[Courtesy of Forbes.com]
Attention CEOs: Social media is now viewed as essential for leadership communications and business intelligence, and more executives globally are getting with the program. Business leaders, formerly reluctant towards its usage, are being encouraged to embrace it in rapidly increasing numbers.
According to research released in December by my firm Weber Shandwick, CEO engagement saw a global increase from 36% in 2010 to 66% in 2012. Today, we released a new report that outlines the benefits and expectations of CEO social participation. Conducted in partnership with KRC Research, we surveyed over 600 senior executives from 10 markets worldwide. The research found that 76% of global executives say they want their CEO to engage in social media, noting a wide-ranging list of benefits. At the top of the list was improved ability to share company news and information, a positive impact on company reputation and business results, and the ability to communicate more directly with employees, customers, and other key stakeholders.
In addition, employees at companies with social CEOs say that their leader’s participation makes them feel inspired (52%) and technologically advanced (46%). Beyond these findings, senior executives we counsel are increasingly interested in the benefits of personal participation as well as how to best engage. Here are considerations we advise executive leaders to keep in mind:
Know what you want from time invested: The best leaders set clear goals for social media participation and review progress against them before going all-in. Collect the data and assess how you’re meeting those goals, and adjust as needed.
Use listening insights as a lever for change: More organizations are investing in social listening centers to adapt communications and be more agile in decision-making. Chief executives have an obligation to mandate investment in social data collection, and more importantly, ensure that critical business insights are delivered to their desks — and screens.
Engage in business-minded social networks: For business, not all networks are equal. The platform that your 13-year-old son or daughter engages in may not be right for your professional communications. Consider the business benefits of networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google over niche benefits of up-and-comers generating social media buzz.
Be the most trusted name for your news: All companies are now media companies, and more executives are becoming lead voices in carrying their news, thought leadership perspectives and financial information through social networks.
Stay current with media change: Changes in media – and social networks themselves – are happening faster than ever. You need people on your team who keep up with platforms, monitor how they’re changing, and educate you on how they can be best used.
Think before you tweet (or post): Don’t forget that whether operating at the office or at home, your message will be heard through a business context. Executives recognize the risk as well as the opportunity – 56% say that it is risky for CEOs to engage in social media. Anything you say is on the record and open to scrutiny.
With expectations on the rise, it’s imperative leaders understand how social media advances business and reputation objectives. It’s easy to defer acting in practice until a more opportune time arises, but as our research suggests, that time has finally come.
Originally appeared here.