6 Essential Social Media Lessons From Top Executives

Shannon Johnson
Shannon Johnson



c-suites-guide-to-social-media-promo-2Previously, right here on this blog, we’ve written about the importance of company leadership getting involved in social media. After all, there are some major benefits to doing so -- an improved company reputation and increased consumer trust, among others. Despite the upsides of social media involvement, the vast majority of c-level executives remain absent from social channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

If you’re wondering why that’s the case, or want to learn more about the many reasons why company execs should hop aboard the social media train, you can find what you’re looking for in The C-Suite’s Guide to Getting Started With Social Media.

In this post, though, we want to focus on a different-but-related subject: Who are some of the executive leaders who are actually using social media channels to set their companies apart? What can they teach us?

Even though there is an overall lack of c-suite social media participation across industries, there are numerous execs who just plain get it. We’re going to unpack some lessons you can learn from them to get you over any obstacle of getting you started with social media … which'll lead to increased brand awareness, strengthened relationships with existing and future customers, and improved perception of the organization you represent.


1) Kill Multiple Birds With One Stone

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Richard Branson is very active on social media, and not just on Twitter and LinkedIn. He’s an avid blogger who uses his posts to help populate his other social feeds. Below is an example of one of many of his tweets that contains a link back to one of his blog posts.

Branson teaches us that you don’t have to come up with 100% original content for every channel you choose to be a part of, so you can relax a little if you’re concerned about having enough content to share. If you create any industry-related content at all (which is a good idea if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader), you can share it to multiple channels multiple times as long as you’re careful not to over-promote your own stuff.

2) Don’t Be a Walled Garden

Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder of HubSpot

Don’t worry about keeping your Twitter profile private, and make sure your LinkedIn profile is as public as possible. Both HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah have their LinkedIn profiles set to be as open to the public as possible regardless of whether the viewer is a connection or not. Why? Because if people are looking you up -- especially during any part of the sales process -- it’s because they want to know as much about you to gather whether you and your company are trustworthy enough to do business with.

The more information you offer up about your professional background and who you are as an individual, the stronger your credentials will be, and the more trustworthy you’ll come across. And guess what? People do business with people they know, like, and trust.

3) Share a Balance of Corporate, Curated, and Original Content Topics

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group

Even though Arianna Huffington’s LinkedIn profile isn’t as robust or as publically accessible as it could be (at the time of writing, she doesn't have a vanity URL or any other work experience listed prior to The Huffington Post), she expands her presence beyond her profile by publishing regularly to LinkedIn Today.


What Huffington does well is balance the topics she’s passionate about, such as the importance of sleep, with news specifically related to the business side of The Huffington Post. The variety of content prevents her connections from getting tired or bored from over-promotion. What’s more is that Huffington becomes more relatable by standing for something other than money, media, business, success, profits, the bottom line, <insert your choice of stale business term here>.

If you want more help figuring out how to balance company-specific content, content you authored, and other valuable stuff your followers and connections will like, check out What Should I Tweet? 8 Places to Find Fantastic Content [SlideShare].

4) Don’t Be Stuffy

Elon Musk, Founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX

Elon Musk may be worth $11.7 billion dollars, but he doesn’t craft his tweets as if every word is made of gold. He uses casual physics terminology, sure, but you’d expect that from the spacecraft-, solar panel-, and electric car-manufacturing entrepreneur.

Industry language that your fans and followers also speak is very different from blasting your feeds with business babble in an effort to maintain a buttoned-up image. It’s okay -- and advisable -- for even executives to avoid robotic corporate speak.

Musk comes across as relatable and human because he doesn’t just tweet about work, and he’s not afraid to use a fragment sentence here and there. He tweets about his kids, books he recommends, and movies he likes.

5) Have a Bio Page on Your Company Website

Having a bio on your company website matters because prospects will Google you at some point during the buying process (you know this because your analytics will tell you so). You want to put your best professional foot forward by having your bio or your LinkedIn profile rank at the top of search engine results.

Your reputation matters. Like, big time. Two thirds (66%) of consumers surveyed in the study The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust say that their perceptions of CEOs affect their opinions of those companies and their products. By creating a digital asset that tells the story you want to tell, you have more control over what people find out about you when they go searching.

Ideally your bio lives on its own page (not grouped with other executives), and contains a nice headshot as well as links to your social media profiles.

“If you don’t rank first for your name, you need to work on that.”
- Brian Halligan, HubSpot Co-Founder and CEO

Three executives who get the idea are:

Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer, Cisco

Padmasree Warrior’s bio page doesn’t just contain her full bio, but also her latest blog posts and tweets, as well as a few featured articles about her. Because it’s the first page that ranks for her name in Google, all of this favorable information is what you, as a consumer, will likely discover before anything else.

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

On Richard Branson’s bio page on Virgin.com, you can learn more about who he is, read his latest blog posts, and easily access his other social channels. Other than his Wikipedia page (which is much harder, if not impossible, to control), it’s the first page that ranks for his name in Google.

Dharmesh Shah, CTO and Co-Founder of HubSpot

Dharmesh Shah’s bio page is complete with a high-quality headshot, a succinct summary of his professional accomplishments, and links to his profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And, whaddaya know? It’s the first page that ranks for his name in Google as well.

What page ranks first when you Google your name?

6) Don’t Be a Robot

We all know executives are crunched for time, which is why it’s understandable to cut some corners. It’s not all that uncommon to have a PR, social media, or marketing practitioner assist a c-level leader in keeping their social media feeds populated. It’s also not that uncommon to automate publishing. This is fine to an extent, but if it’s overdone, it does more harm than good. It’s no different than sending an assistant to a fundraiser or cocktail party on your behalf: You’re not fooling anyone that you weren’t really there.

If your tweets are too automated, if you never respond to people two @mention you, or if you tweet too infrequently, people can quickly conclude you’re not really invested in this whole social media thing.

Peruse the Twitter accounts of these execs and you’ll find they tune in to their social accounts on a daily basis, respond when talked to, and pass along the content shared by others:

What’s holding you back from getting active on social media? Which c-level executives do you look to for social media inspiration?

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