We all know our favorite brands and businesses — what they offer, what they stand for and how they project themselves to the world. But do we know the man or woman leading that company?
In some cases, no. But for the companies we see a clear brand identity for, we likely do. Think: Marc Benioff at Salesforce, Jessica Alba at The Honest Company, Elon Musk at Tesla, Satya Nadella at Microsoft, or Mary Barra at General Motors.
Brands work tirelessly on social media to cultivate a loyal, connected audience. It’s been long known that equal effort should be put into executive positioning on social media, too—but with the growing influence of social media on consumers and audiences, it’s more important now than ever before.
Here are four tips for establishing executives on social media, to tear down the barrier of a faceless C-suite and build up authentic corporate character and thought leadership.
Find the purpose & (re)build the narrative
Most executives choose to become active on social media to establish thought leadership presence within their industry. Many use it as an opportunity to promote their company, others to spotlight charitable efforts (personally and for the business).
This should be a highly strategic decision, as it will influence what type of content to share and how to connect with the audience.
Once you’ve identified your purpose, it’s time to build the executive narrative. Just like a business narrative (which it will likely be aligned to), it should include an overarching story, brand pillars, key messages and proof points.
Establish executive “brand”
Determine the tone of your content. Will it be serious or funny? Will you use casual language or keep it formal? Will you implement emojis?
Whichever approach you take, we recommend developing a consistent style. This will help make the content personal (and personable), trustworthy and credible. At the end of the day, an executive social media effort will fall flat if it feels corporate. It needs to come directly from (or at least have high-touch involvement from) the executive him or herself.
Determine your content
Like with brands, executive content should be created to either inspire, educate, or entertain your audience. Keep in mind, even if one of your goals is to promote the business, 80% of content should serve the audience. Only 20% of posts should serve the business directly. Save the call-to-actions for your corporate page. The 80% will indirectly support the business, anyway.
Executive positioning and posts on social media should challenge the status quo, share bold POV and open a dialogue with followers by asking questions and responding to comments.
A few suggestions for what type of content is most effective:
- Most executive content should be based around timely industry topics. Layer in perspectives on daily breaking news, using regulation/laws, M&A/IPO/market activity, social movements, the economy, and major industry trends, or changes.
- Make it personal. Whenever you can share a personal story or observation or comment on a topical conversation, do it. Your audience will resonate with it.
- Save company news for major milestones and celebrating teammates achievements.
- Video uploads or images are typically the most effective types of posts to share, but every executive is different. Some excel in plain text. Test a blend of formats to determine which works best.
- Keep your posts short and sweet, ideally under 1,300 characters, unless it’s an on-platform article. ICYMI: LinkedIn offers the ability to share long-form blogs or articles directly to the platform which provides executives a whole new opportunity to share their own thought leadership pieces.
Stick to a schedule & track key performance metrics
Establish a cadence for posting. To start, try sharing 2-3 posts per week and then scaling up or down based on performance.
Identify how to evaluate content performance and then review frequently to see what does and doesn’t work. This provides insights to pivot the content strategy to best meet the needs of followers. Many executives base their success on their follower growth and total engagements.
For a company to raise brand awareness and become a thought leader, its executives must as well. Use this framework to inspire your communications and business leaders to go forth and conquer–one “like” at a time.
How do your company leaders position themselves on social media? What changes will you suggest they make in the coming year?
Lianna Foye is an account manager with SHIFT Communications. A previous version of this article appeared on the SHIFT blog.