How CEOs are Using Social Media for Real Results
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It’s common to hear stories about marketing or recruiting departments using social media. But what about CEOs? Could having the ‘top dog’ of your organization engaged in social media be an asset to other corporate efforts?
Our case studies outlined below show that having your CEO visible on social media can bring tangible results to your bottom line.
Carmen Magar, CEO of Chocri, a make-your-own chocolate bar company, says the exposure makes a difference. “While the competition can see everything (e.g. when customers suggest a new topping) and some of them seem compelled to copy my blog posts nearly word for word, it’s worth it because authenticity rules.”
Building Marketing and Public Relations Exposure
For many companies, getting the word out about their product/service is the starting point. That positive exposure can lead to strategic alliances and increased awareness. Geri Stengel, president of Ventureneer, an online source for education, advice and peer support for small businesses looking to make a social impact, noted that positioning Ventureneer as a trusted source for information among those making a social impact is an important part of their overall strategy.
Using her experience as an expert reviewer for the Social Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Stengel posted a piece on how to write a winning grant proposal on her corporate blog. “As always, I tweeted with a link to the blog (
) post. I was delighted when the vast majority (89) of the nearly 100 bit.ly clicks were from others who tweeted about the post. Importantly, a link to the blog post was included in the daily digest of Tactical Philanthropy’s blog. Sean Stannard-Stockton, CEO of Tactical Philanthropy, is a nonprofit thought leader. Tactical Philanthropy also became one of our 2,400+ followers on Twitter (
), a goal we’d had for some time. Within two weeks of posting, the post became the most read on our website during that time period with nearly 200 page views.”
Stengel’s story is a great reminder that success in social media doesn’t only come via quantitative metrics but also through quality engagement. And Diane Hessan agrees. As president and CEO of Communispace, Hessan’s corporation creates private online customer communities to help marketers from the world’s largest brands explore customers’ mindsets and generate game-changing insights. They’ve created more than 350 customer communities for industry leaders such as Kraft, Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab, Hallmark, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Hilton Hotels Corporation.
Hessan shared, “through social media, I’ve gotten free consulting and secured new clients and partners. Twitter has been a fantastic vehicle for getting information about Communispace into the marketplace fast. For instance, when Communispace launched its new blog, Verbatim, I sent a tweet out about it and more than 1,000 people checked out our blog as a result. To this day, some 40% of our blog visits have come from Twitter links.”
It’s also important to remember that not everything that happens on social media needs to stay on social media. Magar tells the story of getting into a sold-out food event because she heard about it on Twitter and offered herself as a substitute for a cancelled participant. It translated into exposure with over 150 food journalists.
Turning Marketing Opportunities into Sales
For many organizations, the CEO is also the chief sales person. That was the situation with Scott Imbrie, CEO of Original Skateboards, LLC. Eight years ago, he started a skateboard company with his brother using their would-have-been college funds. “For six years, we generally broke-even. While we were growing the overall size of our business, we were still not profitable. Then, we changed course and focused specifically on online social media creation via YouTube (
). We launched our first video in 2007 — sales went up 40% and never went down. The following year, we invested in the production of an entire series of videos, the first of which was featured on the YouTube front page. Sales went up 80% and kept climbing.”
Original Skateboards grew 432% in profit and 321% overall last year. And they are enjoying a great 2010. According to Imbrie, “We are up roughly 300% over top of that growth. Our focus on social media connection and innovative products seems to have finally paid off. We are now a multi-million dollar company and the 7th most subscribed sports channel in YouTube history with 73,000 subscribers.”
)and Twitter. “The fact that we, as founders and CEOs, can speak to customers directly now makes us much more personal and people connect with us more easily.”
Even when there might not be data supporting a direct relationship between social media activity and sales, sometimes other metrics point to the connection. For example, Magar explained that focus group participants ranked Chocri above their competitors with the main reason being that the company was “sympathetic.” And their post-purchase survey data taught them the following:
- Satisfaction: A whopping 100% of our Facebook and Twitter followers described Chocri’s chocolate as “excellent or very good” (compared to 92.1% on average).
- Branding: 90% of Chocri Facebook fans and nearly 99% of Chocri Twitter followers said “You guys rock” or “Like you a lot”, compared to the average (88%).
- Recommendations: More than 77% of Chocri Facebook fans and nearly 86% of Chocri Twitter followers recommended them to 4-7+ friends, compared to 56% on average.
Staying Connected to Future Employees
Having the CEO of a successful organization speak to students is a great way to recruit talent. Hessan uses social media as an opportunity to recruit students to work at Communispace. “Rather than collecting business cards, I encourage students to stay in touch on Twitter, where I connect them directly with our recruiters, while also taking advantage of the opportunity to see how facile they are online. As a result, we’ve ended up hiring over a dozen new employees this way in the last quarter.”
Whether it’s fixing a customer service matter or soliciting feedback, interacting directly with customers can prove to be invaluable. And yes, this can be done on many levels in an organizations, but there is something about conversing with the CEO that’s just different.
Having a CEO involved in marketing and product development conversations on a consumer level encourages participation. Magar tells a story of the time before Chocri was introduced in the U.S. “We asked on our blog what toppings we should keep (toasted hazelnut), get (cocoa nibs) or toss (hemp seeds) upon entering the U.S. market. Not too long ago, we asked for submissions for ‘phrases’ to be printed in the inside of the packaging. Between Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr (
), we got more than 47 suggestions – that are now printed. The winner was: Slow down. Relax. Enjoy.”
Hessan also turned a customer service challenge into an opportunity for feedback. “Early on, when I first launched my Twitter account, someone tweeted about an awful experience they had in one of our client communities. I was mortified and tweeted, ‘Ouch, tell me more.’ She was blown away. Ultimately the situation was resolved and this person wrote a long post about how blown away she was that I responded. Since then, we’ve become friends – I’ve helped her with a job transition and she has provided valuable feedback on our software.”
While CEOs like to see data and clear results, it’s important to remember that brand perception and customer service are very real. Magar suggests “not to ditch it because the direct and easily measured impact (sales) doesn’t directly justify the time spent on it. We found some ways around this with our post-purchase survey, but it does take a leap of faith.”
Is the C-Suite in your organization using social media? What kinds of results are you seeing?
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