3 Best Practices: How to Become a ‘Social’ CEO

By Jeffrey Barnhart

The role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in social media is constantly evolving. The term “Social CEO” is not new. Yet, it’s becoming increasingly more important in today’s digital world given the need for transparency.

Consumers want a human connection with the people behind their favorite brands and for many that means hearing directly from the CEO. According to McKinsey, companies that continue to adopt social technologies can add $1.3 trillion in value to their brand in the next few years.

But simply posting on LinkedIn isn’t enough. Examine your target audience to identify which channels will be most effective. Then think like a customer and put your audience’s informational needs before your business’s promotional message. Share what goes on behind the scenes in the office, connect with the media, build anticipation about an upcoming launch or announcement and share valuable content and thought-leadership pieces. Use social to create a vibrant presence that shows your personality.

According to Sprout Social research, social is the top way for brands to connect with consumers to generate brand loyalty and bottom-line growth. Seventy percent of consumers feel more connected to a brand when the CEO is active on social.  

CEOs who adopt transparency and openness as part of their leadership style are more likely to use social media to engage with stakeholders. However, roughly 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs are not active on any social media channel and are hesitant about having a direct line of communication with anyone and everyone from the outside world 24/7. Fewer than 12 percent of CEOs are active on more than one channel, as stated by Forbes.com. Many are slow to adapt because they see it as an unnecessary distraction or have misconceptions about the value of social media.

However, more recently CEOs are realizing the possibilities of social media and seeing it as a powerful, integral part of the job and leveraging it to:

As the CEO of CMA, my role in social media since CMA opened its doors, more than 30 years ago, has progressed—going from no presence at all to steadily ramping up to what it is today. Social media has become such a prevalent part of business that it is difficult to remember what it was like before it was born.

Here are three best practices to becoming a social media trailblazer:

Develop a social CEO plan

As with all aspects of marketing, being a savvy marketer means following a set of best practices and a yearly marketing plan. Your social media strategy should include a tactic specifically dedicated to how your CEO will engage in social media. The nonprofit sector is doing this particularly well—with many executive directors having an active presence, taking full advantage of social media to help raise their organization’s profile.


Conduct a social media audit to determine which channels make the most sense for you and your brand. In addition to personal social media accounts, CEOs should also have a social media presence through the company’s owned media. CEOs and other business leaders tend to follow CEOs. Ultimately, they are your target audience during the sales process because they are the decision-makers.

For example, CMA currently has social media accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. I have personal social media accounts including Twitter and LinkedIn, which are more business focused. I also share CMA’s news and updates through my personal Facebook account and engage with our firm on Instagram.

If you are just getting established on social media, start by identifying your target platform and master it. Have a firm grasp of your objectives and define your goals so that you can track your success. Once you have a rhythm for posting, sharing photos and videos and replying to comments, then add an additional channel. Time is your most valuable resource as a CEO. Having a presence on social media doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to post, check-in and reply to comments.

As you develop your social CEO strategy, it should include a communication plan in the event that a public relations crisis arises. How will you respond? Will you share a corporate statement, or will you respond openly and honestly, taking responsibility and apologizing if necessary?

Maybe you’ve already encountered a public relations crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. Were you able to contain it and counter it quickly? Or does your crisis communication plan need some fine-tuning? Making mistakes along the way won’t damage your brand, but failing to properly handle a crisis will leave long-term marks.

Share original, compelling content

To stay visible and keep your audience engaged, many CEOs post original brand content, for example blogs or vlogs (video blogs), at least once week.

CEOs can offer insight on topics encompassing leadership, culture, entrepreneur insights and vision—which is a higher-level perspective. This strategy gives the CEO additional visibility and further positions him/her as an industry thought leader.

On a weekly basis, CMA’s blog features content that is bylined by top-level staff. I am among the contributors to the marketing blog, which offers the latest tips, trends and best practices in branding, digital marketing, website and mobile app design, social media, public relations, advertising, collateral, association management, event planning, publications and advertising sales. To increase reach and engagement, I share posts through my social media channels.

In addition to blogs, create video blogs as part of your content marketing strategy. Vlogs should not only be incorporated into your overall social media strategy, but your CEO should also be regularly featured. With the growing demand for video, CMA’s “Reel Results” vlogs take content to a new level by putting a face behind the message to deliver a personalized experience.

According to Oberlo, 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support. Showcase your company’s videos by pinning a video to the top of your social page to highlight a new product or announcement.

When your company shares content, CEOs should also share it on social media channels with a personalized message. The many benefits include expanding reach to new audiences, through social shares, as well as increasing engagement through comments. 

At CMA, we regularly produce and distribute vlogs, which correspond with one of our “hot topic” blogs. I’m regularly featured and share them on my social media channels.

Although the social media landscape continues to change, video is the constant that continues to hold strong. It is the best performing digital content type. Eighty-five percent of business owners say they are satisfied with the ROI of their social videos. In fact, posts that include a video have 48% more views than those without one.

By 2022 it is estimated that 82% of all consumer internet traffic will come from online videos.

 Measure Success

You’ve implemented your social media strategy and now it is time to see if you are hitting your numbers. You want to know if the time you are spending on social media is leading to customers, sales or brand awareness.

When an executive decides to dedicate time and effort to social media, metrics need to be in place to show the business value. In marketing, everything goes back to the return on investment (ROI). Measuring success is no different when it comes to social media.

Review your audience growth rate, impressions and engagement (likes, comments, shares, retweets and reactions).  

Building a following through social media takes time and consistency, but by examining the numbers, you can get smarter with your content and finetune your engagement tactics, which can move leads down the sales funnel. 

Do you have a plan for your CEO to leverage social media? Contact us today, to get the conversation started.

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