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Secrets From the Top 100 CEOs on Social Media

Richard Branson. Bill Gates. Arianna Huffington — just a few examples of CEOs who have made the leap from the boardroom into the spotlight. They’re part of a new class of executive thought leaders, members of the c-suite making their mark not just on their own company and industry but on the world at large.

Their success is tied to many factors: vision, charisma, willingness to take risks and speak sometimes uncomfortable truths. But a significant part of their ability to get their messages out and build loyal followings is their incredible skill with social media.

Recently, I helped rank the top 100 CEOs from around the world, based on the quality of their social media presence. Below are the top 10 from the full list.

To narrow it down to 100, our team worked with closely with Xinfu to analyze hundreds of global company leaders — from heads of large corporations to tech CEOs and rising entrepreneurs. Some of the key variables considered include value of content shared, Klout score, vision and strategy, and size of followings on Twitter and LinkedIn (the two primary networks for business leaders on social media):

Full list here.

What do these social CEO gurus have in common? Here are a few key secrets we uncovered to achieving success as an executive on social media:

Define your “why” and your “what”: Before sending out your first Tweet, know your objective. In simplest form, this means thinking about what audience you want to reach and what change you want to provoke, from raising awareness among customers to boosting engagement with employees. Equally important is understanding “what” you want to share. Your team will help crystallize this, but the most effective social CEOs offer a window into their world — company, passions, hobbies, etc. Tone can range from off-the-cuff and funny (@levie) to hard-nosed and data-driven (@elonmusk), but authenticity is key. Quick hack: think of three hashtags that define you (mine are #socialmedia, #entrepreneurship and #technology) and start from there.

Pick your weapon(s): Different social media platforms target different audiences. LinkedIn is a powerful B2B network. Twitter is the domain of the tech- and media-savvy. Facebook and Instagram have broad consumer reach, while Snapchat is dominant among teen users. Lean on your social team to identify which channels best align with your audience and goals. They can also equip you with the right tool to scale and streamline your efforts. The best tools offer an easy interface to draft, schedule and monitor posts across multiple social networks.

Share real insights from the frontlines (and do it regularly): Building an audience and establishing yourself as a thought leader starts with sharing quality content. This can take the form of behind-the-scenes pics, industry insights, short videos, company updates or even impromptu posts on food and hobbies. With your collaborators, decide on the right mix of personal and professional, as well as planned and spontaneous content. The real key to success — and where most CEOs fail — is simple consistency. Set up a regular schedule that fits your calendar. This can be as minimal as allocating 5 minutes every Monday to chime in on breaking news, 5 minutes on Wednesday to shoot a 30-second leadership short with your phone and 5 minutes on Friday for a company update.

Amplify your work: This is the missing link that too many people overlook. Yes, some social media messages just “go viral,” spreading like wildfire and capturing huge audiences. But the truth is that most need a little help. One powerful way to extend the reach of your updates is through employee advocacy: enlisting employees and team members to re-share relevant posts with their followers. At companies with hundreds of employees (each of whom may have hundreds of followers), this quickly adds up. Paid social media is also an integral piece of the puzzle. All the major networks will “promote” your posts to key demographics for a fee. This up-front expense compresses the time frame needed for CEOs to build a following and reach critical mass.

Get help: You have no time as it is. So how are you supposed to manage a social media account? While the personal touch is key in social media, the truth is that very few social CEOs engage without a person or team behind them. This can be a specialized social agency or a member of your marketing or PR squad. (Just don’t leave your voice in the hands of an intern.) With a support staff in place, you’re free to focus on injecting insight and personality — maximizing the return on your time investment, however limited that may be. I can’t emphasize this enough: The right support will make this entire process easier — from strategizing on what to post to ensuring that all content is safe and compliant.

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to meet and speak to hundreds of executives and CEOs. When it comes to social media, most of them already understand the value of it for their organizations. However, the initial hurdle of getting a program up and running can be intimidating. With that in mind, I put together a fast-track program for business leaders: a 60-minute session to get busy C-level executives up to speed on social media. The material is introductory — and certainly won’t turn you into a Branson overnight — but it can provide a leg-up when getting started.

For executives, it’s getting harder to ignore the ROI on social media. Consumers now spend more time in apps like Facebook and Instagram than watching television. Employees are already using social networks like Slack and Facebook at Work to share information and streamline processes. It’s hard to lead this kind of digital transformation without a social media presence. The good news is it’s easy to get started — and the reward-to-effort ratio only goes up from there.

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