Most tech B2B marketers have figured out how to effectively use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and more for their corporate handles (and we have plenty of additional resources for those of you interested in upping your game), yet many leave a significant potential element untapped: their executive team.
People enjoy following and engaging with brands; they love following and engaging with people. Your executives can humanize your brand in a way that deepens your customers’ and prospects’ connection to you. And, when it comes to matters of brand affinity, like trust and confidence, your audience looks to the leadership team of your company to decide whether or not to bestow it. Likely your CEO and other senior executives are the best ambassadors your company has. You surely deploy them as spokespeople for key customer conversations, important media interviews and speaking engagements at critically important industry events. Why not use those same powerful ambassadors on social media?
So, let’s say we all agree it makes sense for at least a couple of your senior execs to have an active presence on social media; how and where? And what about the fact they may truly be uncomfortable with social media, or willing but uncertain how to proceed. Read on.
The question of which channels are most important for executives to engage on to support your brand is a little bit dependent on your core audiences. That said, it’s safe to say that LinkedIn is essential and Twitter is a close second.
LinkedIn is widely regarded as the best B2B platform, both in terms of its reach and its focus on business. It’s also a terrific platform for thought leadership thanks to LinkedIn Publisher, which is a great fit for executives. They are best-suited to discuss such thought leadership topics as industry and technology trends, market dynamics and the impact of economic and social conditions on tech B2B companies. And, the person-to-person nature of LinkedIn means one of its greatest values lies in elevating brands through their leaders. With a strong profile and highly relevant posts, well-connected executives can be very successful on LinkedIn.
Twitter is an incredibly powerful platform. If engaging with influencers is a goal, Twitter is your go-to channel. CEOs, media, analysts, people who have none of those titles but who are such experts in their field that they’ve built passionate followings, all are influencers. Twitter is both a broadcast medium and a platform for engagement. It’s a little less formal than LinkedIn, and its active members are very comfortable using the platform as a place to communicate, discuss, debate and transact business.
Given Twitter’s fast-paced nature, real-time engagement is a key to cracking its code. Execs can directly insert themselves into conversations with industry peers and influencers by replying on active, engaging threads. Once an executive has built a substantial enough audience, they can start driving these sorts of conversations and discussions themselves. Additionally, journalists will sometimes put out requests for commentary or express interest in particular storylines through their accounts. Execs can stay ready to spring into action if and when they see the opportunity to engage.
Let’s start with LinkedIn. The key to impact, unsurprisingly, is reach times frequency. Some things never change. Your exec’s reach starts with their network. Anything they post will show up in the feeds of their network. If their network is 200 people, and 30 percent of those share posts, comment or otherwise engage, those 66 people’s networks will be exposed to your exec’s posts. Starting with a network of 2,000 instead of 200 amplifies your exec’s reach much faster.
If they are starting with a small network, some low-hanging fruit is to pull together a list of your key accounts or tier one customers, research the peer execs at those companies, and encourage your execs to invite them to connect. Same thing applies to key suppliers, partners and of course journalists and other influencers they have a relationship with. And, it is always best to include a message about why they are inviting the connection as opposed to just a blank invitation to connect. This same basic invitation language can serve multiple targeted connections, as long as it is customized as needed based on the relationship with the intended recipient. And, if your exec has been ignoring their own invitations to connect, time to review and judiciously accept.
Once your exec’s network is robust, the frequency part of the impact equation applies. We recommend a minimum of three to four posts per week, one LinkedIn publisher article per month and a few minutes each day to like, share or comment on posts from her/his network. Posts should be a mix of company content with your exec’s thought leadership commentary attached, and curated industry content (articles, blog posts, etc.), also with commentary attached. Plain text posts work well on LinkedIn, too. Think of the articles as blog posts, and thought leadership along the same vectors mentioned above is once again the goal.
LinkedIn’s algorithms reward ongoing engagement. As long as a post or article continues to see new engagement, it will be served to larger and larger networks for weeks to come, including people who aren’t connected with or follow your exec – yet. It only takes one great article or post and a bit of engagement cultivation to go viral on LinkedIn, which is a boon to your brand.
The same equation (reach x frequency = impact) applies to Twitter. If your exec hasn’t been active on Twitter, it will take some time to build a meaningful following. We recommend starting with content, meaning, ensuring the exec has a dozen or more relevant and engaging tweets live before cultivating followers. Prospective followers won’t engage if they check out the exec’s handle and find it lacking in relevant content. Once the content is there, your exec can begin cultivating followers by initiating engagement: following select individuals, retweeting (with commentary!), liking, @mentioning and selectively DMing.
Paid follower campaigns will expedite follower growth, boosting that reach metric. This doesn’t mean “buying” followers. It means paying to put your execs’s content and/or profile in front of carefully targeted users who can voluntarily opt in to following them. Both parties benefit; new followers are likely to appreciate and enjoy content from your exec because their interests intersect, and the exec receives extended reach. A mix of organic and paid follower cultivation will grow an authentic following that will extend your exec’s reach and offer great engagement opportunities.
Making it happen
So, you’ve cultivated your exec(s) and there is agreement about how to proceed. And then they remind you they have a day job and can’t possibly fit all this activity in. They don’t have to. You, or your agency, can do a lot of the heavy lifting for the exec while still keeping their authentic voice and presence in the program. That requires a candid conversation about what elements they are comfortable taking on by themselves and where they need support and help. No two execs are the same in this regard. Some just want help getting things set up and some ongoing coaching; some want a much more turnkey set up, in which they are reviewing and modifying or personalizing the program execution.
If you’d like to learn more, please reach out. We’d love to help you explore how your executives’ presence on social media can propel your brand to new heights.
Kerry McClenahan is President of Publitek North America. Kerry’s tech B2B marketing experience spans strategic brand initiatives, demand generation and thought leadership programs. She has counseled start-ups to multi-billion dollar enterprises and is passionate about delivering results that drive business objectives.