Social media may be ubiquitous these days, but for busy corporate executives, it seems to be something to avoid. In fact, over 60% of Fortune 500 executives eschew social media use altogether.

There’s no question that social media use presents several challenges to busy executives and CEOs. Those challenges include:

  • A significant time investment and resulting impediments to personal productivity
  • A perceived lack of ROI, especially when the executive could be performing other, more traditional high-level tasks that help create
  • The perception of social media as a cesspool of outrage and cheap gossip, leaving many executives to fail to see any value or benefit in their direct participation
  • Potential exposure that may be created by off-the-cuff, unguarded comments, which may present legal, political, business, and personal risks

However, these same risks are inherent in multiple activities that executives engage in, activities that are perceived as yielding higher value and benefit to businesses and brands.

As it turns out, the benefits from strategic CEO and executive use of social media outweigh the risks, as long as that use takes place within strategic parameters and guidelines that support corporate goals and interests.

Here are five excellent reasons why business executives should be active on social media:

1. The Executive Perspective Is Unique

Every company and brand has a story. Origin stories, stories about lean early years, success stories about clients and customers—company executives have a unique viewpoint on all these stories. And these are often stories that only executives can tell, especially on social media. These are also usually the most compelling stories, ones that emotionally resonate with prospective customers on social media. They need to be told.

Sharing those stories with a self-selected audience of followers—people who want to hear from you and your brand—helps build brand awareness and attracts new prospects into your marketing funnel. It also creates a particular kind of transparency that is attractive to the right people.

2. The Executive Voice Attracts Top Talent

To succeed, your company needs the best possible talent. And as the executive face of your company, you represent it not only to customers and prospects but also to potential future hires. What factors will persuade the best in their fields to want to work for your business, instead of for your competitors?

Certainly, many such factors exist—compensation, benefits, culture, and more—but among those factors is a vaguely defined ‘X’ factor. Part reputation, part brand “personality, part vision, this indefinable quality means different things to different people. But, it often comes down to something quite basic: How badly prospective hires want to work with and for you, the CEO, the company’s leader. 

Being active on social media gives your personality, work ethic, and enthusiasm for your own company’s product a chance to take center stage. As a result, social media can draw top job prospects who’ll be best suited to join your team and fit into your organization effortlessly—and enthusiastically.

3. Social Media Is a Direct Line to Your Prospects

The most engaging executives on social media are the ones who recognize this salient point: The shortest path to your customer’s heart is a straight line.

You can use any social media account to connect directly with your customers, prospects, and targeted users, as well as with colleagues and partners. Do you want to know what they’re thinking about your vision for your industry and the products or services you provide? Ask them. They’ll absolutely tell you.

Moreover, if you respond to those who are kind enough to answer you, you’ll build trust and goodwill. This trust will extend to your company as well. Adding to your company’s intangible assets makes you a more effective and valuable CEO.

4. A Strong Executive Presence on Social Helps Steer the Ship in a Crisis

Crisis management should never be the overriding objective of any social media use. After all, if your company solely engages with followers and fans in times of crisis, it’s already working at a disadvantage. Establishing executive presence on social media and a pattern of regular use helps the company when a crisis does occur, because it’s easier to communicate the corporate message through an active profile.

An active executive account with a strong following means you have a ready-made channel and an interested audience ready to listen to what you have to say on your company’s behalf—especially when it’s time to right a wrong. This inevitably strengthens the message and helps it land more effectively. Your crisis playbook should always include social.

5. It’s What Your Customers Want and Expect

Last, but far from least, consider this: your customers and clients want to hear from the corporation’s leaders. In fact, 90% of consumers want and expect transparency from the companies with which they do business. Many will stop buying from companies that don’t deliver that transparency. Strategic social media use by engaged executives helps demonstrate your corporate commitment to authenticity and ethical conduct.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Social

Without question, social media can turn into a time-wasting activity that can serve as a catalyst for corporate missteps. For that reason, clear, cogent guidelines should be drafted for social media use by all executives and company officers. Those guidelines should rest on a strong strategic foundation that addresses the company’s goals and objectives, serving the need to be transparent while also being mindful of legal and regulatory obligations and interests. Within those parameters, executive social media accounts can boost brand awareness, corporate goodwill, customer engagement, and lead conversion.

For examples of top executives—from GM, Apple, 23andME, and others—who have mastered social media and are delivering results for their companies, read our latest ebook on social media for execs.