The Social CEO Q&A

I presented on The Social CEO at Forrester's Marketing Forum. During Q&A I got a number of good questions from the audience that I didn't have time to answer -- here are my (late) responses.

Q: "Are customers really interested in what the CEO thinks? Aren't they more interested in the message from the company?"

A: They're interested in both, as long as the CEO has something enlightening and valuable to say. Hey, why buy products from a company run by a schmuck?

Question:  "Is there any data that shows the ROI of having a social CEO -- or do they not want to be measured?"

Answer:  The CEOs that I hang out with are measurement-crazed, and that's part of the problem. They may use the squishy measurement of social return as an excuse not to do it -- and that keeps them from gaining the "soft" returns -- fortifying the brand, attracting new customers, retaining customers, and winning new employees. 

Q: "How much do you need to monitor your CEO's blog? And how is that done? It can't be easy."

A: The Social CEO should have a strong support team -- that monitors and reviews Twitter and blog traffic at least every 24 hours.

Q: "What are the ways to build followers, especially for B2B companies?"

A: The Social CEO should not be chasing followers. He should be Social Light -- blogging six to eight times per year and posting on Twitter 12-24 times per year. This level of presence will reveal the broad thinking of the CEO, while matching up with the time demands of running a company.

Q: "What about CEOs using social to 'humanize' themselves? The CEO does a great job of this on Twitter -- his tweets are hilarious!"

A: If revealing himself comes naturally to the CEO, then putting a human face on the company is a plus. But the CEO shouldn't get too personal -- she can risk coming off as self-absorbed and self-centered. On the flip side, a naturally private CEO should never force folksiness.

Q: "Is there value in a 'CEO Blog' even if it's not the CEO him/herself blogging? Should you use a ghost blogger?"

A: No. It would be better to do nothing than to launch a phony blog.

Q: "What are your thoughts on using social networking to manage a crisis -- i.e., the CEO making a statement or speaking to customers directly via Twitter or a blog?"

A: Good idea, but be careful. Crises are a time to show that the CEO is in control, has a plan, and cares -- and social is a good outlet for these thoughts. But crises also trigger lawsuits, regulatory oversight, investor scrutiny, and other fiduciary restrictions that merit careful messaging. In crises I would keep the social stream concise, simple, direct, and as personal as the moment permits. Oh, and you should probably check with the lawyers, at least until the crisis subsides.

Q: "George -- who tweets your tweets?"

A: Me. 

Thanks for the questions -- if you have more, post them and I'll answer them here.  Or add your own answers to the questions above -- I'd love to get your thoughts.





Another perspective on the Social CEO

Thanks George, interesting topic. But this whole social thing is getting out of hand and quite irrational. I am for social but for different reasons than the usual.

The quality of a business is easily measured by how many IN-PERSON contacts executives and management have with customers and customer service personnel. Twitter is not a replacement for that at all. Blogging is good, but only if it comes natural. If CEO's got something to say, they should say it in person to the people that matter - employees and customers. Forrester's Augie Ray recently blogged that the value of a Facebook fan is ZERO and I am in absolute agreement. It is the ACTION and QUALITY of communicating that counts and not the technical means or the numbers of followers. The 'marketing reach' of social becomes the same number game as in old paper media. You never know if the ad will actually reach the desired target. Only one-on-one can change that. People believe in any case more in a product review from people like them than in a CEO tweet.

'Social' is not a solution for everything and as much I believe myself that social networking is equivalent to people empowerment, it is for those that have it in them and not for everyone. Even if the demographics show a rise in social use, I propose that a lot of it is a statistical number game that lacks in-depth information about the causal relationships how social effects business. Adding 'social' to CRM or to BPM does not improve it per-se if at the same time it does not improve the quality. If you improve the quality of communication then it does not matter what medium or means you use. If you do not empower people per-se, giving them social media as in E2.0 does nothing. Empowerment is not hoping that someone will use social means. It is assigning authority and means to employees to service customers at the best affordable quality. The first question the typcial CEO will ask is: 'How can I use social to reduce cost.' But each cost reduction carries a hidden reduction in quality one way or the other. Using 'social' this way will damage the business in the long run.

Yes, I am conservative in my belief that business is about affordable quality and not about producing rubbish cheaper than the competition. If I would be able to talk to Steve Jobs in-person, I would tell him that the iPhone4 is crap (I am on my third unit and it still doesn't work). If I could talk to a T-Mobile executive, they would maybe learn how inept their product managers and service staff actually are.

So I tell you why CEOs don't blog and tweet: Executives are hiding in their boardrooms, because they are afraid that customers could use social media to actually tell them how it really is. And that frightens the hell out of them.

You and I post and tweet because we do our best to service our customers and we can stand up and face the crowd. In that respect I see it as a sign of courage, transparency and faith if executives go social. Nothing else. Who doesn't, is hiding!

Sorry for being blunt (as usual), but that's how I am and I can stand for it. Thanks for taking the time to communicate directly and openly with one of your customers!
Regards, Max J. Pucher
Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Good thoughts Max...

As always Max, your thoughts enlighten the discussion...

As time has passed, I have come to see fear as the greatest barrier to overcome -- whether it's in my decision-making, communication, tennis game, or in the setting of strategic direction. To fear feedback from customers (why you believe that most CEOs are not social) is to ignore the most relevant raw material for improving your products and services. Sure, it's not nice to get negative reviews -- but CEOs are paid to seek out and understand the brutal truths (see Jim Collins "Good to Great"). These truths are the bricks upon which progress is built...

Social is one way to get your hands on those bricks...


External communications is internal

In my opinion, when a CEO seeks external exposure, it is also to communicate internally. Employees take seriously the way they boss stands outside the company, it's more credible.

PS : I'm glad you've confirmed you twit your tweets but I had not doubts !

External = internal

Regardless of where a CEO speaks, he or she is heard by all: investors, employees, customers, and partners. A credible external voice for the CEO only increases his stature internally. Why? Because it takes guts to converse in a marketplace of ideas that you don't necessarily control.


Influence vs. networking

Hi George,

As a leadership blogging coach, your series of posts on the Social CEO has been of great interest to me. Hardly anyone writes about this and so I was delighted that you tackled it. And while I agree with most of your assertions, there are two areas that I disagree:

* I don't think erudition is required. Strategic, near real-time, short storytelling is often enough.

* Social networking tools can be used effectively without the 'social' and without the 'networking,' both of which tend to freak out many busy executives.

I detail my arguments in this blog post:

Social media in the executive suite: For influence, yes. For networking? Not so much

but I'd be happy to continue the discussion here on your blog, as I'm very interested in your reaction.

Why Executives HATE Social Media

From DemingHill:

Why Executives HATE Social Media

Social Boss

I believe it is important for bosses to be on the net and have facebook pages. A recent poll my company did illustrated that more than ever people are using social networking websites and blog website. It is important to stay state of the art and and stay in the present. I have been reading a book that talks about staying in the present. Its called 27 Powers of Persuasion and it offers other insights into the world of being an effective CEO and message strategist. The author Chris St. Hilaire is CEO of a jury research group as well as a political strategist and his book offers great tips on how to seduce audiences and win allies. Many other mover-shakers in the business world have reviewed the book and agreed it is an important tool if your goal is to be a more effective communicator. To see more check out