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.