Every day, new studies arise that make the case for why your CEO needs to get social – and the benefits to employees, shareholders, customers and influencers alike. Social Media is a real-time focus group, you can “tune in” to hear what any of your constituencies are thinking, and more importantly, to see what they are doing – sharing, liking or otherwise endorsing.

Carreen Winters
By Carreen Winters
From a CEO’s perspective, social media offers the kind of insight that typically requires an appearance on Undercover Boss to obtain.

The relative anonymity of social media – which some suggest may be the very thing that is making the C-Suite socially shy – provides an opportunity for the kind of candid, authentic discussion a CEO may be hard pressed to find in a corner office.

If you are reading this post, odds are you are already listening….so where to begin? Facebook (friends can’t be bad!), Twitter (brevity is the soul of wit) or even Quora’s Q&A formats all have their own appeal; but wherever you choose to start, you can follow these three easy steps to getting socially active and engaged.

-- Transparency and trust start at the top. Social media provides an excellent opportunity for sharing information about corporate developments, in the CEO’s own words and voice. Michael Dell is a CEO who shares corporate news on Twitter. Similarly, Bill Gates shares lots of information about the Gates Foundation, studies, successes and new projects they are funding.

But the real opportunity in sharing is to share about something beyond your company news. Everyone loves to know what is on a CEO’s mind. What are you reading? Watching? Thinking about?

And don’t hesitate to share knowledge or news that came from someone else, either. The retweet is your friend here, and it won’t detract from your own personal thought leadership one bit. Just make sure you maintain your own voice in between retweeting, liking, or giving a +1 to someone else’s content on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, respectively.

STEP 2: SHARE INSIGHTS – We trust people, not companies. Social media provides the opportunity for individuals to feel they know you, and can trust you…as the primary trust ambassador of your Company.

Once you’ve accomplished the basics of using social media as a distribution channel for your news of the day, consider sharing deeper insights. How do you move past “who,” “what” and “where” information and provide the “why” as a thought leader? What are your views on your industry? The economy? On Leadership?

This is how a CEO of one company can become the voice of an entire industry. And this is how a leader can achieve a feeling of intimacy in a large organization or among a large audience. Frank Sorrentino of North Jersey Community Bank (an MWW client) does this really well.

Mark Cuban, for example, has a Twitter feed that mirrors his interests – from sports, to digital media to entrepreneurism, Cuban has a well-informed opinion and is always happy to share it. Cuban’s distinctive, “in-your-face” manner may not work for all CEOs, but it works for him.

As a medium that welcomes such on-the-fly, brief thoughts, Twitter is the perfect place to voice these opinions – and often is the perfect place for your CEO to start his or her social media engagement.

STEP 3: CONNECT & ENGAGE -- The final step in becoming a truly social CEO is for the CEO to begin engaging with people he or she follows on Twitter, hosting chats or hangouts on Google+, or otherwise exchanging ideas in real time with stakeholders.

These activities may be moderated or un-moderated, screened or unscreened, depending upon the executive’s comfort level and that of legal counsel.

Richard Branson engages and connects on Twitter in his signature freewheeling style, mixing promotional tweets about various Virgin companies with queries to his follower base about environmental issues, management trends and product ideas. He promotes charities, political causes and inspirational or funny quotes with equal fervor.

Here is a great list of “Twitter-licious” CEOs who have proven that social media engagement among the C-suite is possible. Which CEOs do you like to follow via social media, and what can we learn from them? Share your thoughts and suggestions for CEOs to add to my list!


Carreen Winters is executive VP-crisis communications at MWW Group.She wrote about socializing the C-suite last week on odwyerpr.com.