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Mistakes made on social media can have lasting consequences – potentially ruining a brand for good. Even CEOs aren’t immune to these mistakes – so let’s look at three common errors and how to avoid them.

1. Assuming a social presence isn’t necessary

With all the evidence to the contrary, it’s surprising to hear some big time CEOs still consider social media a “distraction, if not an outright liability.” And yet, that’s exactly what a recent CEO.com report revealed.

This is a dangerous attitude that gives CEOs who “get it” quite an edge. Social media is the most important and informative cocktail party/focus group you’ll ever have access to. Why would you opt out of the opportunity to be a thought leader, and another voice for your brand?

Even more crucial, CEOs on social media offer their brand’s audience the unusual ability to interact with someone at the top of the food chain. That’s not something that happens when they shop your store, or contact customer service.

This direct-to-consumer portal is ripe with potential – something Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky took smart advantage of last Christmas. He asked consumers, “If @Airbnb could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?”

The ideas – some great ones – came flooding in, and Airbnb-ers in the Twitterverse felt powerful and heard. And all it cost Chesky was a few hours of his time.

2. Choosing the wrong channels for interaction

Of course, where you have these conversations matters – and that’s where social analytics come into play. Twitter and LinkedIn are obvious choices for a CEO in the tech world, for example, to make their mark.  But Facebook – the largest social network in the world – is an important platform as well.

“CEOs who aren’t on Facebook are out of touch with a significant part of their customers’ and employees’ lives,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And, of course, they’re ignoring the largest social audience out there.

But don’t take that at face value. Use social listening tools to ascertain whether your brand’s audience is active on Facebook before setting up a profile there. It could be your time is better spent on Instagram, Tumblr, or even Snapchat.

There’s no wrong place for a CEO to interact with the public – if their public is there, and they act appropriately to their title. That doesn’t mean super stuffy and serious necessarily – it just means not wasting posts on kitten memes and the like. Be human, but be professional.

3. Creating a crisis for your brand

Maintaining a level of professionalism is crucial to protecting not just your own reputation, but your brand’s. There’s no separation between the two in consumers’ eyes. Ask Barilla pasta about the long road back after chairman Guido Barilla’s disastrous radio comment in 2013.

It’s been four years and people haven’t forgotten, despite the company’s strides to turn things around.

It’s far too easy to slip up – something Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes learned the hard way with a badly timed Instagram post. Holmes may not have been celebrating recent layoffs at his company – but it certainly came across that way. And there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle once things go viral on social media.

To avoid such reputational fallout, those in the C-suite should go through social media training to clarify the best way to represent their brand on social channels. And all employees should have a clear understanding of the company’s social media policy as well – just to keep everyone on the same page, and trouble to a minimum.

Additionally, your brand’s social media team should be in the mix for “content support and a reality check on a CEO’s posts, making sure the CEO sounds neither uber-privileged nor unbelievably Joe Average.”

And, of course, social listening and sentiment analysis can steer you in the direction of topics that matter most to your audience. Thanking employees and customers is one option for social interaction Due.com’s John Rampton highly recommends. Who doesn’t love to be acknowledged for their hard work and patronage?

So join the conversation and take your brand farther. As long as you avoid the mistakes mentioned above, you’ll positively impact brand awareness and consumer perception – all while carving out your place as a leader in your category. Win, win, win.

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Image from Scott Schiller

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