The Social CEO: 8 Tips for Taking Your Boss Public


By Brian Adams

Not every CEO should be online. That said very few appear to be active on social media according to a report by and Domo. The report found that of Fortune 500 CEOs only 9 out of 19 registered with Twitter were active (a tweet within 100 days of the survey), a mere 2 CEOs had more than 500 friends on Facebook, and no Fortune 500 CEOs were on Pinterest.

I have been fortunate to work directly with CEOs who are social offline. They are charismatic, well spoken, and lifelong members of the nonprofit fields that they oversee. However, neither of these CEOs had an online presence worth sharing.

So how do you take an engaging figure and bring them online? Here are 8 tips to help you:


CEOs, presidents, and members of senior management can have phobias regarding social media. If you are lucky, they have private accounts that they have been using and have a sense of the various forms of communication. Regardless of their experience, you must further educate them about the benefits and risks of pursuing this form of communication professionally. Find and share accounts of other CEOs to follow their conversation and show how this openness drives support for your organization. It is easier to overcome a phobia when someone else is leading the way.

Personal and Professional

Teach the importance of adding personality to their online image. They must be comfortable with sharing some emotions or reactions publicly if this is going to work. If they cannot agree to take sides on issues relevant to your mission then this may not be the mode of communication for them.

Find an Outlet

Just as you decided which social media resource was appropriate for your organization, there is not a standard platform for CEOs. Discuss goals, time commitments, a support network, approval process, and personal interests with your CEO. Some CEOs are more suited for the brevity of Twitter while others require a blog to state their views. If your CEO prefers photos of his work you might want to consider Tumblr or an Instagram account like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

Train and Explain

Once you have agreed upon a social media platform you must both commit to training. Set aside time for one-on-one tutorials, behind closed doors to protect any egos. Supply draft posts for review until your CEO and you feel comfortable sharing them publicly. Remember that social media training should be a continuous learning experience.


Some CEOs may think that they do not have any updates to share. Impress upon him or her that this is about providing insight into their character as well as enhancing the organization’s brand. Your CEO has a unique view of your organization and can provide an insight that can assist with a goal of transparency.

Show Your Dirty Hands

Social media is the perfect opportunity to shatter the image of a stuffy CEO stuck behind a desk. I frequently shadowed my CEOs when they ventured from the office, which was often, to photograph them engaging in our missions and gather information for future posts. Above all, the ensuing updates demonstrated the connection between the organization’s leader and the mission our followers supported.


Ensure that your CEO understands the 24/7 nature of social media. He or she should be available to answer questions from the public and participate in dialogues. If you are ghostwriting for your CEO, they may need to become accustomed to approving posts that you run by them day or night.

Forget Legal

Unless the legal department reviews all of your posts as part of your social media policy, trust your CEO just as he or she trusts you. Your process should determine the level of review you will need to perform. If you ghostwrite the posts based on discussions then a quick review you’re your CEO is appropriate.

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