Mark Zuckerberg is leading the charge on executive and company transparency at the moment, and coincidentally it's his company, Facebook, that provides one of the platforms that allows for leaders to share openly about their company, the people who work there, and its products.

It's interesting how many executives are on social media today and how active so many of them are. It's almost strange to not see a leader on some kind of virtual platform interacting with their audience or community. We get a chance to see their agenda or program, and whom they are promoting or supporting. This gives us a more robust picture of who a leader is and what they stand for. And in today's business and political climate, it's becoming more and more important.

According to the research, leaders need to be on social media if they want to build trust.

I spoke recently with Jamie Gilpin, CMO of Sprout Social, a social-media management software company, on the importance of transparency in leadership. The company has done extensive research on what individuals want to hear and how they feel about executives and their companies being more present and accessible on social media.

Gilpin says, "63 percent of the consumers we surveyed said that CEOs who have their own social-media profiles are better representatives of their companies. And 81 percent say brands have the greatest responsibility to be transparent on social media, rating them higher than politicians or friends and family." She goes onto say, "CEOs are the main representatives for a brand, so what they say [or don't say] is really important to today's consumers."

Consumers want to know about a CEO's personal life as well as their business approach.

In general, consumers are smarter today than ever. They can educate themselves about a product in seconds. Salespeople are having a whole new challenge because they no longer are the sole source of information about an item for sale. They aren't in a "selling role" as much as an "education and partnership role." And with that, consumers are interested in what's worked and not worked well with respect to a product.

A study done by Label Insight, found consumers want to know everything about the brands they buy: where they're made, by whom, what's in them. This is especially true in the food industry. The data shows Millennial moms are the most concerned consumers and scrutinize brands they buy the most. And behind those brands stand the company's executives.

"We found it surprising that as well as employee stories and mistakes a company has made and solved, 64 percent want to know about a CEO's friends and family," says Gilpin. This is an indication that consumers want to know about the habits and ethics of an individual and how that may influence their decision-making in their workplaces.

During my conversation with Jamie, I wondered how this played out globally. On my travels to Singapore and other parts of Asia, I see mass consumerism. And the brands that are popular aren't necessarily known for being the most socially and environmentally conscious. Gilpin confirmed my suspicion, saying: "We surveyed 1000 U.S. consumers for this study, and the data shows that these individuals want to see transparency on everything from the who and the how, response to negative situations -- like the Starbucks example -- to exact pricing models."

Social media is forcing brands and the executives behind them, to be more transparent.

Gilpin suggests several ways CEOs and other executives can use social media to be more transparent:

  • Think about what you want people to know about the company or brand.
  • Define a strategy for authentic communication, openness, and sharing.
  • Use social media as a way of celebrating successes.
  • Spend time recognizing and giving kudos to the people who work for you.
  • Talk about challenges and ask your audience to dialogue solutions.
  • Ask your audience what they would like to hear.

For more insights, download the full data report by Sprout Social.

Published on: Sep 11, 2018