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The Importance of Embracing Social Media in the C-Suite

The impact of social media in the digital bazaar is undeniable.  Consumers now demand more transparency, authenticity and engagement from their brands, and the businesses smart enough to pay attention are happy to oblige.  But, for many businesses both large and small, a communication disconnect exists between executive leadership in the C-Suite and their customers.  Many companies typically turn to focus groups, surveys, and customer satisfaction analyses to understand their audience, but stop there.  While all of these techniques remain part of the marketing mix, the communication gap remains.

In today’s social world, CEOs, CMOs, CIOs and senior management must become aware of the many reasons for joining social networks.  According to a study by Brandfog, consumers and employees hold company leaders who engage through social media in high regard.

The survey found that executives who engage their customers through social media can increase the company’s brand profile, instill confidence in their leadership team and build greater trust, loyalty, and purchase intent for customers.  In fact, 82 percent of survey respondents stated that they were more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engaged on social media.

“When IBM conducted its study of 1,709 CEOs around the world, they found only 16 percent of them participating in social media.  But IBM’s analysis shows that the percentage will likely grow to 57 percent within five years,” according to Mark Fidelman (@MarkFidelman) Forbes columnist.  The key takeaway from the study was that “using social technologies to engage with customers, suppliers and employees will enable the organization to be more adaptive and agile.”

Fidelman, in his Forbes article, “SAP’s CIO: You’re Putting Your Executive Career at Risk if You’re Not Social,” envisions the successful social executive of 2017 and details the warning signs that other stubborn executives chose to ignore.  (Fidelman also includes a link in his Forbes article to my post “What Makes a Successful Social Executive,” which was a companion piece to my other blog post, “7 Personalities of a Social Executive,” and an antidote to his Forbes article, “The 7 Personality Types of Extremely Anti-Social Business Executives.”)

Inspiring Leaders on Twitter in Real-Time – Net Promoter Score

Here’s a snippet of Tweets pertaining to social executives that not only gave me inspiration for my blog but also provided further evidence of the brilliant minds and thought leadership on Twitter.  If you don’t know any of these people, I highly recommend you follow them.  Be inspired by them. Build a community.  Nigel Cameron (@nigelcameron) has written several posts on the C-Suite.  Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar), CCO – Enterasys, is a champion of social enterprise.  In a recent Forbes’s article titled “If You Aren’t Social, You’ll Shrink: 10 Steps to Becoming a Social Business” Christine Comaford reported that Enterasys has grown 25 percent of its sales from new customers and had less than 5 percent annual employee attrition, with a net promoter score of 81.

July 21, 2012 Conversations & Community Engagement – Selected Tweets from @tom_peter’s Twitter Stream

@tom_peters: CEO to EVP: “What remarkable new learning experience have you had in last 6 months?” (Never heard that. Better yet, EVP asks CEO same same.)

@tom_peters: “Learning organization” starts at the top. Top guys often the least open/most resistant to “transformational” learning. Alas.

@ValaAfshar: If Twitter is a b-school, @tom_peters is a dean!”

@nigelcameron: What a great pair of ideas! RT @ckburgess: @ValaAfshar If Twitter is a b-school, @tom_peters is a dean.

@markfidelman: @tom_peters Tom, should executives embrace social business as a strategy? Cc. @ckburgess @valaafshar @nigelcameron

Executives Must Set the Cultural Tone

Executives in many companies are well versed in social media, but that does not mean they are personally immersed. The C-suite and executives need to set the culture tone by becoming socially engaged if they want to make their businesses competitive in this fast-paced digital world.   Executives and the teams they lead have the power to radically drive brand value through social engagement; they just have to be bold enough to lead the charge.

Simply put, the future workplace depends largely on social leadership.  Coming in mid-September, Tom Pick (@TomPick) and I (@ckburgess) are announcing our second annual #Nifty50 Top Women on Twitter and #Nifty50 Top Men on Twitter.  These lists will showcase executives who have demonstrated their ability to not only engage but also show exemplary leadership on Twitter.

Even as social leaders we’re going to make mistakes, and feel vulnerable and feel alone, but one thing we can be assured is that, through trust, training, collaboration and vision, we will take the first step.

“Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu.

This post was originally published on AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog.

Posted by on Aug 14, 2012 in Branding, Communication, Social Media Marketing, Twitter | 1 comment


Cheryl Burgess
Cheryl Burgess, CEO of Blue Focus Marketing, helps clients transform brands from the inside out by implementing strategic marketing initiatives that empower social employee engagement, and social executive leadership. Blue Focus Marketing is a leading Employee Experience (EX) services consultancy, delivering e-learning, employee engagement, content marketing, and social media marketing solutions. She is the co-author of the best selling book, The Social Employee, (McGraw-Hill) How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, hailed by management guru, Tom Peters as a “landmark that converts the power of social media from fiction to fact.” Her book is featured in MIT Sloan Management Review. Burgess is a special advisory board member for The Economist Intelligence Unit, and interviewed by The Economist in “Power to the People”. She is on the advisory board of CultureSphere. Cheryl is a contributor to Wharton's Advertising 2020 Project and their book, Beyond Advertising: Creating Value through All Customer Touchpoints. Burgess is listed as “Forbes Top 5 Influential CMOs”, “Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Masters” and named by Huffington Post as a social media “Passionista”, and is an IBM VIP Futurist. She is a contributor to Harvard Business Review - Italia, and expert blogger for and Cheryl is a keynote speaker at industry events, including AMP - Australia and New Zealand, Social Business Forum – Milan, Italy, IBM Connect Orlando, Dell World, Integrated Marketing Week NYC, Pivotcon - NYC, Rutgers Business School, AT&T, and KPMG. Her company blog won the MarketingSherpa Reader’s Choice Award for Best Social Media Marketing Blog. She is the winner of numerous Twitter Shorty Awards in marketing. Follow her on Twitter @ckburgess, @SocialEmployee and @BlueFocus. Google+

1 Comment

  1. I’m still amazed how LAME some companies are vis-a-vis Social Media and how those with SoMe execs are often so naive. But, it is all changing and the better companies do GET IT!


  1. Tasti D Lite: The Flavor of Social Branding - - [...] responds defensively or dismissively, what once was a small issue can become symbolic of an entire brand’s [...]

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