One of the most important challenges executives face in today’s rapidly changing world is how to communicate quickly and effectively with their external and internal audience. The need for timely and effective executive communication is greatest when it is most difficult—when disaster of great proportion strikes—the COVID pandemic is our most recent and familiar example. Remote working, Zoom meetings, and isolation are the norm. Executive stress is high and constant. This may be our way of life for many more months, and few executives expect to quickly return to the days of large in-person employee meetings, conferences, and dog-and-pony shows as preferred means of effective communication.
In times like these executives must—pardon the clichés—step out of their comfort zone and think outside the box. They must rely on alternative and, perhaps for some of them, new ways of communicating with their audiences, be they employees, directors, customers or clients. But technology has come to their rescue, and an obvious solution to effective communication today is the deft and strategic use of social media platforms.
According to a recent survey by business advisory firm Brunswick Group, fewer than half of all S&P 500 and FTSE 350 CEOs have a corporate social media presence, and only a quarter have posted during the past year. Once thought of as merely a passing fad, social media today has a remarkable impact on business, and tech-savvy companies have been successfully and profitably using it for more than a decade. Social media platforms—LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are familiar examples—have transformed the way that people, including forward-thinking executives, communicate. Social media’s influence runs deeper than just communicating with an audience. Corporate marketing, sales, and talent acquisition departments are creating and executing successful social media campaigns to motivate behavior and achieve strategic objectives.
The Brunswick survey found that LinkedIn is the most popular platform used by corporate leaders, with 44 percent of CEOs having a presence. Twitter is second, with 15 percent of CEOs having an account.
Thirty-one of the top 50 CEOs using social media use more than one platform. More than 50 million companies use LinkedIn for business, including recruiting and talent acquisition. With 750 million members, companies are increasingly using LinkedIn to market, network, connect, and sell. Forty percent of LinkedIn users access it daily, resulting in more than one billion interactions every month.
LinkedIn is not the only giant social media platform successfully used for business. Facebook has more than 2.8 billion active users, making it an essential platform for businesses to communicate with their audience and sell their wares. In April 2014, Facebook launched its Business Manager service to an eager audience and will great success. Like a personal Facebook profile, a Facebook Business page allows a business to send and receive messages, post updates, get notifications, and like, comment, and share the content of other Facebook users. Facebook’s Business Manager gives businesses an additional cost-effective and dynamic tool to reach and grow their audience and sales in an effective and informal way.
The many benefits of Facebook Business include readily available basic contact information, engagement with new and existing clients and customers, determining audience demographics to target campaigns, reducing marketing costs, boosting web traffic, and improving search engine optimization.
Instagram is yet another social media platform that companies can use to reach, expand, and engage with their audience. CEOs seeking to remain competitive and current may want to take a page out of the playbook of David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs. “One of the things of the world we live in is the visibility of a leader in a role to be connected to clients, to people, in a more authentic way," he said. "CEOs don't sit up in an ivory tower anymore, isolated, and if you do by the way it's going to be an unsuccessful way to lead your organization. You have to be a little more available, a little more vulnerable, and more human and you have to be in touch. I think these tools (social media) can be helpful in doing that."
Solomon is known on Instagram as @davidsolomonmusic, where he promotes his hobby and passion of music through a variety of colorful and visually appealing posts including his stints as a DJ and EDM (electronic dance music) creator under the handle of DJ D-Sol. Instagram shows his audience that he is more than just a “suit and tie”. He has fun hobbies just like anyone else. In fact, he may have more in common with you than you think.
Solomon also has an Instagram business page that he uses to engage with clients and employees. He says that in the modern world employees increasingly want to find ways to relate to their leaders and vice versa. His business account displays an extraordinary array of images to illustrate the various tasks of a CEO. "These are communication strategies," Solomon said. "I thought Instagram for us was an interesting platform to communicate with first and foremost our people," he said, adding "I needed a more modern way to communicate to a workforce that is 75% millennial."
At the end of the day, social media is about engagement and personalization. Communicating with your audience in a relatable and interesting way will lead to a larger following which in turn will increase brand awareness and ultimately revenues. Social media for business is no longer optional for businesses that wish to grow, remain relevant, and compete effectively. It is also rapidly becoming an essential tool for CEOs and other executives to communicate with their internal and external constituencies. On that note, check out the LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages of The Alexander Group and its leadership team.