Amazon

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  • Sean Fleming

    You don’t mention that Mike Dubin worked really hard at making sure those videos were funny. I read somewhere that he’d enrolled in a stand-up comedy course, and trained in the art of improvisation with a drama group.

    He’s clearly a man on a mission. The social media element of it is a symptom, not the root cause. It’s vitally important to make that distinction.

    Compare his performance with that of Michael O’Leary of RyanAir who took to Twitter and succeeded in causing offence.

    Just being ‘engaged’ (regardless of the state of your sleeves) is not enough. In fact, you are as likely to see it all blow up in your face as see it go down well.

    You might as well advise people to talk a lot. It’s not about the volume, but the value, of what you say.

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