Posted 06.16.2021 by Josh Krakauer

How to Build an Executive Social Media Strategy That Works + Examples

Top brands incorporate their executive team into their social media strategy. Here's how you can do the same ↓

As B2B marketers and brand leaders, we’re often faced with the question of how to make the most of social media’s marketing potential.

It’s natural to think of social media marketing in terms of your brand’s owned accounts, like your Company Page on LinkedIn, or Twitter and Instagram accounts. Savvy marketers, though, know to lean on the humans that make up their companies to level up their brand’s social media presence.

One way to do that is through an employee advocacy program.

Through their personal social media profiles, individual employees can function as brand ambassadors, building trust, credibility, and thought leadership — and this is particularly true for C-suite level team members.

That’s why developing an executive social media strategy is key to any successful employee advocacy program.

So, in this post, we’ll be exploring:

  1. What an executive social media strategy is (and why it’s important)
  2. How to build an executive social media strategy
  3. Getting started with executive social media activation
  4. Executive social media tips and tactics
  5. Examples from leading executives to inspire

Let’s dive in!

What is an Executive Social Media Strategy?

In a nutshell, an executive social media strategy helps guide your exec team’s activities on social media. Your strategy may include a tactical plan encompassing objectives, expectations, guidelines, processes, and best practices for the key executive (or their team) to follow. The overarching goal is to establish a framework that will not only encourage execs to be more active social media but also help them feel confident and fully invested in the initiative.

So, why is this important?

A socially-engaged C-suite has numerous advantages. Here are some of the top reasons why executives should use social media in 2021:

1. To humanize your brand and boost public sentiment.

When executives are active on social media, it puts a face to the brand — and that, in turn, garners trust and affinity. Consider this: a BRANDFog survey found that “77% of respondents were more likely to buy from a company whose values and mission are defined through CEO and executive leadership participation on social media,” illustrating that executive involvement on social media can have a profound effect on consumer preferences and public sentiment.

2. To foster relationships and tap into new audiences. 

At the end of the day, social media is, well… social! And that’s why it’s such a powerful networking and relationship-building tool. If executives are not active on social media, they’re missing out on a vast sea of potential new business connections. Furthermore, social media also serves as a fantastic touchpoint to continue cultivating existing business relationships.

3. To promote transparency, authenticity, and open communication. 

In recent years, it has become increasingly necessary for brands to prioritize transparency and authenticity as core values. 86% of Americans feel it’s more important than ever before for businesses to be transparent — and a great way to accomplish this is by having executives communicate genuinely on social channels. Such authenticity will help your brand resonate with people on a deeper level.

Now that we’ve explained what an executive social media strategy is and why it’s important, let’s discuss how to go about creating one.

How to Build an Executive Social Media Strategy

We recommend building your executive social media strategy the same way you’d build any other social media strategy — by starting with a solid framework and fleshing out.

This is as customizable as you need it to be. For example, you can establish one executive social media strategy for the whole C-suite or individualize for each executive level team member.

Some execs are natural content creators and public brand evangelists — think John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan, Ryan Reynolds and Aviation Gin, or Elon Musk (for good or ill). Others might require more hand-holding. Your strategy for individual executives will always shift based on their personal views on social, required level of support, and preferred form of communication.

With that said, let’s get into the 6-step social media strategy framework and how to adapt it for your executive social media activation. ↓

Step 1: Set Goals

Before you do anything, you need to know why you’re doing it.

Yes, we talked a bit about why executive social media is important for brands in general, but why is it important for your brand? That’s what you need to define during this step.

There are three levels of goals you’ll be thinking about here.

1) Big Picture Goals. Decide which marketing or business level goals your executives will be supporting with their presence on social media so you can account for this. Likely, they’ll be laddering up to larger brand building and thought leadership goals already in motion.

2) Program-specific Goals. Set goals for your executives social media program overall — how do they want to come across? What success look like for their reach or follower growth? What’s the long-term vision for their thought leadership and personal brand? For instance, will this parlay into an episodic video series, a podcast tour, or something else?

3) Activity-Based Goals. Finally, you’ll want to set more specific, activity-based goals for the first three, six, and twelve months of the program. How many times will they post per week, publish videos, or respond to inbound comments?

Step 2: Define the Audience

Now that you have some goals in place, it’s time to clarify who your executives will be speaking to.

Define two to three groups of ideal users that your executive social media strategy will target. Here are a few ideas:

  • Current Employees: Particularly if you have a large company, this is a chance for your executives to share industry knowledge with and show appreciation for the people who make up their brand.
  • Existing Customers: Creating content for the customers you already have is just as important as (if not more important than) reaching new, potential customers. That’s true for the company accounts and the executives’.
  • Key Prospects: You  do still want to reach new customers, though, and social selling is definitely a solid way to do that.
  • Future Recruits and Industry Peers: Thought leadership from your C-suite team makes your brand look good both to talented people who might want to work there and industry peers (such as contractors, brands, other thought leaders etc.) who might want to partner with you.

Step 3: Choose Your Channels

Where will your executives focus their attention?

LinkedIn is a safe bet for B2B, but this decision will differ based on two key areas:

  • Audience concentration: Where can they best reach and influence their desired audience?
  • Personal comfort level: Which platforms do they primarily use, enjoy, or avoid?

And remember, more platforms requires more effort and coordination. Consider one to two to start with and expand from there.

During this step, you’ll also want to map out which features the execs will use on each channel. For instance, LinkedIn isn’t just one thing, it’s LinkedIn feed posts, LinkedIn Stories, LinkedIn Live, and LinkedIn Articles.

Step 4: Plan the Content

You know why, where, and to whom the execs will be talking. Time to focus on the “what.”

What kind of content will they be producing?

First, consider the format. Because executive social media programs can be highly individual, you need to know what the executives preferred forms of communication are.

For an executive who prefers to appear unscripted on camera, you might add a few livestreams to their rotation of social media posts. Another executive might prefer to express themself through long-form, written content, which would lend itself well to LinkedIn Articles or maybe thoughtful Twitter threads. You get the idea.

Next, you’ll want to think about the content themes the executives will be tackling. To save time, consider an episode or pillar-content approach and make sure to align your executive social media content plans with the corporate editorial calendar.

Step 5: Amplification and Distribution

These final two steps are all about the “how” of your executive social media strategy.

How will they get their message out and reaching the right people?

There are two things that help:

1)  Organic cross-promotion. Expand your executives’ reach by sharing from other accounts, including employee and corporate accounts.

2) Paid promotion. Exec’s posts tend to garner more attention and engagement than the corporate account’s version of the same, so it’s not uncommon to see brands put paid sponsorship dollars behind their posts (especially on Twitter).

Step 6: Community Management and Implementation

Finally, how will you manage the publishing of and responses to your execs’ posts on social media?

Planning and Publishing

In order to define the internal roles and start to build out the publishing calendar, you need to answer a few questions at this stage:

  • Will you need someone to ghostwrite posts for them?
  • Will a social media manager need to be assigned to publish on their behalf?
  • Is someone going to be editing their articles, adding captions to their videos, etc.?

Community Management

Posts from executives accounts on social tend to get more reach and engagement than posts from the company account (or even less influential, junior-level employees). That also means they’ll likely get more responses. It’s important that executives are practicing proactive commenting — or at least their executive assistant or social media manager is practicing it.

That means allocating enough time to acknowledge these comments on their posts while also engaging with posts by other employees (to boost their reach) and other thought leaders (to reach their audiences).

[Bonus]: Grab our 6-step social media strategy prep list

Use our Social Media Marketing Strategy Prep List to plan your executive social media strategy. Included is our 6-step framework and 25 essential questions to help you align your goals, resources, and content plans. → Click here to get it now.

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Getting Started with Executive Social Media

In the initial stage of developing your executive social media strategy, there are two key requirements to consider:

  1. Executive Buy-In: convincing execs that being active on social media is worth their time and effort.
  2. Engagement and Participation: deciding if execs will be posting themselves or if you’ll assign a social media manager to manage their accounts on their behalf.

Sometimes, getting buy-in from the C-suite can be difficult. Here are a few common roadblocks (along with potential solutions for overcoming each).

  • Lack of Time. Many executives feel they simply don’t have time to devote to social media. In this case, assigning a social media manager or executive assistant to manage the account might be your best bet.
  • Lack of Experience. If an executive has limited knowledge of social media, they may feel intimidated and reluctant to get started. Address this by providing them with in-depth training and guidelines.
  • Lack of Content Ideas. Coming up with something unique and insightful to say on social media (and how to say it) is no small feat. Now multiply that times three to five posts a week and you’ll see why many execs balk at the idea of adding that additional work to their already full plates. For inspiration, consider providing curated content opportunities they can choose from to lessen the creative labor required of them.
  • Lack of Proven ROI. For anything that requires time and resources, executives will likely want to see the business case for it, i.e., how does this benefit the company? What’s the ROI? It’s difficult enough to prove social media ROI, but you can still combat this by having stats and analytics on hand to demonstrate the value with concrete metrics.

With these challenge/solution sets in mind, let’s dig deeper by exploring each of the solutions in greater detail.

Providing Training and Social Media Guidelines for Executives

Knowledge is power, so empower your executives to use social media confidently and effectively with clear guidelines and in-depth training.

As part of this process, we recommend that you:

  • Audit their current digital footprint. Take stock of the platforms your execs are active on and the content they’ve published to assess where they currently stand. How many followers do they have? How have they been engaging with their followers?
  • Establish an action plan for social next steps and expectations.Chart a path forward that lays a foundation to begin building upon. Which platforms should they focus on? What posting cadence should they aim for?
  • Create a safe environment for executives to ask questions. It’s crucial for execs to feel comfortable voicing any questions or concerns they have throughout the process. So, be sure to encourage an open, honest dialogue.

Making Time for Executive Social Media Activation

Recall from above that a lack of time is a common hurdle that stands in the way of executives being more active on social media. With that in mind, a key decision that needs to be made is whether the exec will be posting as themself or if they’ll be assigned a social media manager to oversee their accounts on their behalf.

So, let’s break down the pros and cons of each option.

If executives manage their own social media accounts they have complete autonomy and all posts are a perfect reflection of their voice and values. However, this will require time and mental bandwidth which many execs are in short supply of.

If a social media manager oversees an executive’s accounts for them, that resolves the time constraint issue. However, it may be more difficult to fully capture the exec’s unique voice and views with this approach as it’s being filtered through a third-party first.

That being said, there is a third option that’s essentially a hybrid solution: curated content opportunities. By regularly providing executives with a list of content ideas to inspire their posts, you’ll help them save time and energy while also allowing them to retain autonomy and authenticity.

In addition to creative inspiration, you can also send them recommended content to engage with, like popular LinkedIn posts to comment on, share, etc. This will help facilitate productive social media activity while also saving time.

Proving the ROI of Executive Social Media Strategies

When assessing the merit of a CEO social media strategy, many executives will want to see tangible statistics and metrics to support the business case. Here are a couple stats you can cite that demonstrate how valuable executive social media activation can be:

  • BRANDFog’s survey found that 82% of respondents were more likely to trust a company if the CEO is active on social media.
  • Social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than those with a lower SSI score. More about what LinkedIn’s SSI is below.

LinkedIn is still a vital component of most B2B social media strategies, so B2B execs will definitely want to make LinkedIn a priority. To help quantify its value as a platform, LinkedIn now offers a Social Selling Index feature, which measures an individual’s social selling efforts. Returning to the notion of providing ROI, this tool is a great way to show executives how getting social is building their brand.

You can also show direct competitors’ SSIs, which provides executives with an idea of what the industry competition is doing (or not doing!) and helps them contextualize the opportunities for your brand.

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Grab our social media strategy template →

Need to align your exec social media activations into your overall social media marketing operation? Use our Social Media Marketing Planning Template to align your strategy plans. To simplify it, copy/paste the Google Doc to get started. → Click here to get it now.

Executive Social Media Tips and Tactics

Earlier, we touched on the fact that a set of clear guidelines will help empower execs to succeed on social media. So, let’s expand on that with some constructive tips and tactics that you can incorporate into your executive social media strategy.

Aim for authenticity.

Execs should ‘be themselves’ on social media. There’s no need to be overly formal/professional. Using a more casual tone has become the norm these days (and it’s often far more relatable).

Commit to a posting schedule.

Social media success doesn’t happen overnight. Persistence and consistency will pay off in the long-term, which is why an executive social media strategy should set a posting frequency goal (e.g. weekly).

Respond to recent events.

Reacting to the latest news stories is an excellent way to maintain a steady flow of timely, relevant social media activity. This will also give execs the opportunity to share their views and participate in discussions surrounding trending topics.

Repurpose existing content.

Social media posts don’t always have to be 100% new and original. Execs can also share other users’ posts (either brands or individuals) and put their own spin with a caption to express their thoughts about the content.

Add value.

Above all, execs should approach social media with this fundamental question in mind: “how can I provide value?” Instead of using social media as a promotional megaphone, view it as a place to form real connections and enrich people’s lives.

Now, let’s see these principles in action with some real-world examples from executives who are rocking the social media game. 👇

Examples for Your Executive Social Media Strategy

Adena Friedman, President & CEO of Nasdaq

LinkedIn: 570K Followers

With over half a million followers on LinkedIn, Adena Friedman is a social media powerhouse who takes content very seriously. She often shares lengthy, thoughtful posts that address major concerns of our time. She also creates long-form content on LinkedIn by publishing articles directly on the platform.

Doug McMillon, President & CEO of Walmart

LinkedIn: 870k Followers, Facebook: 140k Followers

Although he leads one of the largest companies in the world, Doug McMillon likes to stay in touch with what’s happening ‘on the ground.’ He frequently shares posts to celebrate employee achievements (at all levels of the organization) and includes candid, down-to-earth photos of himself with staff. This sincerely humanizes both him and the Walmart brand.

Dharmesh Shah, Founder & CTO of HubSpot

LinkedIn: 1M Followers

Dharmesh Shah has mastered the art of using social media in a fun and casual way. He frequently posts quick and simple insights that have a spontaneous ‘off the top of the head’ feel to them. He also shares other content he finds compelling or humorous — and the topics are often unrelated to HubSpot’s business, instead simply reflecting his personal interests.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

LinkedIn: 9M Followers

Leading the pack, we have Satya Nadella, with a staggering 9M followers on LinkedIn. In addition to exciting business announcements and tech news, he uses social media as a platform to spread positivity and express values that are important to him. Popular themes throughout his posts include social justice, equality, and diversity.

Key Takeaways for Building Your Executive Social Media Strategy

Upon seeing the examples above, you might be thinking to yourself, “well, those are all leaders of major public companies — of course they have a huge following. But we are a smaller firm and it’s unlikely that our execs would be able to achieve that much visibility.”

But, that’s okay! You don’t need 1M followers to experience the benefits of social media engagement — there are still plenty of rewards and opportunities at a more modest scale. As with many things, it’s about quality, not quantity. So, don’t be discouraged, even if you’re starting from scratch.

We’ve covered quite a bit in this article, so let’s review some key takeaways to remember:

  • The advantages of an executive social media strategy include increased trust and public sentiment, relationship-building, and brand authenticity.
  • Common hurdles to executive social media activation include lack of time, lack of experience, lack of content ideas, and unclear ROI.
  • Potential solutions to the challenges above include guidelines and education, a dedicated social media manager, curated content ideas for execs, and social media analytics tools such as LinkedIn’s SSI.
  • Tips for your executive social media strategy: be authentic, create a posting schedule, respond to recent events, repurpose existing content, and strive to add value.

Need a hand with your executive social media strategy? We’re here to help. At Sculpt, we specialize in tailoring custom B2B social media strategies and campaigns to grow your audience, build your brand, and boost your revenue.

Just tell you want to get a proposal to get started.

Ben Maguire

Ben is a freelance writer specializing in B2B blog posts and ebooks. As a digital nomad, he works remotely while traveling the world in search of new experiences. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, biking, and live music.

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