Skip to content
All posts

Advice for the CEO That Sucks at Social Media

Your executives — I’m talking C-suite here — will be some of the most visible and influential members of your organisation, whether they like it or not.

They’re the ones facing the scrutiny of the board, settling down shareholders and calming customer catastrophes. When there’s a need to put a ‘face’ on something, it’s usually their door that is being knocked.

As such, they are valuable resources for a marketing team.

When deployed correctly they can greatly accelerate the acquisition of new business or the positioning of the brand as a thought leader. Executives that are active on social media can even help catch the eyes of investors.

Here are some stats to drive the point home:

  • 65% say it’s important for CEOs to actively communicate about their companies online.
  • 81% of employees believe that CEOs who engage on social media are better equipped to lead companies in the web 2.0 world.
  • 60% of employees check executive social media accounts before accepting a job offer.

But if they’re strapped for time or don’t have the know-how on what to do, you may need to step in and hold the reigns for a bit. That is, you have to run their personal social media accounts.

You have to… become them.

Building a Strategy

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Working without a strategy is like randomly going for a drive without having a destination in mind. You’ll definitely be moving, but there’s no guarantee it’s in the right direction.

It’s even more important when it comes to executive profile building. You’re effectively becoming your boss on social media. The stakes aren’t just high; they’re personal. Literally.

Here are my tips for getting a strategy off the ground.

  • Objectives. Get an agreement in place on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with building out an executive’s personal profile. Is it to pay homage to your employees? This is something the CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillon, does extremely well. Is it to manage the brand in a crisis? Check out Danny Meyer of Shake Shack. Getting clear on the ‘why’ will influence the content you prioritise. Speaking of which…
  • Content. Decide on where your executive wants to have a presence. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram — all of the above? What type of assets will you create? Posts, articles, videos, blogs, audio snippets — all of the above? When starting out, I suggest starting small and keeping it sustainable. Follow my 60/20/20 rule. Dedicate 60% of your time building your audience on one channel, 20% of your time repurposing that content for other channels and 20% for a ‘wild card’ channel; a place where none of your competition currently exist.
  • Content Calendar. I’ve worked with a lot of executives in my time and it’s fair to say that a common quality they all share is they need to know what’s going on. Setting up a shared content calendar they can review and contribute to is an important step to running a successful executive profile building programme. It helps keep everybody aligned, can include an approval process, and makes it easier in the long run to ‘handover’ a social media account once an executive feels comfortable.
  • Tone. There’s a big difference between posting as a brand and posting as an individual. It’s critical to spend time researching ‘how’ an executive views the world and your industry in order to provide an authentic representation of them across social media. Read articles they’ve penned in the past and attend the meetings they host. Grab an hour of their time and quiz them on the areas in which they want to be seen as a thought leader. In short, get to know them.
  • Targets. Remember social media is not a one-way conversation. To be effective, it’s important to engage. I like to draw up a list of the people my executives want to be seen communicating with, be it journalists, customers, investors or otherwise. Set up notifications to be alerted when one of these targets posts and respond straight away. If a conversation starts to gain momentum, have a clear ‘alert’ process in place so that your executive can jump in themselves if she/he wishes.

Try This Little Experiment

OK, so we know what executive profile building is and the steps needed to set a strategy. Now we need to start posting. Here’s where I suggest you can start if you want to test the waters.

  • First, write a blog post for your executive on whatever theme or message you’re trying to convey. Try and keep it under 500 words if possible.
  • Post this as a LinkedIn article. I’m not talking about a regular status update here. I mean a full-fledged article complete with a header image and headline.
  • Take advantage of the fact you can link your copy back to your website or landing pages! Pepper those CTAs throughout the piece like Gordan Ramsay is watching.
  • Once the article is live, share a post advertising it with a few of the key highlights. Leave enough on the hook so readers want to dive into the real deal.
  • You can then share the LinkedIn article via your brand account. I like to leave 24 hours or so to give the executive some ‘breathing room’.
  • And hey, finish drawing a conclusion to this little escapade by repurposing the blog post on your brand blog as a listicle or some other type of content. Chase that sweet SEO, baby.

In the past, I’ve seen posts shared in this way outperform similar ones shared via a brand account by 2x-3x in terms of engagement — things like comments, likes and shares.

What can I say? People like to hear from other people.


Executive profile building is a phenomenal way to support your marketing objectives, be they brand or revenue-based. It is a labour-intensive activity that requires time to yield results, so perhaps not for small marketing teams that are unable to support on a consistent, long-term basis. But if you have a willing C-suite, it’s worth running a validation campaign.