Is A Social Media Presence Good for CEOs’ Careers? − Part 1
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Episode 35 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio. Episode 35: Is a Social Media Presence Good For CEOs Careers? − Part 1.
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − Enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at www.businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. And with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. As always it’s great to join you for another episode for Growth Igniters Radio. If this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for leaders to take themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what’s up for today?
Pam Harper: The growing trend of CEOs having a social media presence. Now, we’ve all seen tweets, and LinkedIn post, and Facebook pages from CEOs like Elon Musk of Tesla, and Richard Branson of Virgin…
Scott Harper: Yeah, I follow them − yeah…
Pam Harper: Well, beyond these social media superstars, what about CEOs in general? That’s what we’re going to talk about. According to a study by PR Firm Weber Shandwick, cited in a June 2015 article in MarketWatch, social media engagement of CEOs of Fortune 50 companies has more than doubled since 2010. This begs an interesting question − what is, and will be the emerging career opportunities and challenges of the social CEO.
This is a huge topic, which is why we’re going to have it be in 2 parts. We’re especially glad because of this, that we’re going to be speaking again with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of The Alexander Group. Jane was our guest on episode 25, where we discuss new positions in the C-Suite.
Just a bit about Jane’s background − she has more than 30 years’ experience in executive search, and has recruited top executives worldwide in a variety of industries. She also directs board searches for the firm and is actively involved in the firm’s diversity practice. Jane’s frequently in major business publications, and is the author of Best Practices For Executive Search Firms for the Inside the Minds book series. Of course you can see Jane’s complete bio by going to www.growthignitersradio.com, episode 35 and scrolling down to Jane’s bio.
Jane, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Jane Howze: Pam and Scott, it’s wonderful to be back. I’m pleased to be here.
Pam Harper: There’s an interesting symmetry about speaking with you on this topic. We originally − you and I originally connected when you were a panelist for the Association For Corporate Growth on a discussion about executives and social media presence, way back in 2013. You had a significant social media presence at that time. Can you tell us a little bit about this, and how it’s benefited you and The Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Well we are a client relationship firm. Once the internet began exploding, and social media became front and center, we felt like it was a great way to use it as a platform to communicate with our clients and to let candidates know who we were as well. When people established a relationship with us, they pretty much knew who we were, what we stood for, what was important to us. We started very slowly − just with an enhanced website, and quickly moved into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and various other ways to engage with our clients.
It has been successful, and the way I know it has been successful − It’s really hard to measure internet success and social media success, but when we call on new perspective clients, most of them say, “I’ve been to your website, I followed you on social media, and I know who you are.” It’s really the goal, I think.
Pam Harper: Exactly. They’ve heard of you somewhere, and you’re out there everywhere, and it’s making a big difference already. Certainly, I started following you that way. It really grew our relationship over the years. I mean how long was it between the time that I first heard you in 2013, and I think we started talking again about a year a half later.
Jane Howze: Exactly, the best thing. The one great benefit that social media, personally or professionally, is that it allows you to touch the people in your realm, even people outside your realm. It allows you to shape what your image is going to be personally and professionally. That touch, in a world where we’re so busy on airplanes and meetings, I think it’s … A lot of people say social media waste of time. To me it’s saves time, because I can touch a lot of people quite efficiently.
Scott Harper: It seems like more and more CEOs are reaching out and touching just as you say. Pam mentioned the MarketWatch article, and you recently tweeted that Mary Barra, CEO of GM now has a Facebook page. What do you see as the significance of this trend towards more and more CEOs of companies of all sizes using social media?
Jane Howze: I think the retail industry, the customer service industry got it first. I mean you saw Whole Foods, you saw The Gap, you saw J.Crew, some of these other customer-facing companies get it first. This is a way to engage with your customers and with your clients.
I think Mary Barra going and getting a Facebook page − I think that’s kind of bringing some of these older industries, these more traditional industries into kind of current time. This is a great way for people to know who she is. I am sure GM has a tremendous amount of work to do with some of the news that has happened in the past, and some of the problems [they face]. Social media is a great way to put out a different message. It allows you to control the message a little bit better than having the press control the message, frankly.
Scott Harper: Now this is the CEO − we’re talking specifically about the CEOs in social media, not just the official company feed, whatever that is, which has been there for much longer.
Pam Harper: Well it’s that connection. It’s increasingly important as we’re looking at millennials who are coming up, who have been raised on social media, almost since the get-go. It makes me curious − are you seeing more companies that are including social media presence as a mandatory in their qualifications for CEO candidates?
Jane Howze: I think if you are being considered as a CEO candidate for certain industries, and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you don’t have a Facebook profile, you don’t know what Twitter is, I think it’s a red flag. I think there are more traditional industries that don’t really think about how do you touch your customers, how do you deal with your constituents, but I think when we have this conversation a year from now, the landscape will be dramatically different, just as it has exploded in the last 5 years. I think in the next year we’ll see as big an increase as we have seen in the last 5 years. I’m here to tell you.
Pam Harper: Yes, and this is big news. It also builds very much on the episode [#33] that we just had with Tim Hebert, the CEO of Atrion Networking. Tim is out there talking about fusing the art of technology combined with businesses of all types. That goes right along with what you’re saying, as every company, every industry becomes a technology-based industry. They’re all Uberizing, or whatever it is.
It’s going to be hard to imagine any industry that would not say, “We need a CEO who is a Social Media savvy individual.
Scott Harper: In fact, more and more, we may be seeing people saying, “Hey! I don’t see you out there − what are you hiding?”
Jane Howze: Exactly. I think to me, if you take it even a step further back, any director who is not internet savvy, just as a starting place, I think that would be a huge problem for being on a public board today. Then you take that a step further. You’ll say, “Well what about the CEO? Does the CEO know what his or her tools are, both for the company and themselves?” Then let’s look at the CEO as somebody who has a career to manage as well. I think that’s becoming increasingly important.
Pam Harper: Okay. We’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of The Alexander Group, about the pros and cons of CEOs with a social media presence. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − On the web at www.businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth. If you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, select episode 35 and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. Use hashtag growthigniters. This will help extend our reach to all of the people who can benefit from this series.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of The Alexander Group. Jane how can people find out more about you and The Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Well, they can go to our website First of all − www.thealexandergroup.com. We have a Facebook page with over 3,000 followers. We’re on LinkedIn, and we’re on Twitter under @Alexander_Group.
Pam Harper: Well all of this is going to be something that you can get links to by going to www.growthignitersradio.com, episode 35.
Getting back to our conversation − you were talking about the fact that you’ve conducted many searches, and we’re talking also about how more and more companies should be considering social media for their CEOs, and CEOs should be considering it for themselves. Can you share a story from your experiences in search where a candidate’s social media presence made a really positive difference in being selected for the CEO role?
Jane Howze: Yeah, I can. Actually I don’t know if there’s any CEO that would get hired because of a social media presence. Last month I was conducting a search for a public company, a board of director search. The candidate − one of the candidates whom I interviewed − he was almost bragging; he said, “Well my company” − which was a very large company that he was CEO of − “didn’t even have a website until 2 years ago.” He thought that was a great thing, because he said, “We’ve done well, and we don’t even have a website.”
My thought was, just think of the recruiting opportunities he missed, because some college engineer or geologist couldn’t find them on the web and thought he was a guy working out of his back room and went to another energy company. I was like, “Really?” I don’t know if I would brag about being anonymous or whatnot when you’re trying to recruit, you’re trying to do joint ventures, you’re trying to do business.
I guess I have the negative feeling that if someone is not using some type of social media, I kind of feel like they are little bit behind the times. And especially if somebody is over 50 years old and they don’t have a LinkedIn profile, I feel like they’re just not current, and I think we all want to be current today.
Pam Harper: So as the executive recruiter here, would it actually turn you off to that candidate? Somebody … They’re out there, they’re not applying to you obviously − you’re searching them out − but would you disqualify somebody [for not being savvy with social media] if you had two relatively equal candidates?
Jane Howze: I wouldn’t disqualify them, but anytime I interview somebody I Google them, before I meet them. I look at what they’re doing. I look at what industry they’re in. If you’re head of exploration and production at a energy company, maybe you don’t need social media as much. But if you’re CEO of a retailer, if you’re in some type of advocacy organization − anybody that’s running a not-for-profit who’s not using social media is missing a huge opportunity to communicate their cause to perspective donors.
Scott Harper: Now we’ve talked about the positives of CEOs on social media, but not every company wants their CEO out there. Have you seen that? What are the reasons for that?
Jane Howze: Yes, I have seen it. A lot of it − for instance, we have a client who is CEO of a business that has global franchisees. The client consciously doesn’t want to be in LinkedIn because he doesn’t want to be assaulted by franchisees not liking one thing or another about being a franchisee.
Having said that, the big issues are the legal risks. I think shareholders − are you saying anything that could ever be used against you with a dissident shareholder? I think what we also see is people who are executives with financial services like the Bank of America, the Goldman Sachs − financial regulations with stockbrokers are so intense that many of these firms will not let their executives be on even LinkedIn using a company e-mail address. Now a lot of these people, you’ll see them now sprouting up [in social media] using their own personal e-mail address. It is tricky, because we are a very regulated society. There is a tightrope you have to walk.
Scott Harper: You’ve got the official, and then the unofficial [route to social media]. Even if I’m using my own e-mail, how can I manage risk so that it doesn’t come back and have a negative impact, even if it’s not official?
Jane Howze: I think you have to set personal guidelines, like “am I posting anything that has to do with any insider information?” You have to be somewhat non-controversial, unless you’re somebody like Richard Branson, or Mark Zuckerberg, or somebody where you have a lot of power. If you’re managing your career and you’re thinking, “I want to use social media as a platform to give me visibility,” I think you’ve got to think very carefully before you post anything. Ask, “Could this come back to bite me? Or do I want to stir up controversy?”
I think you’ve got to look at what is your intent for your social media presence. “What do I want to come of this? Do I want to promote my company? Do I want to promote me? Do I want to create visibility?”
Pam Harper: Would that, then impact the choice of venue that a CEO would choose? So, I might not want to tweet as much −I might want to do more LinkedIn or Facebook. Have you seen this kind of preference of choice?
Jane Howze: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean there are some people that use all of this venues. I think a lot of it Pam, depends on what industry you are in. I’m doing a lot of work in Washington with not-for-profit advocacy organizations. They’re all of them on Twitter, and they’re on LinkedIn as well. Facebook, not so much. I think it depends on what industry you’re in, and what your intent is.
Twitter is a totally different audience; people are using you to get a news feed, but that’s also a place where you anybody can follow you, anybody can see what you’re putting out there. Where LinkedIn is a little different; you have much tighter privacy settings, and so does Facebook.
I’ll give you one quick example of a CEO client of ours, whose feeling is − and he’s in an industry that’s pretty highly regulated − he wants to be on LinkedIn. He said, because he’s got employees all over the world, if they can use LinkedIn to tune into the CEO, it makes them feel a part of something team oriented. He may not meet all of those employees, but it’s a great way to connect with employees in other parts of the world where they do business. That gives the employee a sense of pride as well. It’s not just about career − it’s also in how you manage your company as well.
Pam Harper: Being clear about the purpose in what you’re trying to do − being mindful and strategic about your social media presence becomes the way in which you figure out what’s right for you.
Well, we’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of The Alexander Group, about some immediately useful ideas for getting the most career benefit from your social media presence. Stay with us…
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last 2 segments, Scott and I have been talking with Jane Howze, Managing Director and Founder of The Alexander Group, about social media as a career enhancing tool for CEOs. Jane how can people find out more about you, and The Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Well we’re on the internet, at www.thealexandergroup.com. They can follow us on Twitter − @Alexander_Group, and we’re on Facebook, and LinkedIn as well.
Pam Harper: Of course you can find out more by going to www.growthignitersradio.com, episode 35, and you’ll see resources and all kinds of background about Jane.
Getting back to our conversation − as anyone who’s ever been triped up by autofill can testify, there can be a big gap between using social media, and using it well. From your own experience as principle of your firm. What are the considerations to balance in establishing a strong social media presence for a CEO?
Jane Howze: To me, I think it depends on what industry you’re in. For us, we’re in the business of executive leadership, recruiting, trends −and so we post about those types of things. We’re working on an article about grief in the workplace; that will be our blog. We will tweet about some of those articles, some of the thoughts we have, things like that.
I think that anybody going into social media − CEOs may not even need to go in full bore and engage every day. One example that I kind of admired is there’s a CEO of a New York Stock Exchange company who uses Facebook, uses LinkedIn, uses Twitter. He’s not on them every single day, bur he uses them in a really great way. He post when he’s on CNBC; he post that on his Facebook page, his LinkedIn page. When he travels to Australia to his company’s plants, he post pictures of the new building, or the new facility, or the new commercial for his product. And he’s not just straight business; every once in a blue moon he’ll post a picture of him at a concert, or him doing charity work. He always will once a week post something about leadership or character. I think that this guy has used social media correctly. He speaks on it, and he believes in it.
I think it’s not one size fits all what would work for you. While we’re talking about it. I think the biggest obstacle for CEO on social media is the fear of it. I think once people start using LinkedIn, you don’t even think about it. Just getting over the first hurdle of “I want a LinkedIn profile, or I want to make a Youtube video, or I want to be on Facebook” − that’s a big hurdle. I have personally set up probably 4 or 5 CEOs on LinkedIn and on Facebook, just because of the apprehension of them doing it themselves and not being computer savvy enough.
I think it’s a process, if you will. It’s kind of like all of us − when you haven’t done something, it seems so overwhelming. Then once you do it, it becomes part of your routine; you don’t even really think about it. I know one CEO, I had to talk into [using social media] … I told him he really needed LinkedIn. It’s now 3 years later, and he’s got nearly a thousand contacts, and he’s just running with it. He doesn’t use it to post a lot of things, but he uses it to connect with people, to do reference checks and so on. I mean, he really uses LinkedIn in a wonderful way.
Scott Harper: Jane, would you say that for CEOs who want to get out into social media that it’s better if they do it themselves? Some people are going to say, “Well I don’t have time, or I don’t feel comfortable writing. I’m going to use someone else in my company or a service to generate content.” Do you have a feeling for that balance?
Jane Howze: I think that a lot of people use third parties to do their content, but I can tell if they are, or if they aren’t. I don’t think − I mean it doesn’t matter if you can find someone to do it for you who gets your voice and who understands who you are. But the reason somebody like Taylor Swift has been so phenomenally effective − and I’m getting out of CEO land…
Scott Harper: … She’s CEO of Taylor Swift right? …
Jane Howze: Wel lyes, she’s CEO of Taylor Swift; it’s a business of $300,000,000 − She does her own Facebook. She does her own Twitter, she does her own Instagram, and she knows her brand, she knows who she is. She doesn’t have people doing it for her, like say, other groups that do that where it comes across kind of canned. It may not affect you long term, but I think it’s a great way to personally connect with people you want to do business with and want your customers [when you can do it yourself].
Scott Harper: Authenticity. You’re saying authenticity really is important if you’re going to be on social media. People are there because they want to get a feeling for who you are, not what somebody thinks you should be saying.
Jane Howze: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Okay, one other thing that also I think may make some people a little nervous about social media, is that it’s easy to mess up. [For example,] there was the CEO of Whole Foods who got into trouble by posting under a different name − stuff about a competitor − or somebody who gets angry and puts something on Twitter. Do you have recommendations for how people can be authentic, but still be safe?
Jane Howze: I think that what I would say to people getting on social media, I would say take baby steps, and start seeing what you can do and what you can’t do. It’s not like you have to suddenly appear tweeting 10 times a day and getting into a lot of social media at once. As social media is growing, I think you grow with it. I think there’s a curiosity you have to have and about testing things out yourself, and no −you don’t want to do something like the Whole Foods CEO, or there’s a lot of tales where people get into public discussions on Twitter and they forget that they’re public and that anybody in the world can see it. You want to go slow and be careful, and you want to talk to other people who have been before you and learn from their mistakes, and learn from what they’ve done well.
Pam Harper: Okay − it’s clear that what we’re talking about is certainly a much larger topic, there’s more to this, which is why we’re so glad that you’ve agreed to come back and do part 2 with us in the coming weeks. Is there anything else that you want to say before we end?
Jane Howze: Be open to social media, and don’t knock it until you try it.
Scott Harper: Sounds good. Well Jane, thank you very much for joining us on Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. For you out there − check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, or open a conversation with us by going to www.growthignitersradio.com, and selecting episode 35.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: … And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to think about:
Scott Harper: … How can you increase your social media footprint to energize your career?