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What general public expects from senior leaders on social media

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Digital age   CEOs should be social, but in what extent?

Sixty-four percent of Americans think it’s important for senior business leaders to have an active presence on social media, but they’re not looking for personal anecdotes or business advice.

That’s according to highlights from the fourth edition of The Global Street Fight Study from G&S Business Communications (G&S) and Harris Poll.

“There’s been a lot of industry buzz encouraging CEOs and other senior business leaders to engage on social media, but not much has been said about what the general public expects from senior leaders once they start posting, tweeting and sharing,” said Steve Halsey, G&S principal and managing director of business consulting.

The G&S/Harris Poll survey further reveals that business news trumps personal news not only in terms of public expectation, but also in terms of public preference.

Thirty-six percent of Americans want business leaders on social media to talk about their company’s vision, 35% want them to talk about their company’s products and services, 32% want them to talk about their company’s customer service issues and experiences and 25% want to hear about employee culture and engagement.

By contrast, only 18% want professional development tips, only 15% want personal stories or anecdotes and only 13% want advice on running a business.

Despite the instant personalization that’s part-and-parcel of social media, G&S/Harris Poll found that the general public is at least twice as likely to expect business versus personal news on senior leaders’ social pages.

46% of Americans equate a senior business leader’s active presence on social media with keeping others informed on their company’s business activities. Only 16% equate it with sharing personal stories and anecdotes.

Of particular interest to business communicators, only 28% of Americans equate a senior leader’s active presence on social media with personally managing his or her own account instead of using a ghostwriter or marketing team.

“On social media, the voice of senior leadership and the company appear to be one and the same in the minds of most Americans,” said Carol Gstalder, Nielsen senior vice president of consumer insights and co-author of the annual Global Street Fight survey. “Four in 10 Americans follow senior leaders on social media and what senior leaders communicate shapes how the public perceives the reputation of the company.

“This is incredibly significant from a corporate communications stand point in terms of building reputational equity, influencing stakeholder behavior, and drawing on that equity in times of crisis.”

The opportunity to bolster corporate confidence is particularly large among millennials (ages 18-34) and younger Gen Xers (ages 35 – 44).

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