What the top 3 social CEOs can teach your brand

If your top executives are still dragging their feet, show them how these men tap social media to engage with their audience.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lack of social engagement among CEOs. However, social media isn’t totally lost within the C-suite. There are some CEOs who tap social media for effective thought leadership.

Below, in no special order, are my top picks:

1. The transparent engager: Sir Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin Group

Branson shares personal opinions through tweets and blog posts. He also gives stakeholders a “peek behind the curtain” of his business empire by discussing research and development, and business decisions on platforms including Facebook and Google+. He’s blogged about the possibility of buying back Virgin Records, and invites followers to ask him questions on Twitter.

By being a (mostly) open book about business decisions, even if the proverbial sausage is still in the process of being made, Branson achieves transparency and trust. Keeping a consistent, personal voice is what allows Branson to stay relevant. By default, his company gains trust and relevance from these humanizing stakeholder connections.

2. The targeted publisher: Michael Dell, CEO, Dell

Unlike Branson, Dell uses social media, including Twitter and Google+, to provide stakeholders with company news, not personal opinions. He positions himself as an authority on the tech industry in general.

His engagement is a great example of fishing where your fish are. In the case of Dell’s “tech-y” community, in which he aims to thrive, Google+ is an effective platform, even if it isn’t the most relevant place for other audiences.

3. The (local) dark horse: John Pepper, CEO, Boloco

Although he’s not a Fortune 500 CEO yet, Pepper intertwines his social presence with his East Coast-based burrito restaurant chain, Boloco, very well, Although he uses @BolocoCEO as his Twitter handle, he also responds to those who tweet @boloco. He thanks them for brand advocacy or their constructive criticism.

Pepper also demonstrates that identifying with existing local communities can help a smaller business stay relevant. He, for example, posted videos on Google+ of Patriots’ game outings with his Massachusetts-based family.

Time will tell how big Boloco will get. But by making social media engagement a habit, Pepper gives me the confidence to say that he’ll likely continue to maintain this consistent, personal engagement.

Although these CEOs use social media to build trust and accelerate relevance, they’re unfortunately the exception, not the rule. The good news is, because most CEOs have not yet caught up, the opportunity still exists for yours to get social and stand out.

As communications professionals, we often look to compelling case studies to inspire our business strategies and get them right. Why should our approach be any different when it comes to advising our leaders on their communications strategies?

Carreen Winters is the executive vice president of corporate communications at MWW.

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