Why Executive Brand Building is Essential for Professional Services Leaders

C-suite executives have never had such a wide range of tasks to complete on a daily basis as they do today, so finding time to build their social media brand can be challenging.  This is especially true in the buttoned-up world of professional services industries, where executives often struggle to talk above the noise, offer a unique perspective, and show personality on social platforms.  

But should these executives be sitting out on social media? Definitely not.

Having a presence on social media is increasingly important for establishing brand authenticity and nurturing client — or prospect — trust. In fact, 59% of customers believe a CEO’s personal brand is “crucial” to product or service purchasing decisions. Another 80% of customers said they were more likely to trust an organization whose CEO is active on social media.  

Statistics like these illustrate the importance of developing an executive brand, of which thought leadership and a social media presence are a critical part. In professional services, especially, we often see thought leadership at the partner or principal level, but it’s important for C-suite executives to establish a defined tone and message at the top.  Social-media based thought leadership is an important arena where C-suite executives can strengthen the firm’s overall reputation.

C-suite executives who fail to build a social media presence are missing out on a multitude of benefits. Developing an intentional presence and distinct voice across social media platforms — while remaining relevant to the business — is essential. A vibrant social media presence can:

  • Increase awareness for an organization and grow its audience  
  • Generate business leads 
  • Move the executive from a social media consumer to an influential thought leader 

However, it is important to note that the rise to building a credible brand and becoming a thought leader takes time.

Five Steps to Becoming an Executive Thought Leader

With an understanding of and a commitment to the following five steps, C-suite executives can make strides to enhance their executive brand on social platforms:

  1. Invest in creating a plan and brand strategy: This means understanding objectives and your target audience on social platforms before posting. The best social media performers put time and consideration into the following critical components:
    • Tone of voice: Determining the appropriate level of formality in language shouldn’t be overlooked.
    • Key messaging pillars: Core messages should reflect the specific executive’s knowledge, work, and expertise.
    • Differentiated perspectives: What will you say that your peers haven’t already said? Conducting a white space analysis or competitor audit is a strategic investment at this stage to identify where there is opportunity to stand out.
  2. Be intentional and articulate: A major part of a successful executive brand is being thoughtful about how posts align with the firm’s broader business goals and balancing that with timely trending conversations.
  3. Post proactively: The key here is to always look around the bend. Executives should ask themselves: What’s on the horizon for my industry that will impact my circle? What is my firm knowledgeable about that I can leverage for comment? Can I offer a unique or valuable point of view on new technology or new regulations? Posting with an eye toward the future tells the audience you’re tuned in.
  4. In a world of AI applications and bots, be authentic: Humanization is an especially critical element of executive brand building today. While every leader in virtually every industry is excited about AI and how it can potentially make their lives easier, customers want to know the real you. AI has vast applications for supporting social media content, but leaders must be ready to post as themselves and get personal. Readers are discerning.
    • Think about sharing milestones, achievements, and the occasional vacation highlight. Why? Because 64% of people said posts about a CEO’s family and friends would have a positive impact on their perception of the company. 
  5. Consistency is always key: Posting often is important, though frequency will vary depending on the platform. On most platforms, best practice is posting 2-3 times per week. 

With all of this in mind and armed with a robust social media strategy, C-suite leaders will find they’re ready to take the first step and start posting.

Engagement is Equally Important

On all social media platforms, posting is just the first part of the equation. Social media algorithms monitor for engagement on posts after they are in the feed. If the post is doing well, that signals to the algorithm to share it to a wider audience. Ultimately, this boosts visibility for that C-suite leader and further cements their place in the discussion and their voice as a thought leader.

If we think about how the world has changed, a focus on engagement actually makes a lot of sense. In an increasingly digital world, where do we network? Online. C-suite executives will likely have spent much of their career networking at conferences and events, which still serve an important purpose. But social media platforms have become an undeniable space for networking and idea sharing — often with peers you may never meet in person — that organizational leaders must take into account.

Therefore, to maximize presence, engaging with both followers and the people you follow is a must. When executives engage, people engage back, which builds community. And when executives share experiences or knowledgeable insights on trending topics, they demonstrate that they are subject matter experts and further humanize themselves. What was once a trend is now a fact of life: many more people today engage online and on social media than they did a decade ago, and customers/users expect the same in return from the leaders they follow. In today’s creator economy, we will continue to see more executives engaging, if not creating content and becoming thought leaders of their own.  According to Higher Logic, 33% of online community members are now creators and contributors.

For executives, this drives home the main point: To move from a social media consumer to contributor and, eventually, to a thought leader, they must get involved on socials rather than watch competitors get ahead.   

To get started or to improve executive presence, consider partnering with an integrated marketing and PR agency that has professional-services industry experience. At The Bliss Group, we have extensive experience working with professional services firms on a range of brand-building efforts including everything from social media strategy to content creation, media relations and more.

By Danielle Kane

Photos by Nik via Unsplash.