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The chief executive officer of the United States of America now has a Twitter handle. Should every CEO and company chief have the same? Many CEOs already do, but are you using it effectively, in a way that benefits the company and builds the brand?
- Start by creating a social-media policy. Direct your marketing leader to draft a social-media policy that would apply to all company accounts and create boundaries between personal and professional accounts. Also, establish parameters for regularly auditing company accounts, advised Maura FitzGerald, co-founder of Version 2.0 Communications. “It can be challenging to navigate the boundaries of personal versus professional online personas,” she said.
- Be where your audience is. Among the questions CEOs should ask themselves before deciding to tweet are: Are your key audiences and targeted influencers on Twitter? Having a large following on Twitter is like having eyeballs on your website. You want them to be the right followers. If your audience is more active on a different social media, then perhaps you should start there instead of here.
- Go all in or don’t go at all. Do you have the time to devote? At least 30 minutes a day is recommended, according to Alison Ilg of Ilg Communications. Of course, it doesn’t have to be—and shouldn’t be—all at once. Tweeting is meant to be continuous, over the course of the day and week.
- Do it yourself. Some CEOs use a ghostwriter to handle their Twitter accounts, but Dan Grody, head of Tellem Grody PR, advised against that practice. “If it’s not [realistic], people will be able to [tell].”
- Get personal. Your followers want to see your personal side. Allison Matherly, coordinator of digital engagement at Texas Tech University, suggests tweeting about a favorite dessert or hobbies. Do you kayak, skydive, fly planes or mountain climb? The more interesting you are, the more people—even your customers—will be interested in following you.
- Be opinionated. They also want to know what you think. Avi Steinlauf, CEO of automotive-information service Edmunds.com, uses his Twitter handle for his own commentary and mixes in retweets of items of interest to Edmunds employees, clients and other professional contacts. “This allows for quick engagement in topical online conversations in between meetings,” noted Jeannine Fallon, executive director of corporate communications for Edmunds.
- Act quickly to neutralize criticism. CEOs who use social media effectively can stem attacks on their company or brand, Catriona Pollard, a New Zealand-based PR expert, told Stuff. “You can see that people are engaged,” she said. “It also stops the criticism.”
- Don’t hide when the going gets rough. When AirAsia flight 8501 disappeared, CEO Tony Fernandes immediately took his apologies and condolences to Twitter, and used the medium to for crisis management. Apart from being unable to find the plane, no one could have handled the situation better. Communicating in real time is expected during a crisis, according to Vehr Communications’ 2014 Social CEO study, and social media is a great tool for doing exactly that.
- Carefully vet who you follow. “Remember when your mom didn’t want you hanging around those ruffians in school?” said Alexander Ruggie, public relations director for 911 Restoration. “The same is true for their grown-up digital versions. [People assume] the company you keep, especially online, says a lot about who you are.”
- Use it to influence media. With Twitter, CEOs can more easily enter the realm of thought leadership by interacting personally with editors, reporters, bloggers and other influencers— perhaps under the watchful eye of their internal PR team. Twitter is a “powerful tool for communicating with the news media,” said Jacques Hart, CEO of Roar Media, and helps build “positive relationships.”
- What happens on Twitter is not private, even if it says it is. CEOs shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that the service’s “private tweets” capability ensures those messages will stay private. “We have all seen examples of CEOs who got into serious trouble after they mistakenly assumed their inappropriate tweets would not go viral,” Hart said.
While each tweet comprises only 140 characters, choosing to enter the world of Twitter can be an important decision for a CEO or business chief. Social media, while fleeting, can help grow your brand if used with deliberate thought and consideration.