14 October 2014

THE SOCIAL MEDIA SIDE OF PERSONAL BRANDING (and how it helps your business...)

OK, here’s the thing. Many senior executives I know don’t like social media or don’t understand it. Some are from the corporate species and think that company policies won’t allow them, that the risk would be too high, the cost unjustifiable, that they’ll have to learn too many things and waste rare and precious time for non-existent or unquantifiable returns. Or they may be founders of young organisations that get the tech but just don’t know where to start to derive real benefits quickly.

I get it. In the end, the question is the same: how can it possibly work for me? (because I have no time/ am not allowed/ have no budget/ can’t take the risk/ don’t know the tech/ think it’s irrelevant to my industry or my personal situation – delete as appropriate...), But the very fact that the question is being asked is a good thing.

The young embrace social media because they have grown up with the technology and it fulfils the basic human need to share. Easily and at no (or very little) cost.

The less young, or more established in business, have a sneaky suspicion that social media could potentially fulfill a need, personal or organisational, but many can’t quite put their finger on it.

Let’s examine a few executive profiles:
  • The corporate executive with many years in large businesses wanting to transform the brand of their organisation or business area into one that is trusted and engaging; and a variant of this which is the start-up founder wanting to make a name for themselves and their new venture.
  • The same corporate executive, ready to diversify their own career, explore new areas of interest or perhaps even start their own business;
  • The executive wanting to establish themselves as a thought leader in their chosen area;
  • The time-poor executive wanting to become more accessible, be it to their teams, colleagues, partners and customers.
These four types of profile have one objective in common: “OUTREACH” to customers, partners, new markets, new sources of information, new people, employees, etc.
In traditional terms, “Outreach”, in its broadest sense, is expensive. It takes the form of marketing, business development, market research, internal communications, partnership development, public relations, competitor analysis, etc. (I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but you get the gist...). In traditional terms also, “Outreach” takes time and can be limited, because it has to follow a business governance and organisational framework which may be more or less stringent depending on the size of the organisation.

Answer Number One: Why are CXOs scared of social media? COST.

Because everyone needs a yardstick to assess ideas and concepts. CXOs will automatically compare social media to traditional methods of outreach (e.g. they know the cost of a marketing campaign or a sales campaign or an internal communication event).


Because traditional methods of costing outreach activities do not, on the main, apply to social media outreach, those trying to convince CXOs will need to develop scenarios in each of the pertinent cases and clearly compare costs against traditional activities and outcomes. It’s all about metrics at this stage, and competitor comparisons also help a great deal.



Still on the subject of outreach, and in general, many stakeholders are involved. And they will have different views of the risks involved when deploying new technologies or ways of working. CXOs may find it difficult to reconcile the various policies and governance frameworks within an organisation and may find it constraining, and ultimately time consuming.
Evidently, those trying to understand CXOs will need to be cognisant of this fact and develop relevant scenarios. I wrote about Crisis PR a little while ago, which is one such scenario.

Some stats to help you out (source: brandfog, The Global Social CEO Survey 2014):
  • 83% of US respondents and 73% of UK respondents believe that CEO participation in social media can build better connections with customers, employees and investors.
  • 61% of US respondents and 50% of UK respondents are more likely to purchase from a company whose values and leadership are clearly communicated through executive leadership participation on social media.

Answer Number Two: Why are CXOs scared of social media? RISK.

Ultimately, an organisation may or may not have a social media policy, but they will all have a risk governance framework of some sort. Those trying to convince CXOs must understand the risk framework and associated processes. They must give CXOs the knowledge of how they can work within those risk and governance frameworks, but also enable them to shape the way those frameworks evolve with well constructed scenarios that address their concerns.



These concerns may be loss of employee productivity, damage to company or personal reputation or loss of control over brand and image or even privacy and security risks.
Ultimately, social media is only as risky as the use you make of it, but what is the risk of not being involved? Having answers to those objections is key.


Some more stats to help you out (source: brandfog, The Global Social CEO Survey 2014):
  • 71% of US respondents and 61% of UK respondents agree that a company whose C-Suite executives and leadership team use social media as a public relations channel to openly communicate about its core mission, values and purpose is more trustworthy.
  • 79% of US respondents and 68% of UK respondents believe that having a socially active C-Suite leadership team can mitigate risk before a brand reputation crisis occurs.

Looking back at our four executive profiles, we can see another objective in common: “DIALOGUE”. Whilst social media enables outbound activities (outreach), it’s a double edged sword as it also facilitates feedback. And dealing with feedback is a complex matter. It traditionally takes the form of customer support, relationship management, complaints operations, investor relations, HR operations, etc. Because of the numerous stakeholders involved, it takes organisational and personal commitment to deal with feedback effectively.

Answer Number Three: Why are CXOs scared of social media? TIME.

Senior executives are time poor. Anything that can drive real benefits (tangible or intangible) without consuming too much precious time will be welcome. The objections you may find here can be information overload, resistance to transparency and complex organisational structures.
Again here, those trying to convince CXOs should develop bite size chunks of activities that can drive real benefit and not try to solve company-wide problems at the outset. Developing focused scenarios, within the brand values, targeting areas that would be most productive for the CXO, personally or organisationally, is key.

Social media is only as time-consuming as you make it, but it needs a clear focus.

Some numbers again (source: brandfog, The Global Social CEO Survey 2014):
  • 80% of US respondents and 67% of UK respondents agree that social media enhances the image and reputation of executives.
  • 77% of US respondents and 68% of UK respondents believe that social media is a powerful tool for building thought leadership and enhancing the credibility of C-Suite executives with stakeholders, including the press.

Until next time,
neirajones