The Best Practices of a Social CEO: Leading in the Digital Age

The chief executive officer (CEO) is traditionally in a lofty space. They are the leader of an organization and are unlikely to be visible under normal circumstances. However, social media has become such a phenomenal platform for equalization that CEOs have become more humanized.

In this article, we delve into best practices for top executives to harness the power of social media. Use them to enhance leadership, build trust and credibility, and foster meaningful connections with stakeholders.

What is a social CEO?

A social CEO actively uses social media platforms to communicate, engage, and lead. However, it is not enough to have a presence on social media. They must use these channels to humanize leadership, share insights, and connect with employees, customers, investors, and the public.

The benefits range from increased brand visibility and trust to staying ahead of industry trends. One study indicates that 82 percent of participants are likelier to trust companies whose CEOs engage on social media.

Best Practices of a Social CEO

Stakeholders expect a more transparent and engaging approach, so being a social CEO is not just a trend but a strategic imperative. Therefore, it pays to know how to be the best social CEO you can be.

Building a personal brand

One of the fundamental practices of a social CEO is building a personal brand that aligns with the company’s values and vision. Social media provides a platform to showcase leadership style, expertise, and personality. When you post thought leadership content and industry insights and participate in conversations, you establish credibility for yourself and your company.

A prime example of a social CEO excelling in personal brand building is Elon Musk. Musk shares updates about Tesla and SpaceX through Twitter and his thoughts on technology sustainability. He even engages with his audience in a humorous and relatable manner. His approach builds his brand and contributes to the broader narrative of the companies he leads.

Promoting transparency and authenticity

In the age of information, transparency is critical to building trust. Social CEOs should embrace authenticity in their communication, providing a human touch to their leadership. Sharing successes and challenges, being open about decision-making processes, and admitting mistakes contribute to authentic engagement.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson exemplifies authenticity in leadership. A genuine sharing of professional and personal experiences marks his social media presence. This transparency resonates with audiences and adds a human dimension to his leadership. His engagement on social media makes him more relatable to employees and customers.

Engaging with stakeholders

Social media platforms offer an extraordinary opportunity for CEOs to engage directly with stakeholders. Whether responding to customer queries, acknowledging employee achievements, or participating in industry discussions, engagement fosters a sense of community.

Apple CEO Tim Cook uses Twitter to engage with customers and share updates about the company. By actively responding to tweets and participating in conversations, Cook creates a sense of accessibility. It allows him to break down the perceived barrier between a corporate leader and the public.

Using thought leadership

A social CEO is not just a company representative; they are influencers within their industry. By consistently sharing valuable insights, opinions, and foresight, a social CEO can position themselves and their company as thought leaders. Thought leadership enhances your personal and elevates your company’s standing in the industry.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is known for his leadership skills in technology and artificial intelligence. Through LinkedIn and other platforms, he shares his vision for the future of technology, innovation, and leadership. Nadella has become an influential figure within Microsoft and the tech industry partly because he is on social media.

Managing crises

In times of crisis, social media becomes a critical tool for communication. A social CEO should be adept at using these platforms to address challenges, provide reassurance, and communicate a clear path forward. Silence during a crisis can be detrimental, and social media offers an immediate and direct way to manage and shape the narrative.

Marriott International’s CEO, Arne Sorenson, used social media to communicate the company’s response and provide updates during the pandemic. His proactive approach helped maintain trust and transparency during a challenging time.

Fostering a positive culture

A social CEO doesn’t just communicate externally; they also play a crucial role in internal communication. Social media can effectively foster employees’ sense of community and pride. A social CEO can strengthen the organizational culture by sharing company achievements, recognizing employee contributions, and providing insights into the company’s direction.

Jeff Weiner, the former CEO of LinkedIn, was known for his active presence on the platform. He celebrated employee successes, shared company updates, and reinforced LinkedIn’s values. His approach boosted employee morale and contributed to LinkedIn’s reputation as a great workplace.

Leveraging the correct networks

Not all social networks are created equal. A social CEO should strategically choose the platforms that support your goals and target audience. LinkedIn is often considered a go-to platform for professional networking and thought leadership. At the same time, Twitter offers a more conversational space. Instagram and YouTube may be suitable for visual storytelling and engaging with a younger audience.

For example, suppose you run a home mortgage company. Typically, you would share insights on LinkedIn. However, you have a video of your staff goofing around. Twitter and TikTok are better channels for something like that.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), utilizes multiple communication platforms. He shares critical updates on Facebook. On the other hand, he uses  Instagram to showcase behind-the-scenes footage of his work and personal life.

Measuring impact and adjusting strategies

An effective social CEO doesn’t operate in a vacuum. You must continuously measure the effect of your social media efforts and modify them accordingly. Metrics like engagement rates, follower growth, and sentiment analysis offer critical insights into your online presence’s effectiveness. Leveraging data helps you make informed decisions and ensures your social media strategy aligns with broader business objectives.

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, demonstrated a strategic approach to social media by leveraging analytics to measure the impact of her online presence. By understanding the preferences and reactions of her audience, she could tailor her content to resonate with stakeholders and drive positive outcomes for the company.

Get Social

In the digital age, being a social CEO is not an option; it’s a strategic imperative. The best practices outlined above provide a roadmap for CEOs to navigate the complex landscape of social media, from building a personal brand and fostering transparency to engaging with stakeholders and leading in times of crisis.

As the digital landscape evolves, embracing the role of a social CEO is not just about keeping up; it’s about staying ahead, driving innovation, and leading with authenticity in the dynamic and interconnected business world.


Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a seasoned professional with a strong background in growth strategies and editorial responsibilities. Kokou has been instrumental in driving companies' expansion and fortifying their market presence. His academic credentials underscore his expertise; having studied Communication at the Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy), he later honed his skills in growth hacking at the Growth Tribe Academy (Amsterdam).


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