To tweet or not to tweet: should companies let their CEO tweet?
On February 18, 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted publicly to support Tim Cook’s position in favor of phone encryption, facing the FBI. Like them, more and more business leaders are present on social networks: according to one Weber Shandwick study, the proportion of these “social CEOs” has even doubled over the past five years. But rare are those who use them to share anything other than corporate messages or to talk about their actions at the head of the company. However, the use of the social web represents many other opportunities. How to grasp them and what questions are asked by this transformation of the public image of the business leader?
Embody the brand and its values
For a business leader, social networks are first and foremost a chance to bring their brand into conversations, in an embodied way. This is what Elon Musk does, for example, when he shares exclusive content related to the activity of his companies accompanied by personal impressions. This embodiment of the brand increases its proximity to Internet users and thus its presence in mind. It is, however, necessary that, in his speeches, the social CEO endorses the values of his company and that his actions thus serve as an example to all audiences, journalists, consumers and employees.
A new relay for the company’s overall strategy
The exercise of transparency represented by this action is also appreciated by shareholders and can thus become an integral part of a stock market valuation strategy. There are now many examples of tweets that have strongly influenced the value of a title and represent a transformation in the role of the CEO. Its activity on social networks can be used as a key element in the image of the company and thus demonstrate its capacity to keep up with the times and to adapt to technological developments.
The manager, beta tester of digital transformation
While one of the main challenges for many companies is digital transformation, it is necessary to show that this issue is taken into account and taken to the highest level. In addition, the business manager will be all the more able to understand these issues as he experiences them and can, for example, assess for himself the need for communication designed primarily for social purposes.
Towards new forms of media training
But this transformation in the role of the boss poses many questions that must be anticipated by brands. Among the current big bosses, very few master the codes of social networks, their differences in tone and their uses. While waiting for the arrival of digital natives at the head of large companies, they are therefore faced with a need for training. A need comparable to media training traditional, and which tends to approach it with the rise of video in the modes of social interaction.
Recruitment strategies put to the test of the social CEO
Some companies have decided to recruit directly to key positions people familiar with these issues; this is the case for an English brand which, in 2013, used social networks to find its CEO and set up a very specific application method: each contender had to produce a Vine and a board Pinterest. But these strategies often come up against the fact that digital natives have, for the most part, not yet been able to acquire sufficient management skills for this type of position. However, managing unions, mastering the codes of financial communication or formulating a strategy cannot yet be learned with a few strokes of Periscope.
Delegate in full transparency
More pragmatically, there is also the question of the time spent on social networks by business leaders. They often have extremely busy schedules and therefore feel the need to delegate this task. But this delegation can only be done in compliance with one of the main codes of social networks: transparency. It will thus be fashionable for the leader to sign with his initials the tweets that he writes himself.
Corporate strategy or personal strategy?
The CEO is not always, like Elon Musk, the founder or the principal shareholder of the company. Social communication then raises the question of the possible distinction between public and private life, between corporate image and CEO image, between corporate reputation and personal reputation. Indeed, when a CEO masters the codes and practices of social communication, to what extent does he not especially leave, via his posts and other tweets, a trace in his name?
Graduated from Sciences Po Grenoble (1998), CELSA (2000) and holder of an EMBA HEC (2015), Sophie Noel went through Ernst & Young France, Canal + Image International and Edelman before joining the online communication and marketing consulting agency in its creation in 2001 Heaven. Since 2007, Sophie Noël has been Chairman of Heaven Conseil and Managing Director of the Heaven group.