Attributes of CEOs Who Get Social Media


Social media is a microphone and no one knows your voice better than you. So if you are leading a company driven by your vision, you should be utilizing social channels to speak of and for it. Doing so gives the company a face, makes it more personable and provides another reason for your customer to pay attention. Obviously some CEOs do it better than others. These are things social CEOs have in common.

1. They Have an Insatiable Curiosity

Truly social CEOs are deeply curious. And that curiosity leads them to wonder, “What are people saying about our company? Our competitors? About their wants, needs, and aspirations that no one is fulfilling right now?” Many social CEOs are first drawn to social to listen. After all, there is no better way than social to collect real-time market intelligence, both through social monitoring and engaging followers.

2. They Have a DIY Mindset

The same CEOs who look up information on Google rather than asking an assistant to do it are flocking to social. They don’t want to hear input from customers filtered through 13 layers of management. They don’t want to see a summary report on employee morale or customer satisfaction. They want their input raw and without any manipulation.

3. They Have a “Bias for Action”

In 1982, we learned from Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their book, In Search of Excellence, about how the best leaders had “a bias for action.” They live by a “ready, fire, aim” mentality and in the Social Age, this has never been more necessary – the 24/7 social conversation waits for no focus group or budget cycle. Sure, the marketing team supports their activity; they may even have a person dedicated to social monitoring of their accounts. But when the situation or sense of urgency dictates, they aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty. Just watch truly social CEOs like Basecamp’s Jason Fried and Havas Media’s Paul Frampton: they’re often online, live, in the moment, and thus ready to respond and engage in real time.

4. They Are Relentless Givers

Many social CEOs aren’t social just because they have a company to run; they see value in being social in every aspect of their lives. They care about more than the bottom line. They give back, they mentor, and they care about real social issues that have nothing to do with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We refer to those who act consistently in a collaborative, generous way as “relentless givers.” They constantly share what they know, connect others and — often for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do — they do good. One standout example is OCLC’s Skip Prichard, who blogs on leadership and shares insights from his favorite authors – often with no direct benefit to him or his organization.

5. They Connect Instead of Promote

Want to spot an antisocial CEO? Read what they’re sharing on social media. Are they spreading the good word about their company while also interacting with others, from famous influencers to humble social newcomers? Or is their feed clearly a spigot of self-promotion? Are they answering questions from concerned stakeholders? Or are they only saying what investors want to hear? Social CEOs put down the digital megaphone and they build relationships.

6. They’re the Company’s No. 1 Brand Ambassador

We have always looked to the boss as the face of the company. We admire the leaders whose brands, both personal and corporate, are led responsibly – and revile those whose company is seen as autocratic, self-serving and non-caring. As goes the personal brand of a CEO, so goes the brand. A study by Weber Shandwick backs up this observation: About two-thirds of customers say their perception of a CEO directly impacts their perception of the company. Social CEOs are building their personal brand whenever they engage on social media, and when they do it in an authentic and generous way, they’re also improving the company brand.

7. They Lead with an OPEN Mindset

“OPEN” – short for Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network – means that no one person, even the highest-level leader, can have all the answers. Instead, we deliberately build personal relationships with those willing to help us discover the answers, together. Whether it’s managing a crisis, or rising up to meet an opportunity, a social CEO taps into her network’s combined expertise. Embracing the concept of OPEN is perhaps the purest indicator that a leader is truly social.

Writer Kare Anderson takes OPEN to the next level as she talks routinely of mutuality and deliberately becoming an opportunity maker. She said in her recent TED talk, “Each one of us is better than anybody else at something… which disproves the popular notion that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

No leader can afford to lead as they did in the Industrial Age. This is a new era with new rules. All around us, the entire world is flattening, democratizing, and socializing. It’s quite possible that as the social age matures, there will be only two types of business leaders: social … and retired.

(via HBR | image via Virgin)