Following President Obama’s last State of the Union address, his team ran a surprise series of plays that threw POTUS watchers for a loop.
First, he engaged YouTube stars GloZell Green, Bethany Mota, and Hank Green with interviews that went far beyond conventional Q&As. Then he went on a press tour that included digital-first publishers like Vox and Buzzfeed.
Why the end-around on the tried-and-true approach?
The president’s team believes in the power and visual impact of social media.
From the Commander-in-Chief to chief executives, the uptake of social media by those leading major organizations has gone from nearly non-existent to more mainstream behavior.
For five years now, my firm Weber Shandwick has charted the rise of social CEOs. This year’s findings prove engagement via social matters more than ever before in the C-suite. Our most recent study shows that CEO engagement has more than doubled since our first report in 2010, from 36% to 80% today.
While signs tell us CEOs are now in the game, the question remains how well they evolve with it.
Social impact doesn’t warrant tweeting every meeting, trip or thought. It does require that CEOs use a new content playbook for their own accounts and organizations they represent.
The most notable element of the playbook: Visual content custom-built for social networks used by employees, customers and the media. Driven by media consumption on mobile devices, the growing preference for images over words marks the most fundamental change to corporate communications since the advent of social media.
From a PR perspective, the ascendance of visual influence requires that CEOs use video, visual social posts and mixed media needed to engage people online, including journalists and producers sourcing content for online articles. As Facebook’s Instant Articles introduction suggests once more, social and traditional media platforms are deeply interconnected. Both are dependent on visual storytelling optimized for mobile. Eventually it will be hard to distinguish between the two.
While new media norms suggest that CEOs make social content and engagement core to their leadership communications, widespread adoption in the C-Suite remains slow. Top perceived barriers we see consistently see include time commitment, return on time invested and risks involved as a public figure.
Progressive CEOs are swiftly bypassing the perceived challenges, embracingsocial media content to a growing degree and rewriting the rules of communication in the process.