Staff and customers alike can be influenced by actions of executives on social media
Showing off on Facebook or Instagram can put people off working for you and alienate customers
As people struggle with the mounting cost of living crisis, may I respectfully offer some advice to business leaders who are active on social media: now is maybe not the best time to be posting selfies of you living the high life in exotic holiday locations, receiving hospitality at sporting events or showing off your latest company car.
Employees and customers are facing tough times with soaring energy bills and escalating inflation, and alienating them with an insensitive Twitter or Instagram post can damage personal and organisational reputations.
Without naming names, I have become more and more incredulous at just how tone-deaf certain individuals can be (within the automotive industry and beyond) when it comes to documenting their affluent lifestyles for public consumption.
Within automotive, posting pictures of a newly delivered company car is by far the most common faux pas. Quite apart from the economic insensitivity, I can only guess at the reaction of customers who have been waiting months and sometimes even a year or more to receive their new vehicle.
This is not an argument about executive pay levels but about personal branding – the need to think about how certain posts will land and to be mindful of the reputational consequences if the messages come across as out of touch.
At its best, personal branding can be a powerful marketing tool to build a compelling personal image and drive customer engagement. Just look at how Elon Musk commands a Twitter audience of 103.9 million, compared with the 16.7 million who follow Tesla.
Social media offers rich opportunities for senior executives to show inspiring leadership – through their thoughts and insights, by providing interesting product information and congratulating colleagues on their performance and achievements.
It also provides a platform to show when their organisation has a genuine and transparent vision and culture.
The importance of this was brought home to me by the research paper published last month by my company, Ennis & Co, that analysed the skill shortages in the automotive and mobility industry. A key finding was that for many Gen Zs and millennials, an organisation’s brand values and culture are more important to them than pay when it comes to deciding where they want to work.
Given the skill gaps being experienced across the sector, senior executives need to think very carefully how they position themselves online to attract the right people to their organisation and then retain them.
The same goes for customer perception. Academic studies have shown that consumers feel more connected to brands with CEOs who are active on social media and are more likely to spend with the brand than with a competitor.
But being a social media, personality brings risks as well as benefits, and business leaders must not forget their responsibility to the organisation they represent, no matter how much they are enjoying the perks of the job.
If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it.
Lynda Ennis is a founder of global automotive and mobility executive search company Ennis & Co