Cisco Blogs

Does Your CEO Speak Social?

February 15, 2011 - 13 Comments

I think we all agree that having a CEO that not only encourages the use of social media within the corporation but also leads by example goes a long way when it comes to company-wide social media adoption. While without a doubt a company’s top man or woman will be followed and fanned by many, the impact of getting the rest of the upper management team on board should not be underestimated either. But how can they get there? Let’s say they already understand that social media is here to stay and you no longer need to build the business case for them. Now their big challenge is the “T” word: time. Unless we can squeeze more than 24 hours in a day, we may need to find other ways to unleash the power of social media for C-level executives.

I hope you, dear reader, don’t mind my sharing a fictional letter I wrote to CxOs out there. Here it goes: 

Dear CxO,

Thanks for taking a few minutes to listen to some ideas on ways to get involved in social media without letting it take over your life. Before you get started, here are a few tips to help find your comfort level:  

Know who you are: One size doesn’t fit all. Not every CxO will embrace Twitter, and not every CxO will have a Facebook page. The key is to know which communication method(s) work(s) best for you and stick with that.

Start small: It’s better to do one or two things than create too much social presence at once and not be able to keep up with it.

Learn: Think of this as a constant learning opportunity. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. If available to you, practicing internally, using your personal account (if you have one) and/or using a group account is always a good idea when you are just starting out. 

Find your voice: The word “social” in social media is just that: social. Be human first. Lose the corporate tone. Remember that you’re talking to other human beings, not corporations.   

Ready to engage NOW? There are many options to choose from:  

1.       Blogging at home: Does your company have a corporate blog? You don’t need to have your own channel, just create quick posts for the main company blog as time permits…on the plane…in the car headed to the airport. 

2.       Guest blogging: Become a guest blogger for a certain period of time on a third-party independent/online publisher’s site.

3.       Blogger events: Become a speaker at or attend as a distinguished guest a blogger forum hosted by your company or other third parties.

 4.       Social presentation sharing: Post your keynote and other presentations on SlideShare, Brainshark or other online social sharing sites.

 5.       Communities: Join a relevant third-party community to gather feedback from others and share your insights (e.g., LinkedIn, CIOZone).

 6.       Twitter listening: In addition to using your community(ies) for listening, use Twitter for listening.  

 7.       Twitter conversations: Use Twitter to converse with your customers and partners.

 8.       Tweetups: Attend (physically or virtually over video) a tweetup. This can be very powerful if the tweetup is tied to an event you attend or speak at.

 9.       Tweet chats: Offer your marketing, finance, AR or PR department your availability to participate in tweet chats around certain company topics or announcements.

 10.   Social media infusion into your events: If you’re a speaker at an event, offer your availability to your marketing or PR team for an hour after your session. Offer attendees to continue the conversation with you on your company’s Facebook discussion forum, your other community forum or on Twitter for up to an hour after the end of your presentation.

 11.   Social media-infused partner and customer engagement: Create a joint blog, SlideShare presentation, UStream or Facebook event and other thought leadership material with your customers and partners.

 12.   Thought leadership at virtual events: Become a speaker or panelist at virtual events such as those run on Facebook or UStream, to name a few. During your session, encourage people to tweet in their questions and answer them live. Ask your marketing team to take pictures and video footage of this session. Create a post-event summary blog (with short video clip or picture inserts and) with answers to unanswered questions from your virtual event. Share it. Ask your marketing team to post it on your corporate Facebook page and other social destinations as appropriate.

 13.   Be social: Encourage your marketing, PR or Events team to take pictures and video footage of you at events, preferably with customers, partners, etc and encourage them to post these on your company’s Facebook page, YouTube, Flickr or other media sharing pages.      

 14.   Use video: Create short video messages on company-related topics for your Facebook fans or community followers.

As you can see, these examples have 2 underlying messages:

1)      Act social: Engage

2)      Think social: Always ask “How can we bring social into this? Into what we’re already doing?”

What do you think? Can we give this a try?



In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Good post.Really like it.

  2. Outstanding post! The dilemma for a CEO is one of time vs. results. Social is evolving rapidly. There are MANY ways to incorporate social into business. Too many. This makes it “noisy” for someone needing extreme focus and time leverage. Encouraging team members to explore and share best practices is the smart way to go. Social is the future. Time to find the right way to ride the wave…

  3. what a good point you share here. as a blogger I’d read the bigname guru telling SEO 101, keywords, etc, but the real point they want to really say is to invite a quality visitors. I’ve learned from another bloggers who have a high PR business blog and no customer, simply because they never really “get social” and in the contrary, a small amateurish blog selling few things that makes a good money because they understand very well the meaning of “getting social”.

  4. Very Informative post and approach Petra. Its an wonderful idea to involve C level in Social Media Marketing, as it will make a different impact than any executive of the company. I am planning for video and also for guest post, but need some information on video. Can you please give some tips what to include in a company video. I already get a lot of suggestions for it on linkedin, but need more focused answer. What you think an IT Company should include in its video, which they can show on their home page, or what type of videos they should have.. like company information(number of employess, platforms on which they are working), etc.

    • Hi Shruti,

      I hope this helps – here is the link to Cisco’s YouTube channel: Under Vision, click on John Chambers and you’ll find many videos by John. If you browse this page, you’ll see other videos from our other executives, too.

      I think a video (any video) should not repeat what people can already read on your web site. It should add something more to it or offer a different perspective. This is just my personal opinion.

  5. I use most all of these except video, which this reminded me of. Great reminders all of them, and I will be doing video soon! Guest posts are by far the most effective, but the hardest to implement.

  6. Wonderful collection of very practical stuff that, those of us responsible for social in our respective companies, can start to build into a plan. Thank you for sharing. Working for a larger company, we’ve had the good fortune to have about 4 or 5 people build out internal social media education courses. These have been a great start for us marketers to incorporate social into our traditional tactics, but also just to establish a knowledgeable baseline. But I will recommend the *reverse mentoring* concept also. Again, thanks for sharing!

  7. Great tips, Petra! The social media reverse mentoring program at Cisco has also been a great way to get executives started with social. It’s a great 1:1 learning experience and opportunity for both the Gen Y employee and the executive.

  8. Great post Petra. I agree with all of your points. I do think that one of the biggest ways we can get more executive involvement is if the executives have dedicated social media practitioner resources. These resources can help guide them, help them get started, and refine their practices as they move forward.

    I think, like so many others out there, social media is daunting for someone new to this communication channel. They might feel more exposed than in traditional communication methods. I like your recommendation to start out small. That piece of advice and continuing to try are the keys to success for sure!

    • Thanks Elizabeth. Great point about the social practitioner resources…and/or even training the executive communications managers, where available and applicable, to become more comfortable with social.

    • good insights but how do you tell your CEO to be social if he has a traditional mindset

      • Yes, you are right. That is always the very first question, isn’t it? And it’s the hardest thing to do! Changing one’s perception and behavior takes a long time, a lot of patience and persistence. I like to use the gardening analogy: you plant the seed, keep going back to it, keep watering it and one day, your plant starts to grow. And sometimes it may not happen until something bad happens that directly affects the company and spreads like wildfire in social media. Think of these social media “horror” stories as examples to share with your CEO. I don’t wish that on anyone but that might be the breaking point. In my January 26, 2011 blog posts, I mentioned that “…80% of the social community’s engagement with content happens on platforms other than the one the content originated on.” So when something bad happens, it will travel fast and to more people than ever before.

        If you have patience and persistence, here are a few things that may be worth a try. Who knows which idea might trigger a positive reaction? Or maybe it will be the combination of a few ideas.

        1) Address your CEO’s careabouts: what makes him/her unhappy? What makes him/her happy? Build a business case showing how social media can contribute to achieving these business goals. Put yourself if his/her shoes and approach your business case from that angle. Always position social as a way to help achieve business goal X. Social should not be managed in a vacuum.

        2) Share case studies from other companies to help with 1). There are a lot of them on SlideShare, you hear about them at conferences, etc. Chat with your fellow practitioners about what their management team is doing and how social is helping them. You can use these inputs for your business case.

        3) Show your CEO how his or her peers at other companies are using social media.

        4) Is there anyone on your CEO’s management team that shows openness to social media? Make them your ally.

        5) Find a point of entry, test it and show results. If you have a partner on the upper management that can help evangelize this communication method for you and with you, even better. Share the results with your CEO. It may be that you are able to show gains from expanding your customer service to include social media. Or maybe you do a crowdsourcing event using social media that helps your company define the next big business opportunity (we’ve done that. Check out Or maybe social media listening will be your first point of entry to help avoid the horror story example I mentioned above.

        Hope these ideas help get things started. Wishing everyone who is in the same boat patience and persistence.