Is Your CEO On Social Media? If Not, Your Business May Be At Risk.

Roughly 60 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are not active on any social media channel and fewer than 12 percent are active on more than one channel.

That’s surprising, especially given consumers’ overwhelming desire for transparency from businesses and business owners. Consistent headlines about data breaches and privacy concerns are surely to blame, leading 86% of Americans to say business transparency is more important today than ever before.

It’s no longer safe for businesses to stay silent on their values, business decisions, and political and social stances. Younger buyers, especially, are using digital transparency as a measuring stick to identify the companies they want to purchase from — and those they don’t.

That helps explain why an industry leader like Nike felt compelled to launch an advertising campaign with an athlete is polarizing as Colin Kaepernick. It’s simply a good business decision: some 86 percent of people are likely to take their business to a competitor when there’s a lack of transparency on social. (In fact, Nike’s sales surged in the days following the Kaepernick ad debut, suggesting that Nike’s competitors may be suffering from this very affliction.)  

CEOs are in a uniquely appropriate position to answer the consumer cry for business transparency on social media. Not only can they can speak to the rationale behind business decisions and give a compelling behind-the-scenes perspective, they can also share insights on industry trends that inspire consumer trust and interest.

Even so, nearly 90% of Fortune 500 chief executives are still missing the mark on social. They either don’t understand how social media supports business objectives or aren’t committed to using it effectively to achieve their goals.

That’s a risky situation for those businesses because a CEO’s reputation is directly responsible for 44% of a company’s market value. When you consider the impact on recruitment, corporate reputation, and stakeholder confidence, it becomes difficult to ignore the financial impact of an executive’s personal brand.

Sure, social media transparency is just one component of a powerful executive brand, but it’s an essential component. Not only do consumers want to know what a business stands for, they also want to know the same of the people running the company.

Transparency can even play a significant role in the long-term preservation of a business and its business owners. Think of it like an insurance policy: when brands are transparent and develop a history of transparency, nearly 90% of people are more likely to give them second chances after bad experiences and 85% are more likely to stick with them during crises.

At its core, a CEO’s social media strategy ought to appeal to the curiosities of its most important audiences, whether that be investors, consumers, or employees. According to a recent study by Sprout Social, when it comes to a CEO’s social media activity, consumers find the most value in the company’s reasoning behind business decisions, followed closely by industry thought leadership and inside looks at the company.

Though this type of information tops the charts when it comes to positively impacting consumers’ brand perception, executives with different priority audiences may find alternative content to be more effective. A focus on employee recruitment may necessitate sharing individual employee stories while a focus on investors may inspire more content about the CEO’s entrepreneurial experience and long-term vision.

Regardless of an executive’s target audience or social media focus, it’s important for their online activity to feel as authentic as possible. Whether CEOs choose to run their own social media profiles, manage it in-house or partner with a digital agency, their activity must feel relevant and representative. After all, most consumers set a higher standard of responsibility for business transparency on social media than they set for politicians, nonprofits, friends/family and even themselves.

Is that high bar due, in part, to the current lack of social transparency found among today’s Fortune 500 CEOs? Perhaps. Is there pressure for tomorrow’s executives to adapt or risk alienating their target consumers? Definitely.

Those willing to take their executive presence outside the boardroom and into the digital landscape are primed to enjoy a distinct competitive advantage. After all, simply posting on LinkedIn is enough to make you more socially transparent than the majority of today’s most successful CEOs.

How 'Boring' Industries Are Rebranding To Appeal To Younger Generations

Mutual Funds. Mortgage. Insurance. Health plans.

If you’re already nodding off, that’s to be expected. The financial services and healthcare industries don’t necessarily have a reputation for being “fun.” Even so, young consumers are growing up and need loans, checking and savings accounts, and the ability to navigate the healthcare system on their own.

Oscar Health is one company that’s consciously shedding their industry’s “boring” label with a goal to make health insurance less confusing, more convenient, and — as they put it — more human.

The company has an easy-to-use mobile and web app that houses members’ pertinent health information and lets you look for doctors, book appointments and see details of your claims. The app is supported by a personalized concierge team and members have 24/7 access to board-certified physicians if they need a diagnosis in a pinch. It even comes with a step-tracking feature that offers members $1 a day when they meet their daily step goal.

Though the company’s digital-first approach attracts consumers of all generations, it is particularly appealing for digital natives whose purchasing habits have been shaped in the smartphone era.

“It’s the ease and convenience that people across all ages want, but that the younger generations have come to expect,” said Sara Wajnberg, SVP of Product at Oscar Health.

While Oscar seeks to disrupt health insurance, another company -- Capsule -- is focused on reducing the frustration that comes with multiple, inefficient trips to the pharmacy. The company offers free same-day delivery of prescription medicine through its mobile app and provides access to its team of pharmacists via text, email, or phone.

Capsule is also able to anticipate questions about insurance coverage, remind patients about refills when they would have otherwise forgotten, and offer competitive prescription pricing.

And while the healthcare industry is ripe for disruption, health-related companies aren’t the only ones offering modern convenience through digital upgrades to appeal to younger consumers. Financial institutions are also doubling down to deliver that level of expected speed, ease and convenience.

Fintech frontrunner Fiserv, for instance, provides tech solutions to thousands of banks and credit unions across the US to make banking simpler, more trustworthy -- and even, more fun -- for younger consumers. Real-time money movement, biometric authentication, voice banking, online and mobile account opening and the ability for the cardholder to control their debit and credit card functionality with their CardValet app are just a few specific examples.

“The financial services industry is in a period of rapid transformation,” said Vincent Brennan, President of the Credit Union Solutions division at Fiserv. “Evolving consumer expectations are a catalyst for change as financial institutions work to deliver the speed, ease and convenience people want and need. Fiserv is providing the technology that enables these experiences with solutions that are in step with how people live and work today.”

Vibrant Credit Union, one of Fiserv’s clients, recently revamped its brand image and in-branch technology capabilities to appeal to the youngest members. Matt McCombs, President and CEO, reported that since its 2011 overhaul, membership of 18 to 34-year-olds has increased 75 percent. He credits this to the credit union’s modern technology, such as video banking, and customer experience, including their branded ice cream truck and events like “Talk Like a Pirate” day.

Wealthsimple, a popular automated investment manager (robo-advisor, for short), takes a similar approach to save customers time. The company says it takes less than five minutes to sign up and get invested in a customized portfolio (hence the “simple” in Wealthsimple’s name).

The platform is also particularly beginner-friendly, which is not the first adjective you might otherwise use to describe the investing industry. But that’s the point, says Mike Giepert, Executive Creative Director at Wealthsimple.

“[We’re] demystifying investing for younger people by making smart and low-cost investment services accessible and more human.”

That accessibility and digital-first approach is particularly appealing to younger consumers whose purchasing habits have been shaped in the smartphone era. But with those digital roots comes a healthy dose of skepticism. Headlines about fake news and Instagram feeds flooded with sponsored posts have led younger generations to be increasingly cautious about the trustworthiness of online information.

Yes, younger generations undoubtedly want convenience; but they also want companies that offer transparency, and are even willing to pay more for that privilege.

NerdWallet has made that transparency part of its core business model. The personal finance website was founded in 2009 to help consumers get more clarity around financial decisions. NerdWallet offers tailored recommendations and side-by-side comparisons for credit and debit cards, insurance quotes, checking accounts, and more. Think of it like a Kayak for financial advice.

The company often earns referral fees when people sign up for the services they write about, but the company discloses all its partners on its website and is adamant that those partnerships only influence which products they choose to review -- not the nature of the reviews themselves.

“Bottom line?” the site asks readers rhetorically. “We’re on your side, even if it means we don’t make a cent.”

Policygenius is another website whose entire business model is built around transparency. The company is an independent insurance marketplace that gives younger customers a side-by-side comparison shopping experience they’re used to. Only instead of flights or hotels, consumers compare insurance quotes.

Of course, offering a mobile-first, transparent service is only half the battle for companies seeking to tap into this market with up to $143 billion in spending power. The other half is branding those initiatives in such a way that younger consumers will see past the industry’s boring stigma and give the service a try.

“We talk to younger consumers where they are most -- on their phone,” explains Alison McGlone, Head of Brand at NerdWallet.

“Our marketing spend is primarily focused on Google, social media (Facebook, Instagram) and TV, and even our TV campaign is designed to find them outside of the living room, wherever they watch content, since we know that is how their consumption has evolved.”

NerdWallet’s approach appears to be working. The company reports more than 100 million people — a third of American consumers — come to NerdWallet every year for advice when making financial decisions.

Those familiar with Progressive’s iconic Flo advertisements may be wondering what it is that makes them so memorable. Love them or hate them, they’re engaging because they connect with consumers on a human level.

That insight is what helped inform Progressive’s Parentamorphosis campaign, based on the premise that ordinary people start turning into their parents the moment they purchase their first home. (The latest episode depicts a group of new homeowners in a therapy-style support meeting who trade hilariously relatable dad-isms. “Progressive can’t save you from becoming your parents,” the narrator admits at the end, “but we can save you money when you bundle on home and auto.”)

“It’s all about the right content in the right context,” says Jeff Charney, Progressive’s CMO.

There may not be one right answer to the right content and the right context. But one thing is for certain: young people reward brands they feel “get them.” Companies in traditionally “boring” industries may be fighting an uphill battle to break through the stigma, but untold riches await the companies who can most effectively tap into the psyche of young consumers and offer a purchasing experience congruent with their values.

Facebook Engagement Sharply Drops 50% Over Last 18 Months

Is your Facebook Page suffering from a steep drop in engagement rate? According to a 2018 study conducted by Buzzsumo and Buffer, you’re not alone.

The study analyzed more than 43 million posts from the top 20,000 brands on Facebook and found that all Pages suffered more than a 50 percent reduction in engagement.

It’s not for lack of trying. The volume of Facebook posts from top brands is up 25 percent over the past year, from 6.5 million posts to 8.1 million. That amounts to an increase from 72,000 posts per day in Q1 2017 to 90,032 posts per day in Q2 2018.

Even so, the Facebook Pages that posted the most suffered the biggest decline. While engagement fell regardless of posting frequency, those that posted 10 or more times per day saw a drop of nearly 66 percent.

One reason for the staggering decline is a stark increase in News Feed competition. Ever since Facebook’s recent ‘meaningful interactions’ update, the platform has heavily prioritized posts from family and friends over public content.

Since space in the News Feed is limited, this priority shift means Facebook users are less likely to see business Page content, no matter how relevant it is.

As for the public content that Facebook does choose to show in the News Feed, it has historically prioritized the distribution of posts that earn the most clicks, views, and reactions. But the latest algorithm update takes that a step further, prioritizing posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people,” meaning sharing and back-and-forth discussion in the comments.

That shift helps to explain why brands who have historically held to the ‘quantity over quality’ approach suffered the largest loss in post engagement. It’s difficult enough to create 3 or 4 posts in a day that inspire meaningful interactions with your audience, and much harder to do it when your output is closer to 10 or 15 posts per day.

Of course, Facebook users know that it doesn’t take much scrolling in the News Feed to find a post that explicitly encourages engagement (‘LIKE this if you’re an Aries or LOVE this if you’re a Leo to find TRUE LOVE!!’). But brands that systematically and repeatedly use this type of engagement bait to artificially gain reach in the News Feed will find it does more harm than good.

Facebook’s machine learning model can now detect different types of engagement bait — from posts that encourage reactions and shares to ones that ask for comments, tags, or votes — and de-prioritize those posts in the News Feed.

It’s the latest in a series of algorithm updates (including a fight against clickbait headlines) to reduce the spread of spammy, sensational or misleading content in order to promote more meaningful and authentic conversations on Facebook.

The recent data doesn’t paint a particularly rosy picture for businesses who rely on Facebook for traffic and leads.

For the savviest and most inspired content creators, there are still ways to work within Facebook’s guidelines to maximize user engagement. It’s easier said than done, but is possible so long as Facebook continues to show public content in the News Feed.

Such a strategy requires a deep understanding of a brand’s audience and the resources necessary to create content that inspires meaningful discussions and interactions.

But Facebook’s recent prioritization of friends and family over public content may have some brands asking, “Why bother?” Why spend more time and money creating highly-engaging Facebook content for smaller and smaller impact?

It’s a valid question. While some brands may choose to stay and fight for diminishing returns, others may prefer a future on Facebook not unlike Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. In other words, some brands will find the social network more valuable as a digital business listing instead of a platform for sharing content and earning attention.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Facebook becoming another Yelp. Review platforms and business listings are instrumental for discoverability on the web — they help potential customers find accurate hours and contact information, and offer customer reviews that are just as trustworthy as personal recommendations.

If there is one way that Facebook stands apart from other review platforms and business listings, it’s the popularity of the company’s messaging service, aptly named Messenger. Messenger now has as many users as WhatsApp (1.2 billion monthly users) and enables one billion messages between people and businesses every month.

While proactively earning customer reviews and keeping company information accurate will always be important, brands using Facebook as a business listing must contend with at least one additional responsibility: responding to customer inquiries.

Whether brands decide to fight or flee from Facebook’s News Feed changes, the latest update is an important reminder not to put all your social media posts on one platform. You never know when today’s biggest social network will become tomorrow’s MySpace.