Thought leadership

Building a social brand: stay active or be left behind

A strong social brand has become synonymous with the best company leaders, argues Kiara Cleland.

In today’s digitally connected world, building a strong social brand has become essential for executives looking to build their business, establish credibility, and drive change in the world.

While in the past, executives could hide behind their company’s social brand, the public now want their leaders to be visible.

In fact, more people tend to follow founders and CEOs than the companies they lead.

Without a strong social brand, audiences will not only become less engaged with you as an individual but your businesses too.

So, if you’re a founder attempting to secure VC funding, or you’re scaling and want to attract new hires, you need to prioritise more time to your LinkedIn if you aren’t already.

What is a social brand?

A social brand is a brand, whether corporate or personal, that uses social media or other digital platforms to actively engage audiences.

Unlike, static, one-way corporate messaging, a social brand is fluid and allows for a business or individual to constantly interact with their employees, customers, or any other stakeholders in real-time.

Kiara Cleland

A social brand allows you to share new messages on the fly and provides the best avenue for executives to receive and respond to feedback.

This might involve addressing a crisis and reacting to industry trends, or continuously committing to social and environmental causes.

Ultimately, it helps humanise a business and makes executives appear much more relatable.

Prioritise your social brand or be left behind.

The digital age has led to plenty of change in the working world.

Jobs exist that we hadn’t thought of ten years ago, technology we believed we’d only see in movies is commonplace, and the roles we occupy at work now extend far beyond the four corners of the office.

As a member of the C-suite, you may not have acknowledged the importance of social branding, and the impact it can have on you, your business, and your future career prospects.

You might scroll LinkedIn, see leaders of various companies putting themselves out there in goofy videos and self-reflective posts and think, ‘Sure, you seem cool and fun, but what’s this got to do with business?’

Kiara Cleland

Well, these leaders will tend to have a much better following than you, they receive more engagement, and open themselves up to far more opportunities within their career and beyond.

Why? Transparency, trust, and communication.

Transparency is everything.

Developing a social brand means putting yourself out there in the form of personal insights, by reflecting on your career, and inviting people to learn from your failures, successes, and everything in between.

In the boardroom, you may feel the need to maintain corporate hierarchies to a degree. And that’s perfectly fine! But there’s a lot of value in letting your employees see behind the C-suite curtain.

Kiara Cleland

For one, CEOs with a social brand are perceived as better leaders than those who maintain their distance in the shadows.

Why? Showcasing your personality really resonates with your audiences.

But this doesn’t mean posting about anything and everything just to get some engagement. Your audience will see straight through your cultivated posts and insincere agendas.

The key is to take a human-first approach.

So many people get bogged down with finicky details such as the optimum post length, the best time to schedule your posts, and the number of emojis to include. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Be authentic. Inject your personality into your writing, talk about things you genuinely believe or have an opinion on, and share your vision.

It will be much easier to build a rapport with your audience when you focus on being yourself, rather than the self you created specifically for scrollers to #like.

Audiences will trust you more.

You might think this only relates to your followers and clients, but a social brand helps build your reputation among your employees (and potential recruits) too.

You may not get to interact with every person in your company on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with them.

Kiara Cleland

Take the time to leverage your LinkedIn or Twitter to reiterate your company's values and culture, and celebrate new achievements or milestones.

Content that shares employee experiences, social responsibility initiatives, and success will always boost morale and loyalty, and potential hires will want to be a part of it.

Multimedia is essential. Each generation has different ways and reasons for using platforms, but there is one thing they all tend to agree on, and that's a picture is worth a thousand words.

Visual elements like photos, videos, infographics and emojis are the best way to get a thumbs up from almost any user.

On the contrary, text heavy posts do little to hold audiences' very limited attention span and won't stand out from the sea of content that is online.

Kiara Cleland

Tailor posts to your audience. Tailoring your posts to meet the needs of your audience can do even more than generate engagement.

It shows that you’ve put in the time to get to know them and what they expect from you and your business.

Customers and clients get to see what you’re about when you’re not trying to impress them.

Kiara Cleland

Employees benefit from more exposure to the company’s vision and values and potential recruits can obtain a clear idea of the kind of company culture they’ll enjoy as part of your team.

You won't come across as a corporate robot, but someone that actually cares about the messages you communicate.

Be a consistent communicator.

Establishing your social brand will always give you the best chance to cut through all the noise of modern news platforms and digital media.

  • You can touch into storytelling on a deeper level to better connect with your audiences and showcase how far you or your company has come.

  • You can publicly acknowledge the hard work of individual employees. It’s a virtual handshake that helps boost morale and shows you’re not afraid to share the limelight.

  • In times of crisis, you can show that you're not afraid to address issues head-on, reassure employees and stakeholders, and drive recovery.

  • You can gain a competitive advantage over your competitors who lack a strong social brand by communicating your unique values and strengths.

  • You can build a direct relationship with the people whose needs your business is trying to meet. Visibility is essential in the digital age, so use your social brand to your advantage.

As a leader, your business is an extension of you. Stepping onto the digital stage and taking the reigns is the best way to ensure you have a say in how you’re perceived by those outside the boardroom.

Kiara Cleland

Building a social brand can take time, and it requires patience, but the results are always worth it.

Finally, always know what you want to say.

Building a social brand is all well and good, but executives will rarely ever see results if they don't define and leverage their niche, or use somebody else's voice.

Authenticity is essential to stand out from the crowd.

If you can, substantiate your posts with research or snippets of your work to appear more credible among your audiences.

Kiara Cleland

Ensure that what you do and say will present you in the best possible light, and remember that your posts will both be remembered and impact how people perceive you.

Plan, but don’t be afraid to go with the flow.

Having a strategy is good and allows you to get the most out of your posts while ensuring they align with the company’s overarching message.

However, it's also important to leave space for news and events that crop up unexpectedly.

Sometimes, being reactive to current news can help you steal the thunder from others and leave your stamp on an issue important to your audiences.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Try different things and see what works for you.

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