How CEOs and executives should be using social media

Social media pro Kristen Ruby

The digitally-savvy leader understands the power of social media. She or he knows that it can transform perceptions and enhance stakeholder relations.

It can also boost employee engagement and add a personal touch to interactions. But this only happens when the CEO is a real pro and exercises good judgement.

Social media also has the power to damage both the CEOs and the business’ reputation. When a customer complains on Twitter or Facebook, an organization must realize that any kind of misstep will play out in the court of social media. It can be unpleasant, even ugly, and sometimes costly.

We speak to Kristen Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group, an award-winning social media marketing agency that helps medical practices leverage the power of content marketing to increase exposure.

Kris looks at how CEOs can handle difficult interactions on social media, and how they can work with marketing teams to enhance the impact of social media campaigns.

We’re in an age where businesses have been dealing with criticisms and complaints on social media for a while. But today a new force is present – that of President Trump and some other public figures – who use social media to attack companies and individuals.

The situation is made worse by the number of supporters these figures have, who then jump on board and add their own vitriol. How should businesses prepare for this new and uncertain environment?
This is a really challenging question. I don’t think that one can ever be truly prepared for the amount of hate that can come from these politically charged tweets. As a CEO, you are sort of stuck in the middle of it regardless of which way you look at it.

For example, if the President tweets something great about your company, you are still guilty by association with all of the people who dislike the President and then will dislike you. If he tweets something bad about your company, you will also be hated and receive the same negative tweets.

I really believe we are in unprecedented territory when it comes to this. If you publicly acknowledge the tweet or retweet it, then you are seen as endorsing the tweet, which can also anger people if they are from a different political party.

There is really no way to win when it comes to this scenario, unless of course you are open politically and that is part of your corporate culture. The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is try to respond to every single hateful tweet you receive. That will only make it worse and fuel the fire. Disengage.

Ask for help if you are uncomfortable with social media

Many leaders are still uncomfortable with social media. So we end up with comms or marketing managing digital. This can work, but it can also impact the authenticity of the leader’s voice. For the leader who’s a social media neophyte, what first steps are necessary to becoming comfortable and confident with digital?
There is a fundamental difference between someone else writing for you and someone else using technology for you while still using your own voice.

If a leader is uncomfortable with the technology of social media, I think it is completely OK for communications, PR or marketing to put out their message.

However, the key phrase here is that it has to be their own words and their voice. If the CEO is uncomfortable with actually posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, have them email out their thoughts to comms and let comms break down the message for each respective platform.

This way, the message is still coming directly from the CEO, and marketing is helping them distribute the message.

I think it is unrealistic to assume a CEO will have time to sit on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all day. Not every leader needs to become comfortable and confident with digital. This is why people like myself or millions of other communications and public relations professionals are hired.

I suppose I fundamentally disagree with the premise of the question that a leader has to be comfortable and confident in digital.

We push people into this mentality that the whole world is on social media and therefore you need to be too. And I think it’s wrong.

I am not comfortable and confident with my taxes; therefore, I hire an accountant to do them. Me being uncomfortable with this is not inherently a deficit. It means I understand what I don’t know and outsource accordingly. I have zero desire to be comfortable and confident with learning tax law, and that is okay. I am not a dinosaur for feeling this way.

Similarly, leaders should not be made to feel that something is wrong with them if they don’t actually want to become confident with digital.

However, if they truly do want to feel confident, they should work alongside someone else in the beginning who can help them and show them how each platform is used. Let them do the platforms for them in the beginning, and then gradually have them try doing some Snaps or Instagram stories on their own.

Some organizations have strict policies about what information is published and who has permission to publish. So with early conversations about the CEO using Twitter or Facebook, there can be push-back. What can be done to manage these objections?
Social Media guidelines exist for a reason. I do not inherently see anything wrong with this and believe that companies should actually be more cautious, rather than less when it comes to posting.

As far as who has permission to publish, I am not a fan of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” I have seen this single-handedly destroy social media campaigns that otherwise would have been good if there were less people with admin access. I would trust a professional to have publishing rights and permission to publish.

When it comes to social media, trust your team

When a significant problem arises and the CEO needs to step in, how should he or she be handling things on social media?
They should trust the team around them to handle the situation. If a CEO is not actively in charge of the campaign, they risk saying something that could damage the community the marketing manager has worked so hard to create.

They also are not necessarily trained in crisis comms so their initial response may be the complete opposite of what should actually be said. I think they should leave it to the experts to handle a situation like this and follow their guidance. I have seen too many cases of a CEO stepping in and actually making things worse in an effort to defend actions.

It’s surprising that many businesses still perceive social media as sales channels. How do you move clients towards a place where they see that digital is really all about relationships?
Businesses see social media as a sales channels because it is the only way they can justify spending money on it.

Most businesses do not want to invest in branding if it does not have an immediate ROI. The best way to move clients and prospects towards a place where they see that digital is about relationships is to be honest and upfront from the beginning.

This often means walking away from accounts and leaving money on the table. It is better to do the right thing than risk someone being unhappy with you for not delivering, or not having their expectations met.

I look out for key signals when speaking to a prospect. For example, if they say they want social media to bring in new customers to their restaurant, I suggest they hire a sales person, and tell them that social media and PR is NOT the same thing as sales.

My job is to get people talking about your restaurant, not to fill up your restaurant. As a consultant, it is your job to accurately diagnose and assess what the prospects problem is and to propose an accurate solution.

What you have right now is many who are unwilling to really dig deeper and say, “Direct marketing or sales is a better solution for the problem you have presented then social media.”

In my opinion, being honest with a prospect is the first sign that you actually care about the relationship. If you care about your relationship with them, you certainly care about the relationship they have with their customers and constituents.

To the leaders who won’t use social media, and who don’t believe it will increase their engagement with stakeholders, what do you say?
I would recommend that they try content marketing. We have worked with many successful CEOs who have zero interest in social media.

However, they do have knowledge they want to share. They may not want to sit down and take the time to write it, but they are willing to be interviewed about it and talk about lessons learned.

This is the first place I would start with a leader who doesn’t want to engage with social media. Interview them and work on a comprehensive content marketing campaign.

Once the articles start coming out, perhaps even as a byline in a notable publication, they will begin to receive positive feedback and see that maybe this is something worth investing time and resources in.

Content marketing 100% will increase their engagement with stakeholders. I don’t even try to convince them of it. I just start interviewing them and write the articles with them and they actually see that it does increase engagement. The proof is in the results. My motto is “Show instead of tell.”

PR and social media consultant Kristen Ruby

Kris Ruby is owner of Ruby Media Group, Westchester, NY-based consultancy which helps companies increase their exposure through leveraging social media and digital PR.

RMG conducts a thorough deep dive into a medical practices brand identity, and then creates a digital footprint and comprehensive strategy to execute against.

Specialties include content creation, strategic planning, social media management, and digital public relations. RMG helps clients shine in the digital space by extracting their strengths, developing story ideas, and crafting compelling news angles to ensure journalists go to their clients first as story sources and thought leaders. Ruby Media Group creates strategic, creative, measurable targeted campaigns to achieve your organizations strategic business growth objectives.

Kris is a sought after digital strategist and consultant who delivers high-impact social media training programs for CEOs and executives. Over the past decade, Kris has consulted with small to large scale businesses including Equinox and IHG Hotels to name a few. She has led the social media strategy for Fortune 500 Companies as well as private medical practices.

She is a seasoned social media strategist with 10+ years building successful brands. Kris creates strategic, creative, measurable targeted campaigns to achieve an organizations strategic business growth objectives. She is a trusted media source and frequent on-air commentator on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. Kris frequently speaks on FOX News, CNBC, Good Morning America and countless other networks.

Read more about Kris on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.


Sheelagh Caygill

Sheelagh Caygill is an award-winning content marketer, communications practitioner, and journalist. She is based in Toronto and currently looking for new opportunities. Sheelagh has worked for media organizations and also the corporate and non-profit sector in Canada and the U.K.

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