Starting From the Top: Why the C-Suite Should Lead Social Business

When 90 per cent of executives say they would use social media more “if it were helpful to their business,” the C-Suite is clearly not seeing the ROI of personal engagement.

Thankfully, there are a few notable exceptions. It is to these CEOs that executives should look for proof as to why the C-Suite should actually be leading the social business surge.

Richard Branson, Virgin

Though he hardly needs an introduction, Sir Richard Branson is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, an organization that manages over 400 global companies, including everything from music labels to airlines.

Richard Branson has over 3 million Twitter followers and is active on all major social networks.
Richard Branson has over 3 million Twitter followers and is active on all major social networks.

In a LinkedIn post titled “Why aren’t more business leaders online?” Branson tackled the subject of executive social media use head on: “[…] Like all other areas of business, CEOs have the opportunity to set the bar. By ignoring social networks, they are potentially missing a trick,” Branson writes in his post. “There are lots of business leaders utilising social media, and yours truly is only too happy to be counted among them.”

Branson is active on TwitterFacebook, and Google+, all of which have hundreds of thousands of followers who receive updates about the company and its products every single day. He also maintains a thought leadership blog on LinkedIn as well as a personal blog on the Virgin website which substantially expand the social reach of the company. Branson himself has become a “brand,” one that contributes to a positive brand image of Virgin as a whole.

Setting the bar is a great expression, as Branson goes on to say that everybody within your enterprise should be engaging on social and sharing your company’s story. One of the clearest benefits of having an executive who is active on social media is that it shows other employees that posting to social and sharing the company story on these channels are legitimate uses of their time.


Richard Branson leads the way on social media though all Virgin employees are encouraged to take part.

And to the 80 per cent of executives who said they would use social media if “it were a better use of their time,” a look at a day in the life of Richard Branson demonstrates that even the busiest businesspeople can spare a few moments for a Tweet.

Peter Aceto, Tangerine

Peter Aceto is the CEO of Canadian banking institution Tangerine. A regular presence on Twitter and Google+, Aceto also writes a blog called “Direct Talk” for the company on which he discusses everything from finance and customer engagement to the culture and working process within the company.

Tangerine is not like most banks in the country, as it doesn’t have any physical branches. Rather, Tangerine is reliant on phone and internet communications with its customers. By being active on social, Aceto adds a face to this communication (he has literally added his own face by using video in some blog posts). He shows that, despite the lack of branches, the company is not lacking in real people willing to deal and interact with clients. In personally dealing with some of these clients, Aceto notes that his conversations have actually affected the company’s business model.

“We’ve been able to have tremendous dialogue with our customers, with people who are considering being our customers and with people who have actually chosen not to be our customers about what they like about us and what they don’t like about us. It has actually influenced our product,” Aceto says.

Other Executives Involved in Social

The list doesn’t stop there. There are several other prominent examples of business executives and CEOs who have adopted social to the benefit of their brands.

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings notably caused Netflix shares to jump 6.2 per cent by writing on his personal Facebook account, which has 200,000 subscribers, that Netflix’s monthly online viewing had grown to over 1 billion hours. The post made waves, and brought about the recent SEC decision to allow American companies to post important business information onto social networks. It also illustrates the impact that executives can have on investors, both existing and potential, by being active and available on social channels.

HootSuite’s CEO Ryan Holmes has close to 120,000 combined followers on LinkedIn and Twitter and his commitment to social media is what led to the creation of HootSuite in the first place.

Ultimately, executives everywhere can and should take inspiration from these business leaders. The ROI of executive social engagement can be found in the ongoing success of companies like Virgin, Tangerine, Netflix and HootSuite into converting online conversations into business opportunities. The time spent making excuses for avoiding social can be better spent writing a Tweet or blogging.

Have any other examples of social-savvy executives that we should know about? Let us know in the comments or with a Tweet @hootsuite.

Want to talk about enterprise-level strategy of social media with an expert? Visit our HootSuite Enterprise site and request a demo.

And if you missed it, read part 1 of this series, “Most C-Suite Executives Still Don’t Get Social Media.