What We’re Saying

Reinforce Your CEO’s Social Media Savvy

Elon Musk’s recent eye-opening tweet drew the ire of shareholders, the media, and regulators. It shook Tesla’s share price and set off a monthlong fire drill for the company—and an eventual retreat from the cofounder and CEO himself. Musk’s tweet was the latest example of a noteworthy trend among senior leaders and prominent public figures: the regrettable social media post.

The case for using social media is clear. These channels have revolutionized how associations connect directly with internal and external audiences. Political campaigning, brand marketing, and news reporting are rapid, direct, and constant on these channels, where more than two-thirds of U.S. adults now get their news and information. In my experience, it’s not uncommon for association leaders to want to contribute to the conversation themselves.

Amid this modern shift, however, it’s imperative that communications teams work with their CEOs to follow three principles before that next executive post. These steps may not stop an executive from going rogue on a personal account as Musk first appears to have done, but they can help prevent an ill-advised post or tweet bearing your organization’s brand from marring your mission and image.

Ask, “Why Are We Doing It at All?”

Before giving the CEO logins and passwords to social media accounts, ask these questions: Why is this person using it, who is the primary audience, and what does success look like as part of your overall communications plan? The answers will be revealing—and they will certainly help better identify which platform, if any, is best to use.

In my work with associations, I will recommend different social media options based on each situation and message goal. Analyzing each platform individually will help produce positive results and minimize risk.

For example, if your CEO is trying to directly reach your association’s members and other professionals, LinkedIn might be the best channel. If your organization is involved in social advocacy issues or wants to promote general goodwill in local communities, Facebook might be an effective platform. Or, if your president needs to disseminate information with immediacy to members and key stakeholders, including reporters, Twitter might fit that need.

Make Sure You Have a Strategy

For the busy, restless principal to achieve their social media goals, your team needs a thoughtful game plan. Like any effective communications plan, the strategy should consider small and large elements:

  • The profile picture and other related imagery that will be used (Remember: Everything communicates.)
  • The people and organizations that the account might follow and interact with
  • The voice of the account—it must be authentic to who they are
  • The type of content and topics that can be shared—and should never be shared—from the account
  • The frequency of posts, keeping quality over quantity in mind
  • The level of engagement. For instance, if it is a Facebook account, will the principal be liking or replying to any comments?

Also, think about crafting weekly, monthly, or quarterly social media calendars where you identify organizational events and activities that your CEO could promote. This is a steady way for them to contribute positively online.

Put a Process in Place

Once your strategy is set, and before your CEO unintentionally upsets members or invites a flurry of press calls with a careless post, establish a process. That is, figure out who is going to draft, approve, and send the posts. This needs to be carefully thought out.

You might determine that the head of your organization should never post independently of your social media team. How to broach this? The rationale could be that you want to help ensure message discipline. Posting on behalf of the president will keep your messages on point and aligned across the organization’s suite of communications platforms. Always remember—and remind the CEO—that posting is no different than fielding an on-the-record interview. Whatever is said or posted in public lives forever.

As a final part of this process, your team should also create social media “do’s and don’ts” and a best practices document so that senior management, from the CEO on down, adheres to posting policies. These guidelines could include avoiding any interaction with negative attacks or insults on the platform and, of course, absolutely no sharing of confidential material.

Posting on social media is effortless, but doing it effectively takes work. Do what you can to put the head of your organization in a position to succeed, as both a leader and a tweeter.


Let’s Talk