It's time for B2B CEOs to embrace online

By Anders Björklund

It's time for B2B CEOs to embrace online

Do you, as a CEO, use online and digital as a core part of your daily work? Do you actively contribute on social media, take part in podcasts, run webinars, and publish videos? If not, it's time to get started!

Why is it important to be active online as a CEO at a B2B company? The primary reason is that most B2B companies' marketing, communication, and PR departments are fairly small, meaning that individual employees' online activities usually have a higher impact and engagement than the company's official channels. 

The CEO's online and digital role

Some CEOs are hesitant about using social media for business. They like to choose their words carefully and avoid controversy as much as possible. That usually means they tend to stay away from online as much as they can.

If you think hard, can you give one example of a CEO for a large company that responds to customers personally, apologises for a delay in delivery, or say thanks to someone for feedbacking? You likely thought of Elon Musk, but I cannot think of many other examples.

As a CEO, I think you should make an effort to be close and personal on social media. You should be transparent and share your thoughts and opinions when appropriate. You should let everyone know what you care about and what you are interested in, and don't hold back — just be yourself!

For most CEOs, online and social media is something that their kids and relatives do. Less than half of the B2B CEOs I have ever met have an active social media presence, and only a few have posted anything the past year.

The CEOs that are actually active on social media find that it brings clear advantages. Online-savvy CEOs are popular with employees, and the CEO has a vital role in shaping the perception people have of the company. The CEO's front-facing role is prominent and visible to everyone. If they are well-regarded, their company's reputation is enhanced, as is their ability to attract and retain the best talent and customers.

In tough times, the CEO's communications can go a long way towards restoring confidence. It is fundamental for CEOs to have an active online presence and act as ambassadors for their company. It's important that they strengthen their brand and raise their profile as credible knowledge or thought leader.

Using exciting and relevant content and formats increases engagement, and the press can pick up opinions and soundbites posted on social media.

Where to be active on social media and online

Not being active on social media as a B2B CEO in 2021 makes it look like you're actively trying to avoid being transparent. But with so many social media touchpoints to choose from, it's essential to focus on the right ones. 

Take the time

Being active in this way takes time, but this is something that CEOs usually lack. So should they be creating the posts themselves? This is usually the best approach, but all CEOs must ensure that they don't post something that could negatively impact their business or the company — they have to remain mindful of the weight of their words. A CEO's social media posts have the power to affect the share price and reputation of the business, so I recommend pausing before hitting that post button.

Be a part of your company's communication strategy

Becoming active online quickly doesn't work for everyone. The average CEO will be nervous. But it doesn't matter whether you feel comfortable or not at the beginning; you must be a part of your company's communication strategy. You should be present and active online for all interested stakeholders, internally or externally.

What does it mean for strategies and beyond?

The CEO is only one individual, and although they have a very prominent role, placing a single person as the front-and-centre face of a company is not an approach I recommend. But using your CEO role to provide a personal insider's view via social media helps to humanise your company, regardless of the industry you work in. Other C-level leaders and employees, as well as stakeholders, are increasingly interested in the people and values behind your brand. 

It's no longer all about the products, solutions, and services; you also need to decide that the personal touch is essential and prioritised. Tesla and Elon Musk's popularity is partly down to his willingness to share his random thoughts, ideas, failures, and quirks.

Social media can be a noisy landscape in which playing it safe no longer works. You'll be lost in the masses. It may be a struggle initially, but now is the time for all CEOs and executives to be more visible, personal, and relevant on social media. Your customers, prospects, suppliers, investors, shareholders, and colleagues are talking about you. Being active on social media lets you play a role in shaping their perception.

If you want to find out more about how your B2B company should be using social media, take a look at our detailed social media guide - either here on the site, or as a downloadable PDF below. 

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about what and how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B. Asks a lot of questions, and knows what to do with the answers.
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