Social Blogging for Fortune 500 Companies

There has been a lot lately about social CEOs and I have recently posted about the topic. Last night, I just had a chance to review the annual University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research study about how the Fortune 500 is using this not so new but ubiquitous medium and blogging, in particular. As the authors say, and I agree, "studying their adoption and use of social media blogs offers important insights into the future of commerce." The key findings are that Fortune 500 blogs are alive and well and serving as a means to promote thought leadership:

  • In 2014, 31% of the studied companies had corporate blogs, showing a slight decrease of 3% in use of this tool in the past year
  • In the 2011 Fortune 500 study, it called attention to the decline of blogging with only 23% hosting a public-facing corporate blog.  In 2012, there was a sizable increase to 28%. That surge surfaced again in 2013 showing 34% of these corporate behemoths creating and sharing content through blogs
  • The top 200 of the Fortune 500 are out-blogging the bottom 200  
  • These Fortune 500 blogs are for the most part (78%) are interactive, up-to-date, taking comments, offering RSS feeds and subscriptions. 

What is particularly interesting here is that corporate blogging is here to stay and has become a relevant means of content-sharing and thought leadership. It provides a smart delivery vehicle to talk about what a company stands for, what's on the minds of its customers, what its products and services can do and what's new and innovative in the field. And the authors agree that we might view this steadiness of corporate blogging as a signal to the marketplace that the time is ripe for thought leadership and in-depth content instead of short missives and pure promotional content that is less memorable. At Weber Shandwick, we see this in the high demand for Mediaco, a platform that helps companies publish and be their own media companies.

I see a surge in thought leadership being tied to the ongoing effectiveness of corporate blogging where ideas and insights can now be more easily shared with the general populace. And I believe that when companies blog on their websites or elsewhere, it leads to greater control over communications and their reputation. Companies can now join the conversation instead of just reacting to the conversation. Reputations have a better chance of stabilizing themselves when they have a hand in the dialogue. A good thing. 

CEO selfies....really!

I was reading a post this morning about social CEOs, a favorite topic of mine and came across this one on AllFacebook by Mary Long. It is about the five things that CEOs should not do. This one stands out because I can hardly imagine a CEO considering this seriously but then again, we've seen the unimaginable happen time and time again. And when I googled CEO and selfies, just now, there seems to be long line of tech company executive selfies making history. Long recommends that CEOs refrain from taking selfies. Here is her advice and I quote:

"2) Daily selfies

If you take daily selfies and you are a CEO, you might as well write your resignation letter and post that along with your selfie. As a CEO you have a professional image to maintain, and those selfies taken on your iPhone camera are far from professional, at worst – and show an unseemly narcissistic streak, at best. Invest in a professional photographer to help you capture the perfect head shot, if the former – and a professional therapist, if the latter!"

Sane advice for the Fortune 500 CEO set for sure. Sometimes it is best to be boring and less about me me me. I can see it making sense with some of the tech CEOs but beyond that, not so sure. Maybe with employees in the background it can work but a CEO selfie for selfie's sake, got to proceed with caution. 

Saying goodbye to Twitter

"I will be closing down my Twitter account today. As I said, wait till QPR gets promoted and I reach 50. I may restart dedicated accounts. Goodbye all. Maybe I return. Been fun. And damn useful. Speak the truth be brave," said the Malaysian CEO of AirAsia (@tonyfernandes) in his last tweet. “Stand up for what you believe, fight oppression and most importantly, enjoy life. Bye bye all!” [QPR is the Queens Park Rangers, the English Premier League Team, that he owns].

Tony Fernandes was well known for his very active Twitter account. He started in December 2008 and had nearly 900,000 people following him. In his 11,900 Tweets, he made major announcements about the airline, offers, discussion on the industry, sports activities, industry news, birthday wishes, work out in gyms, investor road shows and everything else. He always came up in lists on top 50 socially engaged CEOs and his disappearance from Twitter shocked his fans as this Tweet attests to: “So @tonyfernandes is leaving twitter! It’s been good to have an open engaging chairman with fans. Maybe see you back here someday!!!”

I always loved this story I read about him. When he was 6 years old, he told his dad that he would start an airline on day and his physician father replied: 'if you make past the doorman of Hilton Hotel, I will be happy." And boy did he make it to the top.

It is hard to figure out why he deactivated his account and I am not sure why turning 50 makes a difference except that this entrepreneur must be incredibly busy and decided to use his time more efficiently. This departure made me wonder why he did not just say he was limiting himself to fewer tweets so expect less in the future. But it sounds like he made up his mind and Twitter helped get his airline off the ground (so to speak). I am sure his reputation for being a trailblazing social media CEO will continue as he turns to other outlets. Word is that he is using Instagram. Always hate to see a Social CEO bite the dust. 

The pricey costs to social media reputation repair

The third annual study called the Computing Safety Index was just released by Microsoft and it has some real gems in it on the costs associated with online reputational risk. Repairing the damage from social media cannot be ignored because it comes with a big price tag. The facts below came from the blog of Jacqueline Beauchere, the chief online safety officer at Microsoft (cool title). 

  1. Nearly $6 billion was spent in 2013 "to mitigate risks associated with financial and time loss due to personal or professional damage."
  2. On average, the cost to users who experience online reputational damage and have to restore their reputation averages $632 per episode. When you look at this by country, the numbers are incredible. In Canada, the average U.S. dollar equivalent costs to repair one’s professional reputation totaled $484 per incident; in Japan, $500 per instance. In Belgium, that total balloons nearly four-fold to $1,979 per issue and, in the U.S., the average total was a whopping $2,600 per professional-reputation incident. Whopping is an understatement.

There are plenty of risks today but social mistakes are getting costlier and the clean-up sounds like it can wipe an individual out. It is wise to remember that social media can do wonders when it comes to helping you build reputation but it can also do horrors to wrecking what you've built. 

Thanks to Microsoft for collecting this data from 10,000 respondents in 20 countries. 

CEO sociability enhances reputation

business-social-mediaWho would have thought? Being a social CEO impacts company reputation! Well it's true. There are true business results when CEOs participate in social media. We just launched our new Social CEO study this morning -- The Social CEO: Executives Tell All, a survey of 600+ executives in 10 global markets with KRC Research about what they think about CEOs engaging online. Months ago we surveyed the landscape and saw that there really was little information about what executives inside organizations actually thought about their CEOs going social. We wanted to get a birds-eye view on how it actually makes executives (managers and up) feel to have a social CEO -- does it make you feel good? nervous? embarrassed? ahead of the competition? inspired? We also were interested in uncovering how CEO sociability impacted the bottom line if at all. Here's a few findings to get you interested in downloading the report and infographic:

  • The majority of global executives (76%) believe it is a GOOD IDEA for CEOs to actively participate in social media. The demand is there and it is not just in the United States.
  • Executives recognize a multitude of returns when CEOs are social, including improved company reputation (78% say so) and employee engagement (75%). Clearly, CEO sociability is a competitive advantage and will only grow more so.
  • CEO’s social media presence makes executives feel inspired (52%), technologically-advanced (46%) and proud (41%). Very few are nervous or embarrassed (6%). Nearly one in three (30%) find it amusing.

One of the more interesting tidbits was that executives are curious about what their CEOs are doing online. The majority (73%) search to see what their CEOs are saying in social media. CEOs are being watched carefully and social media now provides the opportunity to do so.

Most importantly, the time for social CEOs has come. The barriers are coming down and there is no one way to be social. Senior executives from around the globe envision big leaps in CEO sociability in their respective industries, projecting a 50% growth rate over the course of the next five years. Executives in financial services and business services expect the highest rate of CEO sociability growth over the next five years. As increasingly more companies, boards and leaders recognize that CEO sociability helps drive reputation, the more we will see CEOs stepping into social waters. The report discusses how CEOs can be social internally as well as externally. This is not just a social media game. CEO sociability can be driven from within. The point is that CEOs need to engage and using social means is their lifeline to starting a conversation with a broad portfolio of stakeholders.

More to come in my next post.

Social listening as reputation recovery

jcplistens-cover-photoI had heard of a new CEO listening tour but to me, this was a first. JCPenny is running a social media Apology tour. We've all heard CEOs apologize for one thing or another and we've all worked in companies where a new CEO visits different employee facilities to meet and greet and hear what is on people's minds. But JCPenny now has a new campaign on TV that apologizes for letting customers down and thanks them for coming back. If you recall, the former CEO Ron Johnson from Apple fame was booted out when his plan failed, possibly because of the elimination of coupons which drove customers into the store. The former CEO, Myron Ullman, was asked to return and now they are in recovery mode. The two ads say: "It’s no secret. Recently, J.C. Penney changed. Some changes you liked, and some you didn’t. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing: to listen to you. To hear what you need to make your life more beautiful. Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you. Now we’d love to see you.”

“At J.C. Penney, we never stop being amazed by you. How you work so hard without looking like you do. How you make every dollar stretch so far and keep your family so close. So we brought back the things you like about J.C. Penney, gave you new things to explore and now, we’re happy to say, you’ve come back to us. We’re speechless, except for two little words. Thank you.”

But back to social media....using the hashtag #jcplistens, JCPenny is in response overdrive from what I saw on Twitter today. They are in constant contact with its Twitter-ites. Every customer or tweet seems to get a personal and speedy response asking to help out, mentioning they will share the feedback with the team if something was amiss and thanking customers for comments. As pointed out on Business Insider, they even told people when they were retiring for the evening. On its Facebook page, JCPenny is polling fans about their favorite brands that they want back after having been cut by the former CEO. And it looks like they are bringing back St. John's Bay, a favorite. So they are listening hard.

You've got to hand to them. They're trying. And social apology tours are a smart redemption move.