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By: Todd Sommers and Jacques Couret
What do Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They’re billionaires who created some of the most popular products and services on Earth. But in the process, they’ve also built some of the biggest social media followings.
They each have an ever-growing and well-engaged audience of more than 7 million followers. Leaders of some of the largest and most innovative companies -- Google, Tesla, Facebook, Virgin, Expedia, Sales Force – all share regularly their thoughts on social media. More than company news, they’re shaping public opinion on the future. And unlike a Kardashian sharing their political views, people actually want to hear from business leaders.
Today, the C-Suite is almost expected to voice an opinion, political or otherwise, particularly by younger generations. Yet 60 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are not on any social networks. Examining the numbers, those executives are missing out because:
As an executive, you always keep at least one eye on the bottom line. So you wonder what’s the return on investment. The financial returns can be difficult to plot, but the benefits are clear. Adding a digital layer to your thought leadership strategy requires you to humanize your brand by sharing interesting stories, create a deeper connection with consumers to gain insights to inform your business strategy and develop a direct line to communicate your vision at the time you choose.
As an executive who aims to add a digital layer to your thought leadership strategy – and if you aren’t, you should be – it’ll comfort you to know audiences want more than just political opinions and pictures of your meals. There’s a big market out there for thoughtful content. And audiences, be they customers, fans or peers, have shown they won’t punish executives for voicing reasonable opinions. You just can’t cross the Kathy Griffin Line.
Social media gives Branson, Musk, Zuckerberg and other executives a direct method to share announcements and make news – plus, importantly, they get to control their messages. That’s a powerful tool if used wisely.
You don’t need to be to an iconic “tie-loathing philanthropist” like Branson or have a vision to colonize Mars like Musk to build a large audience for your thought leadership brand. You can build large audiences in several ways:
The bottom line is if you want a reporter to call to get your insights, give them a great reason. A speech at a conference will be heard by those in the room, but most of the audience will likely be on their phones looking for more engaging content anyway.
It’s time for more executives to realize their personal digital strategy is just as important as their company’s.
In our next digital thought leadership post, we’ll share some of the most interesting examples of that we’ve seen in 2017.
Todd Sommers is Vice President, Integrated Marketing. Jacques Couret is a former journalist who currently serves as editorial manager of All Told, Allison+Partners global integrated marketing offering.