It’s time for more social savvy CEOs

A recent study from CEO.com showed that the leaders of today’s most powerful companies (aka Fortune 500) still see social media as a non-necessity in their leadership toolkit. In fact, 61% have no social media presence whatsoever.

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Courtsesy CEO.com

This is totally anti-cyclical to consumers. Today there are more than 3 billion people on the internet and 2 billion are active social media users. We spend almost 3 hours online a day and 74% of consumers rely on social media to make buying decisions. So if social media is where your customers are, why aren’t there more CEOs active on social platforms?

Why Go Social?

The business of business are relationships. Relationships are inherently social. And leadership in the 21st century is all about strong communication. Social media provides multiple benefits for CEOs: it creates emotional connections, builds relationships and demonstrates innovation. Little side benefit: all of these increase leadership effectiveness.

A recent Weber Shandwick study said that 80% of employees would rather work for a social CEO. And 3 out of 4 consumers said they would be more likely purchase from companies who communicate on social media.

And we should not forget trust. Trust is the foundation for any business to operate. Be it internal or external, trust should be high on any CEO’s priority list. Edelman’s yearly Trust Barometer highlights exactly this. With more people placing trust in their peers and company employees than CEOs, social media provides a perfect channel for changing this. In today’s media landscape, there needs to be a move from just traditional media to a platform where CEOs can directly interact with stakeholders and customers. Richard Edelman defined the new role of the CEO to be the “Chief Engagement Officer”. A CEO that has a social profile can result in better communication, more transparency, higher employee morale and an improved brand image. By sharing stories, vision and values, the CEO moves from being just a business figure to a real person – resulting not only in greater visibility and influence, but also in more trust.

So Many More Opportunities

CEO.com’s study showed that those CEOs who are “active” on social media, Linkedin and Twitter were the preferred platforms of choice, although most of them were less active on the latter. With so much happening in the social media space, it will be interesting to see when executives will realize the benefits of exploring  other platforms.  Such as visual platforms like Instagram or YouTube. Personally, I also strongly believe that messaging and streaming apps will be interesting for CEOs to experiment with as these channels are genuinely social with their feedback mechanisms and their informality.

But when looking at today’s social CEO landscape, all this still lies in a very distant future.

Maybe for now it is sufficient for CEOs take some advice from Sir Richard Branson, who said, “Embracing social media isn’t just a bit of fun, it’s a vital way to communicate, keep your ear to the ground and improve your business.”

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Ringing the bell for gender equality

 

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This is the second year in a row, that Women in ETFs – a network  bringing together women and men in the ETF ecosystem I am proud to be a part of  – rang the bells at 34 stock exchanges around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day.

It was all about raising awareness for women’s economic empowerment and the opportunities the private sector has in advancing gender equality and sustainable development. A recent survey by the Peterson Institute for International Economics of 21,980 publicly traded companies in 91 countries demonstrated that the presence of more female leaders in top positions of corporate management correlates with increased profitability of these companies.  With stock exchanges being a key partner in the ETF industry, WE has used this platform for a second time to bring across the gender equality message.

I had the honor of ringing the bell at Deutsche Börse in Frankfurt together with my fellow Women in ETFs colleague and friend, Ana Concejero, Sophie von Gagern, representative of the Global Compact Network and Hauke Stars, Member of the Deutsche Börse Executive Board and many other inspirational guests – women and men – together making a difference to push for women’s rights.

For more information on our network please go here

 

 

Elevate your leadership communication

Communication is important. And if you are a leader even more so. Understanding how to be a great communicator can make all the difference. There are many elements to being a  communicator. Here are just a few highlights:Fireball_XL5

It’s all about personalization
Leadership is no longer about issuing corporate communications. It is about being personal. That is why it is important to develop relationships with the people in your team and organization. Think dialog not monologue. Make sure to ask the right questions and don’t forget to read between the lines. Just by watching and listening you can raise your organizational awareness immensly.

Listen. Really Listen
When we think of communication, we often think of talking. Listening is often overlooked although it is the most important princliple of great communication. You will never have a meaningful conversation if all you do is to broadcast. Even worse if all you do is broadcast the same messages. When you start to stop moving your lips and start to open your ears, you are on the right path to becoming a skilled communicator.

Keep an open mind
When your opinion matters more than anyone else’s then you stop listening. You stop learning. And you are closed off to new opportunities. There is nothing to fear about hearing other people’s opinions even if they may be dissenting to yours. Rather see it as an opportunity to challenge your way of thinking and to grow. At the end of the day it is not the opinion that matters, but the willingness to discuss it with an open mind.

Empathy is the new ego
Ego is not necessarily a bad thing, but if it only brings out the best in you but not in other people you have failed at being a good leader. Good communication is about being authentic and transparent. To do that you need to communicate with empathy and not arrogance.

Communication is so important. I see it every day. If we can get it right, we can build great teams and accelerate our business.

Digital in 2016

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Hot off the press comes We Are Social “Digital in 2016”.

I always suck up this report on digital, social and mobile usage around the world which is seeing ever faster growth.

 

 

The key statistics for digital, social, and mobile media in 2016 are:

  • 3.42 billion internet users, equaling 46% global penetration;
  • 2.31 billion social media users, delivering 31% global penetration;
  • 3.79 billion unique mobile users, representing 51% global penetration;
  • 1.97 billion mobile social media users, equating to 27% global penetration.

This means more than half of the world’s adult population now uses the internet, and (something exciting for me) that well over one-third of the adult population uses social media at least once a month.

It is also interesting to see – just like I was telling the audience at this week’s ISPO Communication Day – social media is moving from broadcasting to being social. It is all about connecting, personalization and providing true value. This will mean a big change for us marketeers! We will need to activate our listening skills, understand what our audience truly wants and well yes…become social.

The full report can be found here:

 

 

Millenial Activation

Yesterday I had the pleasure to speak at the ISPO Communication Day in Munich — part of ISPO, the world’s largest sports industry trade show. ispoMy topic was on which social media channel fits your story. And while you cannot be on every single social platform out there, you should at try to do at least 2 or 3 well. But more importantly today with so much happening in the social media sphere, the need to engage with millenials is becoming more and more apparent. They are becoming a major influencing factor for brands, trends, and markets. In the US alone they have close to $200 billion purchasing power each year. With social media being the environment they thrive in, time for brands to start building relationships with them there.

 

Authenticity is key

Ok, we all know that authenticity is key to humanizing your brand. But for millenials it is especially so. Last year, Forbes reported that 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content. The same report found that 62% of millennials are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand interacts with them on social media. Because of how ingrained social platforms have become in our behaviour, audiences are more informed, aware and empowered than ever before. Social media has made us more cynical and more critical of what brands are doing. We can’t as easily be won over by a glossy ad – particularly digital natives who are increasingly more likely to prefer YouTube content over TV. So brands need to be transparent and honest.

You need to understand “dark social”

Want to market to millenials? Then you need to get acquainted with the term dark social. More and more consumers are conducting their conversations in private and share links away from major social platforms. They are taking to the likes of Snapchat, WhatsApp or other messaging apps. These are becoming new, opportunistic venues where brands could potentially start to engage in conversations that aren’t interruptive. Did you know that there are nearly 4 billion global active users of messaging apps, from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to WeChat and Kik? In fact, the top five apps in the world in terms of frequency of use are all messaging apps.

Move into unchartered waters

Most of us marketeers know that millenials don’t care for traditional advertising. They’re totally unaffected by it. That’s why social media marketing is such a big deal. The product is almost irrelevant. It’s the brand you have to sell, and social media is one of the best ways to do that. And while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been (and still are) highly successful when it comes to brand awareness, none of them offer the same level of value and authenticity that Snapchat does. Snapchat has over 200 million users. With over 7 billion video views per day. Of course you cannot deliver large-scale conversations on Snapchat but maybe we need to follow our audience into unchartered marketing waters even if it would be nicer to stick to platforms we are used to and feel safe on. Maybe we do not know exactly the best way to use these one-on-one platforms yet but there are many brands that are already exploring. Content like product launches, behind-the-scenes. all unfiltered and happening in the now. Making the brand totally transparent and authentic with the potential of creating deeper, more personal relationships. And even if right now we may not have the mechanics to easily track these conversations, I am sure they will be coming sometime during 2016.

Influencers have the power

“People buy from people, not brands” – according to findings 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other users even if they may not know them. That is why it is important to understand how your brand is perceived out there. So think influencer marketing. Influencers have thepower when it comes to marketing services and products. Consumers today trust recommendations from family, friends, and social media influencers more than any type of paid marketing. And when someone is happy with your brand, they will share this with their social networks. The effect is unparalleled to any other marketing tool we have.

And don’t forget the IoT

Today’s world is becoming more and more connected. And millenials are expecting brands to be connected and able to offer them seamless person-to-digital experiences and interactions. Brands will need to move away from being interruptive and seeing themselves as a broadcaster to actually offering personalized solutions. Think of something alongside a reminder being sent to order an Uber to pick up your date for that restaurant reservation you have Friday night. Or which SPF cream to use for today’s sunshiny weather.

Employers: Social media is your friend

 

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It’s the new year and I’ve been having some discussions lately about if companies should allow employees to build a brand on social media.
Should they be allowed to talk about products and services? Will this not take away from our spotlight?

My opinion remains clear. Not only should everyone have an online presence, everyone should also work on it and use it for networking. Companies who limit their employees’ use of social media are losing out on establishing brand ambassadors and creating an employee advocacy network. The greatest thing that can happen to your company (and your brand) is that your employees are enthusiastic to talk about it. According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer
an employee advocate is two times more trusted than a CEO. Employers have an enormous opportunity to engage and capitalize on these powerful advocates, or risk missing out on an important group of supporters. Allow employees to spread your content – the effect can often be much greater than through your own distribution channels.

But what about drawing the line between private and professional (is the next question I am getting)?

If all you do is post about your company, everyone will think you do not have a life (or a personality). So do a bit of both. The nice thing about using social media as a person is that you have a human face. So write about your interests, post about your travels, your favorite food, your cat (well maybe limit the cat posts 🙂 Genuine posts are more important than marketing language.

Companies should not worry that lines will be blurred. Tell your employees that they should clearly brand their online posts as personal and their own (for instance, on their Twitter profile). And let them know (even though they probably already do) not to post confidential information, legal issues, strategies. For all this (and more) there are social media policies and guidelines (take a look at Dell or Adidas for inspiration).

And remember:

People build relationships with people, not companies.

 

Marketers to increase social media usage

According to emarketer, marketers are using and investing in social media more, and will continue to do so. A new report reveals that whilst Facebook and Twitter are still the preferred social networks used by US companies, Instagram is expected to gain significant traction due to its improved advertising capabilities. And I am sure European companies will soon be following suit. Either way, marketeers continue to be committed to using the social media space.

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