Social Media Thought Leadership for Executive Teams

Social Media Thought Leadership for Executive Teams

Still can’t get your C-suite to understand their role in social media thought leadership strategy?  
Get them to read this….

Social media is already a multi-trillion dollar industry and Boston Global Consulting predicts it will be at $4.2 trillion by 2016. With over two billion people using it globally, executives are making it a priority to understand the impact of social media on their business and just as importantly, on their own careers.

But still many leaders in the C-suite continue to think about social media as a channel, specifically, for communications or sales. Its reach is far greater.

The new, smart executive understands the power of social media thought leadership. The social media spokesperson is creating and sharing information and generating online discussion through peer and industry groups and communities using commentary platforms, blog posts, podcasts, videos etc.

The potential topics are selected strategically and in line with corporate communication aims. They cover everything the ‘traditional’ media has and still covers; industry news, emerging trends, market shifts, innovation, challenges and opportunities etc but in a social spokesperson tone of voice.

Social media allows content to be shared quickly and widely with a global network, creating visibility for social thought leaders by amplifying their message.

LinkedIn was quick to capitalise on the power of social media for thought leadership by creating the platform, Influencers.

Leaders are given a “follow” button and a personal blog on the site. This section allows people to subscribe to regular posts from established key influencers of their choice or from those building their reputation and profile.

These social media thought leaders are smart executives who have something to say that others want to hear and know the power of direct (message) controlled communication that social media offers.

This leaves us with something of a problem right now. There are many smart executives leading companies around the world but not an enormous number that are digital and social media aware or are consciously social spokespeople. Fewer still are using as it a channel for their thought leadership and expertise.

Last year only 16 percent of CEOs used social thought leadership for business advantage. While in 2013 up to 30 percent have a presence in one form or another, many are not using it strategically.

According to a recent, two year joint study by Capgemini and the MITa key factor for success is a digitally driven Board and Executive prepared to propel change through every layer of the business, including using it themselves (or under their name).

Around five million people have for example signed up to LinkedIn in Australia but don’t do anything once they are there. This is a bit like going to a networking lunch and standing in the corner.

The successful executives are those that are reading and engaging in LinkedIn industry groups and establishing themselves as social spokespeople.

Managing Director of Media Manoeuvres, Sam Elam believes many executives need to incorporate the right social media into their daily reading of ‘media’.

“In many ways the LinkedIn industry groups are the must-read, new pages of the Australian Financial Review. Smart executives are going there for industry information, news and commentary from experts and key industry representatives.

Smart executives now read the ‘traditional’ business media as well as their industry social media each day and engage socially with controlled messages as a part of appropriate social information,” she said.

GE is an example of a major corporation actively using social media thought leadership.

Its LinkedIn group; GE Capital Mid-Market Hub was established in 2012 as a way of engaging with a very select C-suite audience who were already active on social.

The Hub was a finalist in the LinkedIn 2013 Best Global Community award. The company was also asked to be part of a case study of global best practice. 

“We drove engagement with content from our executives and we used external partnerships to ignite interesting conversation. It’s about being smart with the content that we already have and leveraging this in a way that addresses the needs of our audience,” said Anthony Spargo, Director, Public Affairs, GE & Director, Communications, GE Capital, Australia and New Zealand.

There’s increasing evidence that it’s the companies that ‘get’ digital as a ‘way of being’ rather than a ‘handball-to-marketing’ which outperform their peers.

For example, according to a recent Sensis Social Media Report of the 65 percent of Australians who use social media, one in five research people and companies using social media, nearly 70 percent of which convert to  higher awareness, a greater level of specific knowledge sought (about you or your company), active engagement and sales or personal contact.

The Capgemini and the MIT study of almost 400 firms found that businesses who are more digitally mature were:

  • 26% more profitable than their less mature peers;
  • Generate 9% more revenue through their employees & physical assets;
  • Generate 12% higher market valuation ratios.

Social media for executives education and training needs to prove the value of finding extra time to understand the power of social media for them in an already, jam packed schedule.

It needs to be strategically intelligent training which can go back to hands-on basics, if needed.

Sam Elam says her media training company has added specialist, executive social media training which addresses social media, specifically for the C-Suite. The training looks at the strategic power of LinkedIn and Twitter for a social media spokesperson to dispel the current levels of executive understanding which is often limited to social being about a ‘like’ on Facebook or a 140-character ‘tweet’.

“Executives using social media properly in business, and for their careers, will be the stand outs in the future. But like the need for traditional media training, executives now need social spokesperson training. Skilled social leaders will find they, and their companies, will be noticed more, quoted more, offered more opportunities and of course, be more profitable,” she said.

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