Nestle’s global CEO Mark Schneider made his social media debut on Linkedin late last week with a candid post on how he was reluctant but eventually decided to take the plunge. He pointed out that one of reasons that led to some “trepidation” about the social media environment was the idea of only focusing on “wins” and the risk of getting caught in a swirl of “self-aggrandizing” posts. But the pandemic has brought in a shift.

“With all the challenges of the past year, I’ve seen a marked change in our willingness to be vulnerable and share a more authentic experience in a professional environment, with our own teams and in a digital space. Professionals at every level shared more about their full life — difficult decisions, team culture change, childcare, mental health,” he wrote in his Linkedin post.

Nestle’s global chief is not alone. According to a study by Influential Executive, as of August 2020, 62 per cent of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies in the US, were found to be on at least one social media platform.

Leverage social media

The pandemic has also pushed more Indian CEOs to jump onto the social media bandwagon.

Xavier Prabhu, Founder & MD, PRHUB, said, “More Indian CEOs have got onto Linkedin and Twitter in recent times, as the challenges of the pandemic led them to open up and express sympathy as well as empathy with employees. They also got onboard social media to share their companies’ initiatives for employee care and efforts being made for the community at large.”

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During the second wave, many CEOs and founders leveraged Twitter to raise funds, amplify SOS messages and come together to procure essential medical supplies such as oxygen concentrators. Others announced several employee care initiatives on Linkedin, especially for those impacted by the pandemic, besides talking about broader issues such as mental health.

“India has been lagging behind the developed markets in terms of the number of entrepreneurs and CEOs who are active on social media. So while this is a positive development, it remains to be seen whether they use social media in a sustained manner,” he said.

Young population

Why should CEOs not miss the opportunity to leverage on social media platforms especially in India? India has one of the youngest populations globally.

“A large chunk of employees and consumers are young people who spend a lot of time on social media platforms. So it helps CEOs to engage with employees and consumers as well as build corporate reputation. Being active on social media also makes them more receptive to feedback and their ability to understand multiple perspectives increases,” Prabhu added.

Maintain a presence

New-age company CEOs and entrepreneurs have been far more active on social media. There are also a slew of founders, who are building direct-to-consumer brands that require a presence on social media.

N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, said, “Younger CEOs and members of top management at companies definitely seem to be more comfortable with communicating on social media platforms in an uncontrolled set-up, which could mean getting both positive and negative comments.”

Experts say social media is a space that CEOs can no longer ignore and they will eventually need to have a strong presence even as there are risks of getting dragged into controversies.