BY ZOË HENRY Reporter, Inc. @ZoeLaHenry
Social media is more than just a key to driving sales, it can also be a helpful source for founders to project confidence and grace, or to stay cool during times of crisis.
That's according to a new study called "C-Suite, Social Media, and Brand Reputation" from BRANDfog, a social media consulting startup that helps Fortune 1000 executives improve their web profiles. It revealed that three-quarters of those surveyed (500 U.S. employees from different companies spanning various industries) believe that social media engagement in the C-suite makes a brand seem more honest and trustworthy.
Since 2013, there's been a 15 percent increase in the number of respondents who believe that social media engagement makes CEOs more effective leaders, it found.
"Most companies are good at utilizing social media on the brand level, but social media at the C-suite is much more strategic," said Ann Charles, founder and CEO at BRANDfog. Prior to launching the company in 2009, Charles held chief marketing positions at several tech startups, and later ghost wrote quarterly earnings scripts for executives.
"They [CEOs] did not see the social media tsunami coming," she recalled.
Of course, leaders need to be thoughtful about the content they push out across such platforms as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. A number of companies have come under fire for insensitive commentary. Gap and American Apparel, for instance, tried to capitalize on Hurricane Sandy in 2012 by offering discounts to those living in states that were affected by the storm. Delta Airlines did little research when its main Twitter account tweeted an image of giraffes--meant to represent Ghana--after the U.S. men's soccer team beat the Ghanian team during the 2014 World Cup. Giraffes are in fact not native to Ghana, and the image was a stock photo of a giraffes in Kenya (located, you know, just a few thousand miles away).
Still, when done well and consistently, social media may mitigate risk ahead of a "reputation crisis," according to 85 percent of BRANDfog respondents. Say, for instance, your company is planning layoffs. By preempting the news with a blog post on Facebook or a tweet, the executive can lessen some of the damage ahead of time, and apologize personally, Charles explained. The more attention you pay to your accounts, the more customers will know to turn their when seeking news about the company.