I was chatting with a group of CEOs at a networking event. One of them said to me, “I have survived without social media all these years; why do I need it now?”

That’s truly a good question. Here’s my answer, “Have you heard of the book, ‘What got you here won’t get you there?’ Well, the words are relevant here too. Yes, you and your businesses have survived without social media. Then again, my father’s business survived without a computer. My grandfather thought a typewriter was for corporates only.”

These CEOs were not alone. Recent studies have proved that eight out of ten CEOs doubt social media. In fact, research from CEO.com* shows that about 61% of the CEOs have no social media presence at all. However, no longer can CEOs afford staying aloof. You are probably witnessing this live in your organisations and around that the ‘leaders’ are the ones who connect with people and mingle with them. It therefore stands to reason that you connect with them in a manner and place that your stakeholders are comfortable with. No matter who your stakeholder is, they are active on social media. By being active on social media yourself, you can have a one-to-many connections in a short amount of time.

More importantly, social media is a tool that can be used profitably. The key results that you can expect to see are not just limited to branding or marketing. You can establish yourself as an influencer, a thought leader, or a game changer, using social media. Richard Branson is a classic example of this.

It is not just something that happens ‘abroad’. Businesses like Club Mahindra have turned around their profitability by using social media. They were able to reduce the cost of acquisition through their effective use of social media. However, that’s not the only way to increase your profitability. I know of an Indian CEO reducing his costs by acquiring more suppliers for his product called ambergris, a niche item that is always in short supply.

The big question, then, is which platform should one use. Let me make that part easy for you: You must be active where your stakeholders are active. Now, your stakeholders may be varied and therefore present on more than one platform. So ideally, you need to be active on them all. The first thing after identifying what you wish to accomplish by using social media is to identify who your target audience is and where they are active.

The top key platforms that I recommend in general are:

  1. LinkedIn: Want to establish yourself as a thought leader? LinkedIn is the place to be. In fact, LinkedIn’s INfluencer tag is a highly sought after one. Using it actively is certainly desirable if you want to be seen as an influential person. In fact, LinkedIn continues to be the number one choice of CEOs breaking their social media virginity. As per the study by CEO.com, 70% of CEOs, who are active on just one social network, joined LinkedIn first. There is a reason for this; LinkedIn is known to be the most popular professional networking website, ‘professional networking’ being the keyword. No longer do you need to wait for a networking event to connect you with your peer group, your potential employees and your clients. Ten minutes of your day on LinkedIn can get you great results. This is not to undermine the value of in-person networking, but rather as an additional booster pack to it. If you don’t have time to manage it yourself, get an expert to do it for you, but remember to provide qualitative inputs. Do not make the mistake of handing it to an intern to handle. A lot of people tend to believe that just because the youth is active on social media, they know what to do. To me, it is akin to the youth driving bikes. You have seen them on the roads. Need I say more?

  2. Twitter: I personally love Twitter. It takes less than a minute to tweet, so you can easily handle it yourself between meetings, when on the go or when you just need a quick break. Surprisingly, the CEO study reports that of the CEOs with any social media presence at all, only a quarter are active on Twitter. I see this as good news because it means there is a huge white space available for you. Less competition and more traction are the two key reasons you should be on Twitter. 140 characters or less is all it takes per day. Surely you can handle that. By the way, a small tip here. Make your tweet 120 characters or less to leave space for a retweet. Tweets with about a 100 characters are known to get maximum engagement (hearts + retweets + replies).

  3. Quora: This may not be your typical idea of ‘social media’ but when you want to establish your expertise on a topic, there is no better place than Quora. With over a 100 million monthly unique visitors (as per Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora), the potential to establish your expertise is tremendous. You can begin by setting up your profile, answering a few questions and figuring it out as you go. The user interface of this site is very easy. And a great thing is, if you are stuck, you can always ask the Quorans (users of Quora) and they will be happy to answer your questions. ;-)

 

I strongly believe that social media is like nuclear. It can be a bomb or it can be the energy. You decide how you want to use it. However, ignoring it is NOT an option. If you need help, feel free to write to me on benita@vanillaskills.com

Have a socially profitable day.

About the author:

Benita Bhatia Dua, CEO of Vanilla Skills, is also the author of ‘Whale of a Time’, the first ever fable on social media for business. An MBA in Marketing, Benita has relevant certifications from IIM Ahmedabad and Stanford University, USA. She is amongst the top 3% viewed profiles in her LinkedIn network. She was featured by Business World as the 100 Women Entrepreneur Leaders next door.

* www.ceo.com/social-ceo-report-2015/

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