How CEOs and executives should be using social media is open to debate. But the digitally-savvy leader understands the power of social media. Kristen Ruby looks at how CEOs can handle difficult interactions on social media.
She also explores how they can work with marketing teams to enhance the impact of social media campaigns.
Kristen Ruby is CEO of Ruby Media Group. RMG is 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 and executives should be using social media. She explains how they can handle difficult interactions on social media. CEOs can also work with marketing teams to enhance the impact of social media campaigns.
How CEOs and executives should be using social media
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 their thoughts to comms. Then comms break down the message for each respective platform.
Message directly from the CEO
This way, the message is still coming directly from the CEO, and marketing is helping them distribute the message.
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. So 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 want to become confident with digital. Not all agree that CEOs and executives should be using social media.
Post with caution
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 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’ve seen this single-handedly destroy social media campaigns that otherwise would have been good if less people had 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 a 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. I have seen too many cases of a CEO stepping in and making things worse in an effort to defend actions.
Social media is not a sales channel
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 about relationships?
Businesses see social media as a sales channel 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. Being honest from the start is the best way to move clients and prospects towards a place where they see digital is about relationships.
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. 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 the prospect’s problem propose an accurate solution.
What you have right now is many who are unwilling to dig deeper and say: “Direct marketing or sales is a better solution for the problem you have presented.”
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.
Don’t use social media? Try content marketing
To the leaders who won’t use social media, and who don’t believe it will increase engagement, 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.
Once the articles start coming out they will begin to receive positive feedback. Then they 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
Kristen Ruby is owner of Ruby Media Group, Westchester, NY. Her consultancy helps companies increase their exposure through leveraging social media and digital PR.
Kris is a sought-after digital strategist and consultant. She works with clients and helps them understand CEOs and executives should be using social media.
Kristen Ruby is a seasoned social media strategist with 10+ years building successful brands. Kristen frequently speaks on FOX News, CNBC, Good Morning America and countless other networks.