Executive Education

New Study Says Business Leaders Gain Corporate Reputation via Social Media, but They can do More

Think about how you start each and every day. What’s the first thing you do? How about while you wait in line for coffee? Kill time before starting a business meeting or boarding a plane? The last thing you do before bed? If each of those scenes includes you using a smart phone to absentmindedly scroll through multiple social media feeds, you’re hardly alone.

Given the continuing explosion of social media’s popularity, it’s no wonder that the general public (a whopping 64%) today wants senior business leaders to be a part of those communities as well.

Sure, social media provides an opportunity for engagement with family and friends (not to mention cat videos), but it also offers a unique way for companies and business leaders to engage with their target demographic in more personalized ways. A friend, like or tweet by a CEO can go a long way toward setting the tone for a company. The recent Global Street Fight Study™, conducted by G&S Business Communications shows that senior business leaders are lacking in this department and could benefit from the chance to build trust with millennial and Gen X constituents.

While public confidence in senior business leaders is recovering compared to the previous five years, it’s important to continue pushing those boundaries of engagement to ensure the positive upswing continues. Millennials and Gen Xers are the future decision makers and influencers of where businesses will go, meaning it’s imperative to build trust with them for corporate reputation to continue to improve.

What are these generations looking for from leaders?

According to the G&S study:

  • 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

Many consider social media to be a more personal, anecdotal sharing platform. However, the G&S study shows that this is not what Americans are looking for from senior business leaders. Instead, a flooded social feed gives senior business leaders the opportunity to stand out by showing they’re transparent in providing company updates and information about business happenings straight from the source. Constituents polled are more likely to trust this information and thus build a greater trust with those leaders and the companies they represent.

Recovering confidence in business leadership is particularly strong among opinions elites – or those who are highly informed and regularly participate in influential behaviors in both traditional and non-traditional media. Compared to 2014, this influential sub-segment is nearly twice as likely to say that senior leadership is stronger today than it was five years ago. The numbers break out as follows: 

  • 78% of Americans think senior leadership at large companies is stronger (12%) or about the same (66%) today compared to five years ago
    • 19% of opinion elites think it is stronger (versus 17% in 2015 and 10% in 2014)
  • 20% of opinion elites think senior leadership is very innovative (versus 11% in 2015 and 10% in 2014)
  • 20% of opinion elites think senior leadership is very bold (versus 10% in 2015)
  • 65% of opinion elites say senior leaders at large companies have responded to crisis situations very well or somewhat well in just the past year (up from 49% who said the same in 2015)

The missed opportunity

The solution for taking corporate reputation further to gain the public’s trust lies in senior business leaders’ ability to engage with their constituents.

In particular, senior business leaders who don’t friend, tweet or post are missing an opportunity to build trust among younger Gen Xers (ages 35-44) and the coveted age 18-to-34 demographic of millennials. According to the Global Street Fight study, about three in five millennials (61%) and nearly half (47%) of younger Gen Xers follow one or more senior business leaders on social media and they are more likely to trust information about a company when it comes from social media.

While senior business leaders are starting to navigate social media in positive ways and continue to build corporate reputation, they also need to fill the disconnect on personal engagement. That means not just spewing information at constituents, but making personal connections by friending/following the millennials and Gen Xers who run through their newsfeeds.

And if that sounds like a lot of work, just think back to how much you’re already on social media. If you have time to watch and like the latest, greatest cat video, you almost surely have time to engage with existing and potential customers.

About the Study
These results are among key findings of the 2016 Global Street Fight Study™ conducted by Harris Poll for G&S Business Communications. To register and download the complete study online, please visit the G&S website here.

Written by
Steve Halsey, Principal and Managing Director, G&S Business Communications.

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Stephen Halsey
Global businesses and brands seeking a competitive edge rely on Steve to find the best paths forward. In his role, Steve helps launch new products; build, protect and manage reputations; explore new concepts and models; and map out winning strategies that allow clients to increase their market share. He challenges conventional wisdom for B2B and B2C companies, providing clients with increased brand value, awareness with target audiences and loyalty. Steve also oversees the agency’s digital and social media initiatives as well as research, insights and analytics teams, and he established G&S’ proprietary I Power™ strategy and messaging service. He is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators and Public Relations Society of America. An avid rugby player, Steve also moves with agility off the field to elevate brands with powerful models and flawless execution.