I have been pushing CEOs to put their heads above the parapet again, after a seven year absence since the Great Recession in 2008-9. CEOs are expected to speak out on societal issues relevant to their companies. When they do, they generate significantly more support among their own employees and trust of their customers.
Facebook is a particularly powerful platform for CEOs and others in the C suite to more effectively communicate with key stakeholders. In the past six months, a wave of executives have begun using Facebook to take advantage of its global audience and the many tools available to express their ideas. One of the pioneers embracing Facebook’s potential is Mary Barra, General Motors CEO and chairman. She’s given glimpses of her leadership thinking through the books she’s reading, taken fans alongside employees volunteering in Detroit, and even used Facebook live video to debut the new Chevy Bolt at CES.
I recently launched my own public page. In speaking with Craig Mullaney, who manages strategic partnerships at Facebook, he suggested that top executives “be consistent in their presence, be genuine, be personable and accessible.”
On a technical basis, your content will rise if you use different types of media, from photos to video to short posts to long posts. You can choose organic and paid targeting tools to reach either a narrow or broad sample population. The Edelman marketing team produced a short video on this year’s Trust Barometer launch event at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In the video I recap the study’s findings. The results have been amazing… more than 620,000 people have watched the video even though I have only 13,700 fans. The power of sharing is palpable.
Sparking a CEO-led conversation on Facebook is also a great way to engage with employees, celebrate specific teams and milestones, and empower employees with content they too can share.
A quick scan of other top executives shows a broad array of techniques. Beth Comstock, vice chair of GE*, posted a terrific long-form Facebook Note on innovation. There are links to several stories in mainstream media in which Beth is featured. And she also periodically posts comments about videos such as Unimpossible Missions from GE.
Meg Whitman of HP* posted several pictures on the day of the company’s big split and shared video of the opening bell ceremony. She is also personal in her posts, including the day she moved back into a cubicle along with all of the other HP senior executives. Again, there are several posts from mainstream media, with links to her TV interviews or print articles. Whenever sharing a media link, Mullaney adds, “fans value a line or two from the influencer with their personal point of view and context on why they’re sharing it with fans.”
Devin Wenig, our client at eBay, gets a gold star for his posting of an infographic during the Super Bowl in which he showed where Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos jerseys were being acquired around the U.S., then answering a few comments from fans. Mullaney adds, “An executive can decide whether to selectively respond to comments; when they choose to do so it shows they’re engaged and value their audience.”
Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever*, seems the most personal in his use of Facebook, from a post and photos of his local butcher shop in the UK to dramatic slide shows of his company and work with small holders in agriculture.
This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that one of the key things business leaders can do to build trust is to talk more about their personal values (79 percent) and history (65 percent). Engaging on Facebook is one of the smartest ways to achieve the goal of personalizing top management. It can be done with a relatively modest time commitment and low risk for participants.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.