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Will 2019 (finally) the year of the Social CEO?

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We’ve been talking about the concept of the “social CEO” for years now. In fact, I remember Richard Branson being on Twitter in 2007!

But, the notion of the social CEO has really never taken off. Sure, there are a number of CEOs who are somewhat active on social media channels (Spencer Raskoff-Zillow, John Legere-T-Mobile and Gary Kelly-Southwest come to mind), but for the most part it’s been an uphill battle the whole way convincing CEOs this is worth their time and effort.

However, the tide may be turning.

I’ve noticed some stats and numbers recently that lead me to believe 2019 may be the start to more CEOs embracing social media.

Consider a recent BRANDFog survey that found 78% of people prefer to work for a company whose leadership is active on social media.

Or, what about the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer that found business is more trusted than government and that 64% of people believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it.

That same Edelman study also found that 56% have no respect for CEOs who remain silent on important issues. And, more than half (54%) believe it’s easier to get brands to address social problems than to get government to take action.

And finally, only 20% of CEOs have a social network account today.

What I see here are three big trends coming together, and one large opportunity.

First trend: Employees wanting to see more of their leaders online/on social media. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. When I worked in corporate communications years ago, “I want to hear more from the CEO” was always a chief complaint among employees. Today, I’m certain that refrain still rings true. Employees want to see and hear from their leaders, and social media channels give them another way to do it–and more importantly, they represent channels that aren’t named “email” or (the dreaded) “intranet.” Great example here: Jack Salzwedel of American Family Insurance. I’ve written about Jack’s involvement on social before (with the help of Tom Buchheim, who we just featured on the Talking Points Podcast!). If you follow Jack on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’ll notice he interacts with employees all the time. They’re a key audience for his work on social.

Second trend: People are looking to brands and their leaders to enact change on key issues. Now, to be clear, I’m on this whole “CEOs need to take stands on key issues” bandwagon that agencies and experts have been expousing recently. I’m just not buying it. BUT, the scare tactics may just work. They may convince some CEOs that they need to start social media accounts. And from there, they will evolve. I think this series of stats may be one that gets them off the proverbial dime.

Final trend: Recruitment marketing pressures will continue to mount. It’s no secret many companies are having a hard time recruiting top talent. At the same time, “recruitment marketing” (specifically, social recruitment marketing” has become a thing). And, a big part of that recruitment marketing is getting key leaders out onto platforms like LinkedIn to be active so potential employees can see that when researching these companies. It plays to the first stat provided above. Think about your process when researching an employer. What are the first things you look up? Company web site. Glassdoor, maybe. Then, most likely, social channels. If you see the company CEO on LinkedIn talking about company news and issues, wouldn’t that catch your eye? Wouldn’t that make a favorable impression? Wouldn’t that change the way you think about that company–even just a bit? I think it would. And, I think it’s a key BUSINESS reason we’ll see more make the leap in 2019.

The opportunity is clear: With only 20% of CEOs on social media, there’s a lot of room for growth here. I see a lot of this happening on LinkedIn in 2019. It simply makes the most sense for most brands. Your employees (are usually) there. Your vendors are there. Your customers may be there. And, it’s relatively safe, unlike the toilet bowls that are Twitter and Facebook.

Time will tell, but this is one trend I’ll be following closely in 2019.

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Will 2019 (finally) the year of the Social CEO?

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