More than half of Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on social media at all. This is a wasted opportunity. The owner/CEO is the face of the company.
GRAPHICS PRO recently did a State of the Wide Format Printing Market panel with four company executives. While Santi Morera of HP was not available, the other three individuals are the head of their respective organizations in the United States. Each of the four gentlemen on the call gave thoughtful responses to each question, and it is clear their organizations care about their customers. When you view these companies now, you know exactly who is making the decisions and driving the company’s culture.
If a company culture is built from the top down, your clientele wants to know who you are as the top executive and what you represent. Your words and actions give a prospect an immediate snapshot into the values of your organization. If your name is on the sign out front, your customers really want to know who you are.
The age of the social CEO
Tim Cook has 12.9 million Twitter followers. Apple’s corporate account has less than half that. Elon Musk has 57.3 million followers. Tesla’s corporate account has one-fifth as many. John Legere has six million Twitter followers, while T-Mobile has one-sixth of that. Dan Price has 515,800 followers. Gravity Payments has 15,600. Regardless of who you voted for, the POTUS Twitter account has 12 million followers, while the White House official account has only five million.
Corporations are careful to protect their image. They manicure and craft their messaging for the best PR. They drop their influencers and cancel endorsement deals at the first sign of bad news. They are very adept at virtue signaling. Humans are different. Despite the most manicured professional image, humans make mistakes. They have relatable problems. They must deal with the same things their customers deal with.
Despite what Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission determined in the world of campaign finance, corporations are not people. People buy from people. They want to buy from you.
Talk about your business
As the company’s No. 1 salesperson, you have an excellent opportunity to communicate your values to your customer base. Talk about who you are and what matters to you. Are your products made in America? Talk about why that’s important to you. Do you offer the best service in town? Talk about how you define great service. Do you have the best prices in the industry? Why is that a good thing? Marketing academics quote this as Porter’s “4 P’s”, but it is also a significant part of being an individual.
What you will find is that authenticity is the best form of competitive advantage. You are the person making the decisions. The buck stops with you. Your competitive advantage against the competition becomes very clear when people see your smiling face instead of a CEO hiding behind a closed door.
People buy from people
Did you pause reading this to watch the panel? You should.
I worked for a printer company for 17 years, and I studied each of those technologies in-depth. All four of those machines print beautiful images. They have all won quality awards. They all provide excellent value. They each have their quirks, but I would argue they are largely interchangeable.
Based on that argument, which one of these four individuals do you want to buy a printer from? Who reminds you of a family member, a close friend, or a neighbor? It’s not an official metric in business academia, but likeability is an extremely valuable aspect of a brand’s value in an industry.
Leverage your team
Your small business has everything it needs to sell products and services locally — your employees. Encourage your employees to share good things about your company on their social accounts. Give them the promos and artwork to share on their own feeds. Give them talking points for conversations outside the office. If they are at a BBQ or a school event and the inevitable question comes up, “What do you do?” make sure your people know what to say. Give them referral bonuses for bringing in new business.
The ROI on employee referrals is much stronger than any ad campaign because the customer knows who they are buying from, and they come in pre-qualified. Again: authenticity.
Traditional advertising is expensive
Here are some quick data points:
- 70-80% of users ignore sponsored search results. (Search Engine Land)
- 90% of searchers haven’t made their mind up about a brand before starting their search. (Secret Sushi)
- In the span of just one year, from 2018-2019, the total number of devices around the world with ad blockers rose from 142 million to upwards of 615 million. (PowerTraffick)
- Small businesses earn an average of $3 in revenue for every $1.60 they spend on Google AdWords. (PowerTraffick)
- 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. (Bright Local)
- Small businesses that use Google Ads spend between $9,000-$10,000 per month on Pay Per Click. (WebFx)
There is a place for paid advertising. Publications like this one have a very specific audience that they understand very well. For general audiences, it can feel like shooting with a blindfold on. Social media doesn’t cost anything, so your effort is never wasted.
Corporate social accounts are still important
It’s good to have a corporate account; your business should have a voice and stand for something. This can be a place for official policy and permanent messaging. This can be a place where your customers can get help with a problem related to a product or service. These accounts can serve as additional channels for your customers to interact with your business. These accounts can be extensions of your website. You want to be where your customers are.
It’s OK if it’s not for you
Plenty of executives are happy to run their companies and keep to themselves. There is nothing wrong with this. Suppose your company has a monopoly in the region, a market-defining product or service, or a strong market niche position. In that case, you may not need the extra exposure a connected CEO brings to the company.
However, if you are constantly battling on price and your prospects do not know how to compare you to the shop down the street, maybe it’s time to put yourself out there and give your company a unique personality to rise above the rest. Make yourself accessible to your customers, at least digitally, and you will find that you have the edge over the faceless competition down the street.