Four reasons why every business leader needs to be better connected

Technology is a funny old thing! In the past two decades, its role has evolved from a business cost to an imperative. One which puts businesses at risk of falling behind if not fulfilled. Just think what we would do without the smartphone. It’s brought real-time productivity and opened up a way of working we couldn’t have possibly imagined just a few years ago.

Most C-suite executives realised the value of being contactable anywhere, anytime. But the real value comes in how technology enables us to shape the way we work and most importantly how we communicate, engage, listen and react in order to enhance our business.

It’s been the advent of the likes of social media, which over the last two or three years has proven to be one of the biggest challenges to how the C-suite evolves. Time and again I hear successful leaders talk about the importance of technology and innovation yet they fail to embrace the powerful new tools of conversation that truly connect them to both their people but also their customers. A case in point is a 2013 study by IBM of 1,700 global CEOs which revealed 68% didn’t have any form of social media profile – not even LinkedIn.

When you step back and look across your business, the vast majority of your employees at all levels will likely be active on some form of social media. And it’s not just your employees, so too are your existing customers, potential new leads, your suppliers, your investors, shareholders and your competitors. In fact, everyone who potentially has an interest in your business is probably engaging in connected conversations somewhere – so how is it then that we see so many CEOs and C-suite executives in the position of having to lead while they learn?

A study last year by Weber Shandwick found that 76% of executives want their CEOs and boards to be using social media. The reason for this isn’t some deep-rooted desire to pry into your personal thoughts. It’s because understanding the thinking of their senior leaders, the tone of voice being used as well as personal insights, is to an effective employee a business imperative. It helps them do their jobs better.

Social media use by the C-suite is essential because it allows them to narrate their company news. The very act of telling the story empowers them to exert a high degree of influence over the discussion surrounding their company, both internally and externally, as well as engage with employees and the general public.

Don’t be surprised then, to find out the top reasons your employees want to see you on social media are communication, reputation, and business results.

So if you’re still debating why you should be leading the conversation on social media, here are four reasons:

1. We’re witnessing the rise of the connected consumer

Your traditional customer spends their time flicking past your newspaper ads, and turning the channel during your TV commercials. They’re still critical to your business but they were overtaken some time ago by your digital customers, those that when they want to find something jump straight online and, Google you.

Today the new generation are the connected consumers, and no, these are not just teenagers with a smartphone. The connected consumer connects with people, finding and sharing information. It’s not just about Facebook, Twitter or new wearable technology like Google Glass – those are just drivers. The connected consumer is creating their own, unique personalised online experience. They no longer just go to a search engine to find reviews and recommendations – they go to their connections, individuals who have shared experiences and interests. This change in behavior means that as a business leader you must be there listening, participating and engaging in conversation to help shape that experience to your business’s benefit.

2. Brand ownership is shifting from marketers to real-people

In a social media world, brands are no longer in the hands of marketers – they belong to people like your connected customers and employees who choose what they want to say about you and how. Yet, social media is still one of the least utilised customer channels despite CEOs themselves believing that it will quickly overtake websites, call centers and channel partners to become the second most popular way to engage, behind face-to-face engagements.

3. Get ready to be a more transparent and people-centred business

This loss of control over how your business is marketed and perceived will force you to embrace being transparent and having a more open company culture. It starts with how you as a CEO use these tools to connect with your employees and how you empower them to develop personal connections among peers at every level of the value chain. These unfiltered communications with customers and partners provide a means for collaboration inside and outside of the company that will help the successful business of the future grow through engagement.

4. C-level executives must reinvent themselves

The most effective leaders throughout history have been great communicators and C-level executives continually need new skills to set themselves apart from the crowd. Being an active and effective communicator through the connected media enables current and future business leaders to share their ideas in a way which helps build their profile and credibility. The ability to be a personally connected business leader empowers them with the opportunity to better understand their people and customers and to not only engage, but listen, learn and react to the challenges every executive and business face.