As a company director or CEO you are of course aware of your influence on the internal dynamics of your business and brand. Your actions and decisions extend beyond the day-to-day issues of just running the business.
You champion the vision and core values that drive your company activities. You have creative control over how your brand is marketed to your customers. Your interaction with employees influences their behaviour and helps create a culture that has an effect on the identity of your company brand.
However the challenge for many brands is effectively projecting this brand ethos and identity to their customers. With company leaders having such an influential role on the internal brand development why are they so often inaccessible, unknown and unheard by the external stakeholders?
What many business leaders fail to recognize is that they have the potential to have a hugely influential role in developing the brand’s public image.
Embrace Social Media for the Sake of Your Brand
Your responsibility to your company brand is now much more than how effective you are in the workplace or traditional leadership roles. Research into CEO activity online, and particularly through social media channels, has proven that company leaders who proactively engage online positively affect brand image, customer behaviour and relationships with key market influencers.
Enhance Your Brand’s Image
Company leaders who embrace social media bring a level of authenticity and openness to the brand message that brand communication campaigns cannot replicate. CEO’s understand their core brand values better than any one else in the company. They are the visionaries behind the brand, the leaders of the brand.
When company leaders use Facebook or Twitter to join the online conversation it ensures that the brand message is a dialogue and not just a one-sided promotional push from the company.
82% of respondents in a recent survey into the social media activities of C-level executives said they are more likely to trust a company when its CEO and leadership team communicates openly via social media about their core mission and values. 71% felt that a Tweeting CEO also boosts brand image and 78% said that it gives the perception of better communication.
Employees have a fundamental role in championing and shaping the brand image during customer interactions. Company leaders who use social media set the standard and tone for how to communicate and interact with potential customers.
CEO activity on social networks also appears to influence employees’ confidence in their company. The study findings indicate that 82% of employee respondents trust a company more when the company leader and management team communicate via social media.
Boost Sales, Increase Your Profitability
A company leader’s social media presence influences purchasing decisions. 77% of survey respondents claimed to be more likely or much more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media to clearly define company values and leadership principles. Direct access to the company leader can help close sales that might have proved more difficult for lower level employees to achieve.
Financial Services firm ING Direct Canada is known for its tweeting CEO, Peter Aceto who has said using social media helps him gauge how both employees and customers view the company and its products. It helps him keep in touch at a grass roots level and enables him build a more ‘accessible and engaged relationship’ in his market. “We saw it as a competitive advantage for us. There was no science. There was no ROI. We just needed to get going, start to build a community and learn how we can use it.”
No time? No excuses!
In this post digital era brand leaders are surprisingly slow to adopt social media as a means of developing their brand’s identity. Social Media takes time and commitment, particularly for those that are new to online engagement.
While time, or lack thereof, is an excuse used by many business leaders who have yet to adopt social media the fact of the matter is that the world has changed and there is no hiding anymore. If you are not speaking for yourself and your brand then someone else will do the speaking for you and you might not like what they have to say.
Nervous of using social media? A good way of getting used to introducing your views to your customers is through a blog. Most leaders are more comfortable writing a post rather than launching themselves into an open dialogue with customers. Richard Branson writes a blog with a style that is very true to his personality, a personality that is deeply intertwined with the Virgin brand. He’s also very active on other social channels too such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Facebook & Twitter
Social Media is not going away. In fact it’s the most ubiquitous part of our lives now and becoming the more dominantly preferred form of communication for many users over more traditional email.
Your customers have integrated Facebook and Twitter into their daily lives. There is no better place to influence your brand image and enhance customer engagement than through these channels.
It will benefit not only your customer’s perceptions of your brand but it also provides you, as a leader, with a greater understanding and insights into how customers engage and interact with your brand online.
The time is NOW to embrace social media and start really using the power of your voice online to shape public perception of your brand. It could be the most influential thing you do for your brand this year.
• Do you know how to leverage your voice online to strengthen your brand image?
• Does your brand strategy articulate the role of the leader in the development of your brand image?
Stats: *BRANDfog, 2012 CEO Social Media & Leadership Survey, March 12 2012