Looking for a way to get more trust in your brand, a lift in consumer engagement and an edge over your closest competitor?
The path toward all those goals may start behind the door with the “CEO” nameplate on it.
Many consumers have come to expect an executive presence on social media, particularly Twitter, as a means of accessing brands 24/7/365. To be fully effective, this presence must be separate from any marketing content but consistent with the message it contains.
For marketers, this means it’s time to drag your CEOs into Twitter Town, if they aren’t already there. We’ll explore the many benefits of executive involvement in social media and offer seven tweet templates to help your executives navigate the platform.
Executives establish a strong brand position
A recent survey by BrandFog revealed that when executives are active on social media, consumers develop a higher level of confidence in the company’s leadership.
A whopping 81 percent of the several hundred respondents felt that leaders who engage on social media are “better equipped to lead a company, communicate values and shape a company’s reputation in today’s changing world.”
As BrandFog’s study concisely points out, “The ROI of social media is that you now exist.”
Executives who are active on social media convey that they are invested in the companies that they run. Even if they’re secretly planning to jump ship, they appear committed and the company appears more stable.
This baseline of involvement becomes even more vital in times of crisis, when consumers and competitors alike often look to executives to see how to respond to difficulties.
If executives post for the very first time after their database has been hacked or there’s been a fire at their warehouse, any words of reassurance will ring hollow. If, however, they have an established social media persona, their commentary will seem far less biased and far more trustworthy.
Of course we hope that crisis management is one thing a CEO’s social media account is never used for, but there’s no way to create the presence amid turmoil. It has to be pre-established to be viable in a company’s moment of need.
From brand awareness to brand loyalty, one tweet at a time
A positive initial association and crisis management aren’t the only benefits of a tweeting CEO, however. Consumers routinely go beyond high-level brand awareness and become more likely to make a purchase from a company with socially active executives.
The same BrandFog study found the brand awareness established through executive visibility “builds greater trust, brand loyalty, and purchase intent.” When faced with the choice between a brand whose activities are front and center and whose messages are presented consistently and another brand that’s maintaining relative radio silence, consumers will nearly always pick the brand they know more about.
In a B2B situation, this becomes even more important. Business execs will look at every potential point of communication to make sure the leaders they’re signing on with have things well under control and will be around to maintain the partnership for the long term.
Why Twitter is a good starting point
There are lots of options for executive engagement on social media, but Twitter is a low-risk way to get started that also has a low entrance threshold.
You can grab a Twitter handle and start tweeting in a matter of minutes; there’s no potentially paralyzing need to fill out a full profile, as one might encounter on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Because handles come so easily, Twitter is also an easy place for executives to create a professional persona that they can differentiate from their personal social profiles. Even if they already have a personal Twitter handle, they can grab a branded version and not worry about overwhelming personal connections with corporate content.
Finally, the instant gratification of Twitter can give hesitant executives the quick wins they need to get on board with such a project. When they join a chat and get 50 new followers in an hour, they get a sense of accomplishment that takes a lot longer to achieve on Facebook or LinkedIn.
If you do encounter a lot of resistance to Twitter, you can start on another network first. You might also check out MarketerGizmo’s Tweet This, Not That guide, which can help you argue the benefits of Twitter for businesses.
Tweet templates for successful branding
So, the benefits are clear, and you want your CEO on Twitter. What you don’t want are executives who create more problems than they solve with wildly off-message retweets or inappropriate shared links.
To keep them on track (and out of your hair), give them these seven tweet templates they can rotate in and out. If they use one of these once per day during the week, these templates can represent two weeks’ worth of original tweets.
I recommend also including a list of appropriate hashtags that are relevant to your industry, product and brand and offer explicit guidelines on how many they should use in each tweet.
Tweet type: What I’m reading
Have a rabid content consumer in your executive suite? Have her tweet the contents of her bookshelf or RSS feed.
Sample content: Really enjoying an article from @author (or @website) [link]. #hashtag1 #hashtag2 #hashtag3
Tweet type: Office culture
Offer about 100 characters on an exciting, fun or unusual office event. These should include @companyname and/or #companykeyword every time.
Sample content: Beautiful day for some gardening with @CompanyName. Pulling weeds for a good cause! #CharityName
Tweet type: Conversation
These should be an authentic, in-the-moment back-and-forth with a follower, fellow executive or industry leader in response to a post or current event. Try to make them read like a text message, and remind your executive that these conversations can extend over multiple tweets.
Sample content: @fellowCEO – I’m dragging today too! Time for a caffeine infusion. #humpday
Tweet Type: Event shout-out
These are an easy way to show your company’s involvement in your industry. Mentioning an event, Twitter chat, conference or other relevant happening that involves executives or employees works great. Don’t forget to include the appropriate hashtag and handles.
Sample content: @EmployeeName and @OtherEmployee – enjoy your time at #conference and bring back some new strategies! #marketing
Tweet Type: Quote
Stumped for content to fill out your Twitter feed? Quotes can be great if not overused, particularly if your executives can mix their personal interests in with more business-centered topics for authenticity.
Sample content: Nobody can say it better: “This is a fantastic business quote.” – @PersonWhoSaidIt
Tweet type: Self (and company) promotion
Keep these to a minimum, but don’t be afraid to talk about your product. It’s not called social media marketing for nothing.
Sample content: We just added a new product to our line! I’m like a proud parent! #companyname
Tweet type: Images
Use sparingly so you don’t overwhelm your followers. Images can look great in a Twitter feed, but overusing them may get you unfollowed or muted. As far as content, these can fall into many of the other tweet types (office culture, quote, event shout-out, etc.).
Filling up a Twitter feed while maintaining brand loyalty
A good Twitter feed isn’t all about the person who owns it. Be a good social citizen by sharing other people’s content more than your own. The easiest way to do this is to retweet liberally and often. Thank people who retweet and follow your executive accounts, too.
Some CEOs may do better if someone else does this part for them, so a shared social media scheduling software like Buffer or Hootsuite may be required.
You can also set up notifications to your social media marketing team when someone follows, mentions, retweets or favorites something on an executive Twitter account, if you need focused follow-ups and can’t rely on your executives to do it.
Brand loyalty and executive engagement start with training
Pairing up reluctant executives with experienced Twitter users is a great way to kick-start their presence on the network, and you can extend this system to other networks as well.
Cisco uses this kind of reverse mentoring, and one participant declared that, “EVERY executive should have a [practitioner] help mentor them. Most are fearful of not being considered an expert. Once the fear is gone, social media [is] a great tool for executives to use.”
The Altimeter report that produced the Cisco example above correctly emphasizes the need to keep executive involvement on social media focused on business goals and objectives. You also should make sure your mentors structure their training around the brand awareness, loyalty and positioning that each tweet helps produce.
Remember, “[a]n executive’s eyes will glaze over if you try to explain hashtags on Twitter, but they will pay rapt attention if you can demonstrate how Twitter can be used to turn a complaining customer into a company advocate. And they will pay even more attention if you can tailor the education around how social media can be used to achieve their specific goals and objectives.”