Gini Dietrich

The Dos and Don’ts of Executive Social Media

By: Gini Dietrich | June 2, 2011 | 

It’s Facebook question of the week time (clap, clap, clap)! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a real video question and I have a special treat for you.

We’re going to have a lesson in how to say my name.

That’s right…you’re going to learn how to say my name!

Well, I also sing a song. On video. I’m pretty sure it can be missed so you can fast forward to :40.

And now on with the show (if you can’t see the video in your feed, click here and it’ll magically appear)!

Jennifer Dooley asks,

I’m wondering if you could share your big DOs and DON’Ts for executives (not sure my CEO needs a blog). Also, do you have any good, bad, and the ugly in terms of executive social media examples you might be willing to share? I know it’s asking a lot, but if you can share, I’d be sooo happy!

I answer the first part of the question in the video and also open it up to you to answer.

And, I promised to provide some links to the good, bad, and the ugly in terms of executive social media examples.

The Good: I am a big fan of what Tony Hsieh did with Twitter in 2008, as Zappos built their brand and prepped for the Amazon acquisition. There are some examples of other good use by executives in this blog post by Beth Kanter.

The Bad: While it’s not an executive, exactly, I think the way the BP executives handled the entire oil spill, from their CEO saying he just wanted to go back to normal and get back on his yacht to the fake BP news Twitter account was poorly managed.

The Ugly: Kenneth Cole, hands down, gets this award from me. He fell flat on his face when he used the uprising in Egypt to promote his spring collection. Ugly, ugly news.

Now I leave it to you. What are the dos and don’ts for executives on social media? And what are some examples you can cite?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • BestRoofer

    Great singing Gini. I don’t think that I would try that, but it came off really well when you did it. It got a standing ovation in the office. Well I’m the only one here, but it was good.

  • KenMueller

    @BestRoofer i can picture you standing in your office doing that, Joe. Wish we had video of that. And I haven’t watched this video yet. I think I’ll watch it with Shadow on the porch in just a bit.

  • bdorman264

    Huh, I’m from down south; your name was easy to pronounce we just might draw it out longer. Now it might sound like Gin’a’, but we are saying Gini………….:).

    Two schools of thought about executives being involved in social media. One being, they should be familiar with it but don’t necessarily have to be the day to day guy. However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with them being actively engaged especially if they are the face of the company and if they are not neglecting the operations.

    This still comes down to time (precious time) and what am I trying to achieve and what is the best use of this limited resource, time?

    The second being if the edict is coming from above the troops might buy into more if the executive is visibly present depending on the culture of the operations. If the executive has a hands-off style the troops might think it’s creepy to jump in too; but if the exec has an open, creative environment if might be easier for everyone to buy in.

    Huh? I think I just put 6 schools of thought into two paragraphs saying the same thing. Bottom line, exec’s should be involved but I think the culture of the operations will dictate the extent. There is not a right or wrong answer per se.

    Hola, still beachin’ it. I feel like I’m missing something but then I think, just give me another margarita and the world will still be spinnin’ when I get back next wk.

    Have a great day.

  • Gini Gini Gini, what are we gonna do with you ?!!Gertrude fits you sooooo well 😀

  • I know you said it but now you have to work on the last name… get that in a song and we’ll be impressed

  • JodiEchakowitz

    Gini, you crack me up! I think I’ve got to follow your lead and do the same thing to get people pronouncing my last name correctly 🙂

  • KenMueller

    Great post and video, Gertie! I confess I pronounced it like Jeannie at first, so I still have a hard time getting it right because it’s stuck in my head.

    As for the content of your post (content?? who needs content???) But good advice. Most of my clients are small businesses so the top person IS the face of the company, and I find I have to remind them of that. When they use social media, even just their facebook page, they need to be more personable, and not just “a” generic voice. Also working with one non-profit whose exec. director is thinking about getting on Twitter. We’re gonna spend a lot of time going over what that looks like and how he should do it. I have a strong feeling that he’ll do well.

  • KenMueller

    oh, and in case you were wondering, my name is pronounced “Hank”. the “Ken” is actually silent.

  • DonnaLehman

    Engaging way to begin your Q&A, particularly as it suits your personality/brand. As to the question posed: like many questions, the answer is ‘it depends’. You and others leaving comments note that depending upon the culture, the executive, their passion, experience and experience with engagement, it could work beautifully, or be less than stellar (even catastrophic for company image.

    I’ll leave one good example: when you have a CEO who has built up a positive reputation as a thought leader/innovator/expert in their field, people want to hear their thoughts – so having them blog or e-newsletters or tweet could make sense. Think Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. Granted they have risen to a celebrity status, but there are many other wicked smart executives who are also great communicators.

    Obviously the flip side of the coin is when it does not come naturally to them.

    All the other points raised about the time commitment, authenticity, buy-in – excellent to remember.

    Cheers Gini for a lively response!

  • @KenMueller Just laughed out my scone!

  • KenMueller

    @EricaAllison Does that mean your scone came outta your nose???

  • So loved that song! I think I pronounce your name correctly…I’ll use it in a video and you can tell me for sure.

    Re: your list in the post – all right on! I’m still amazed at Tony Heyward and his poor choice of words…even more at the fact that BP has made no visible efforts since then to put real PR into place that would build up the image of BP, rather than just let it be because, well, they can. Shame on them.

  • @KenMueller No, just crumbled out of my mouth. Thank goodness I’m alone. Not pretty.

  • CristerDelaCruz

    “Embraced” from the top? Is that the word you were looking for?

  • ginidietrich

    @BestRoofer This made me LOL! Thanks for the standing O!

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller Did Shadow give me a standing O?

  • ginidietrich

    @bdorman264 I agree with you – the edict needs to come from the top down, but the executives aren’t necessarily the ones who need to use it. I think too much access is detrimental to one’s business. Even I’m learning that lesson, but I am addicted so I’m not going to be stopping.

  • ginidietrich

    @Yael Rozencwajg Gertrude?!?! You and johnfalchetto are killing me! LOL! Funny story for both of you. Growing up, I couldn’t understand why they named me Gini instead of Ginny. It was really painful as a child. The first time I was in Paris, about 15 years ago, I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe. On the menu, under drinks was GINI. What?!? As you know, it’s like our Sprite. And my mom spent two years abroad in France in college. She won’t admit it, but I KNOW she named me after a soda pop in France.

  • ginidietrich

    @faybiz The last name isn’t as painful for me if someone says it wrong. It’s like Marlena Dietrich…Deetrick. I’ll have to think about how to get it in a song!

  • ginidietrich

    @JodiEchakowitz Your last name is painful…as we’ve discussed! You should do the same, minus the singing. That was such an automatic thing I didn’t even think about it.

  • @ginidietrich Much much worse things to be named after 🙂 @Yael Rozencwajg

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller The Ken is silent?! I’m glad I wasn’t eating a scone when I read that!

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller I absolutely agree in small business the owner HAS to take an active role. And I’ll answer to Gertie if you answer to Hank.

  • ginidietrich

    @DonnaLehman Totally agree, Donna! It has to suit their personality and they have to be good at it. Not unlike being the spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the company, or even doing employee roundtables. It’s just another venue for communication.

  • ginidietrich

    @EricaAllison I think you do because I would have sent you a private note after your first video and corrected you if not. 🙂 Shame on BP is right!

  • @KenMueller hahahahahahaha!

  • CristerDelaCruz

    “Embraced” from the top? Is that the word you were looking for? Greate video, esp. the song!

    As in any new business practice or change from the norm (at least in corporate settings), that top-down buy-in seems to be what makes things flow smoother (heck, that’s why they’re the CEOs, right?). Convincing C-suite executives that social media will work for *them* is different from convincing them that it will work for the organization. With that said, one also has to keep in mind how the C-execs can (or should they) fit into the social media strategy.I think this is where the comfort level/personality of the CEO comes in. I’ve worked with CEOs who would have been amazing utilizing social media – great communicators, engaging, accessible, etc. And I’ve worked with ones who would rather be cooped up in their office with a gazillion gate keepers and need hours of prep before interviews. The great thing about involving a CEO within a social media campaign is that it can be customized to your needs and their comfort level, ability, and availability.

  • @ginidietrich ah my wife had to come to grips with our last name.

    I will now always say to myself “gertie diet-rich”

  • @ginidietrich @KenMueller And so the food discussion for today begins…

  • KenMueller

    @ginidietrich No. He just licked himself.

  • ryancox

    I asked 10 questions, and you didn’t pick any of them. I’m revolting GIN-e.

  • Sanctioned? Directed? Is that word your were searching for Jeannie?

  • ginidietrich

    @ryancox Revolt away. There is a long line of people in front of you. I’ll get to you

  • ginidietrich

    @Sean McGinnis I hate you.

  • ginidietrich

    @CristerDelaCruz Noooo. I don’t think that’s what I wanted. I still can’t think of it. And I agree with everything you’ve said here. Good thing, huh?! 🙂

  • Courtney Engle

    I like company leaders participating in social media, but I also think it isn’t just a do or don’t participate. They absolutely should claim their account, preventing squatters from moving in. I also think it really depends upon the person to know if they have the tech skills, time, and understand social networking enough.

  • @ginidietrich I’m sorry, Gina, I can’t hear you screaming from way over here on Dearborn….

  • ginidietrich

    @faybiz LMAO!!

  • ginidietrich

    @Sean McGinnis Hate. You.

  • @ginidietrich Nice song by the way Jenny.

  • @ginidietrich For a good time call 867-5309!

  • ginidietrich

    @Courtney Engle Totally agree. And if they participate, they must do so. None of this get out there, realize how hard it is, and then stop.

  • ginidietrich

    @Sean McGinnis Hate. You.

  • @DonnaLehman It depends is almost always the best answer. Love it! 🙂

  • patrickreyes

    Who are you again?

  • i was waiting for you to sing “Say My Name” THAT would have been hilarious! Anyway…executives do silly stuff all the time – for example they may “like” porn stars on Facebook. (ugh!)

    Or..maybe they need their phone taken away from them if they have been drinking. One drunken (or angry) Tweet can destroy your business. It can and does happen.

    On the plus side, there are great executives who understand how important community is, and do their best to encourage that. It must come from up top, as Gini pointed out.

  • CristerDelaCruz

    @ginidietrich Yup, good thing. Funny, as I was watching the video, I was wracking (is that how you spell it?) my brain for words that might fit.

  • DHLasker

    Hey Virginia… just trying to Train myself to sing it. Now, what was the question?

  • @CristerDelaCruz I guess that makes you a better person because my only reaction was to BURST out laughing when she did that. @ginidietrich

  • HowieSPM

    Can I add what Tony Hsieh did after the Amazon Acquisition needs to be a case study in taking the money and running. Don’t care about your brand and pimp your book story?

    When I joined Twitter and got into it in Summer 2009 Zappos was one of the first Brands I followed. They had this aura of so many followers (1 million!). And guess what. In 5 months I saw a tweet for a Zappo’s potluck video to showcase most unhealthiest food contest and non-stop promotion of his book. Never saw anything about Zappos, community etc in my stream and this was when I followed less than 200 accounts so if the posts or talking with fans were there I would of seen it.

    Point being don’t destroy a gift (Zappos in my opinion had more luck than anything else. Right place right time right strategy). Starbucks is doing this. They have so many fans on Facebook yet they really do nothing with it (or maybe Starbucks is the smartest of all seeing little value since those fans are coming in everyday for coffee anyway…major hint to big companies?)

    Curious though if Kenneth Cole saw a sales or awareness bump from their douchenozzle move because if they did….they did the right thing maybe as heinous as it is? Remember busness exists to make money and not care about anything else (see BP, the Oil Industry, Walmart etc).

    Wow my comments are getting @Griddy length again!

  • sydcon_mktg

    Ha! Thanks for the morning entertainment! Names, such a simple thing that others can make so annoying! My last name has so many variations its not even funny. Our kids constantly ask people who misprounce it if they know their phonics! LOL!

    Almost as bad as when people decide on their own what to call you. I went to an all girls catholic high school & Jennifer was uber popluar then! So, depending on how many of us were in a class, the nuns would dubb us Jennifer, Jenn, Jenny or whatever suited them!

    And, that 867-5309 from @Sean McGinnis , I cant tell you how many times I had that sung to me…but, I got my revenge and gave it out as my number many times! 😉

  • ginidietrich

    @sydcon_mktg @Sean McGinnis Your kids crack me up! And please don’t humor @Sean McGinnis

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM Funny, I was just talking to a friend about that on Saturday. We don’t know what goes on behind-the-scenes, but they definitely dropped off the face of the earth after the acquisition and after his book tour.

  • ginidietrich

    @DHLasker Sigh….you may as well go sit in the corner with @Sean McGinnis

  • ginidietrich

    @NancyD68 Dang. I should have consulted you before I hit publish. THAT would have been hilarious!!

  • ginidietrich

    @patrickreyes I’m sorry. I don’t know you. Stop stalking me.

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber That’s why I like @CristerDelaCruz more than you.

  • Gertrude? Seriously? As in Gertrude McFuzz from Dr. Seuss maybe? Hahaha
    Sorry, totally forgot what this post was about – you had me at Gini, fo finny…;)

  • ginidietrich

    @Griddy LOL! I actually can’t believe I did that. It just came out.

  • @ginidietrich you should hire me as a “special consultant” I might even get on a plane and come to Chicago for that!

  • Jeeez!! I just typed that comment – what are you – on speed or something? lol 😉

  • ginidietrich

    @Griddy I’m on my brain break here. Headed back to CMS hell now.

  • ginidietrich

    @NancyD68 AWESOME! THAT is a great idea, too!

  • DHLasker

    @ginidietrich @Sean McGinnis Hey Sean, how’s it going over here? 🙂

  • DHLasker

    @Sean McGinnis Where is @jeanniecw ? Perhaps she can join us in the corner too! Oh Jeannie!

  • ginidietrich

    @DHLasker @Sean McGinnis @jeanniecw She won’t join you. Us girls stick together.

  • @ginidietrich you know what I love? There are very few people to whom you could feel safe typing that sentence ( I hope). So the fact that you could here, makes me LOL!!!! Regardless, I think you may have found a way to gamify friendships!!!! @CristerDelaCruz

  • jeanniecw

    @ginidietrich @DHLasker @Sean McGinnis @jeanniecw LOL! You, ma’am, are no Jeannie. There’s only room for one of them in this here town. And our names only sound the same when a certain Brazilian says them.

  • Wonder what would happen if you put Hank, Gertrude and the Scone Snorter in room together. Could be interesting.

  • autumnmthompson

    I feel your pain….It’s AUTUMN, not Amber, Dawn, Opal, or Spring. Although, in a previous career I got so tired of correcting a client, I had convinced her there were two girls working in my dept., Autumn and Dawn. Dawn was a very bad employee. She was always late to work, took long lunches, and never returned phone calls. When anything happened it was always blamed on Dawn. Unfortuately, Dawn got fired one day! She agreed that Dawn should be fired, but she would miss her.

  • ginidietrich

    @Lisa Gerber You and @Sean McGinnis and @DHLasker and jeanniecw are all sitting in the wrong corner!

  • ginidietrich

    @autumnmthompson I think I’ll call you Summer from now on. Opal, though? I kind of like that one. And SHUT UP about Dawn. HAHAHAHAH!!!

  • ginidietrich

    @TheJackB We should do it!

  • DHLasker

    @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber @Sean McGinnis jeanniecw Um, trouble maker? I believe that we are sitting in the correct corner, and having a blast! 🙂 You know I know you’ll eventually be joining us over here. That is why you put us here, “right?”

    I’m beginning to feel a wee bit bad about the comments regarding the question @jennidooley asked, being preempted by the cornering of all this wisdom.

    Almost a month ago, @ginidietrich ‘s FB question of the week from @NancyD68 is a great example of a “don’t.” In case you missed it, here’s a link:

  • @ginidietrich @sydcon_mktg Yes, please. Humor me! 😉

  • @DHLasker @ginidietrich Welcome to the cool kid corner David! Gina’s not allowed over here.

  • jeanniecw

    @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber @Sean McGinnis @DHLasker Sure it fun!

  • jeanniecw

    @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber @Sean McGinnis @DHLasker Sure is fun!

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich @Griddy it is pro-nounced GEE-KNEE. Can you say GEE KNEE boys and girls. What? Hold on. Getting a message from the producer. Oops. Sorry boys and girls I am being told it’s JIN – EE. Do you know how to drink Gin boys and girls? Have you been to Mr Rogers website with all my cocktail recipes? We will start with the Slow JIN-EE Fizz because I am told boys and girls love Fizzy drinks like Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew. Can you say SLOE GIN-EE FIZZ boys and girls>?

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich @sydcon_mktg @Sean McGinnis wait did you say Gumby is coming to comment?

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich if you get acquired by @livefyre and go on a book tour and disappear I will hunt you down through google alerts!

    But the point is a good one. Social has to be a long term strategy.

  • HowieSPM

    @Sean McGinnis @DHLasker @ginidietrich if one more spitball comes my way from the cool kid corner I am telling the Principal.

  • HowieSPM

    @Sean McGinnis @ginidietrich Julie just tell Sean to check the @livefyre score is all.

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich @ryancox I think there should be a popular vote on what questions are picked and on how we all pronounce Gini.

  • @ginidietrich johnfalchetto well John is on the good way…much much worse things. I mean about thinking of Gertrude and do something with it further… 😀 ahahahahah. And yes it’s true Gini is kind of a fresh drink. Anyway I understand your pain, but please when I see this video, it’s sooo hard to believe they didn’t took the Gertrude one. It could have answered thousand existential questions !!

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM Mmmmm….fizzy drinks. Yum.

  • ginidietrich

    @jeanniecw Which always sends us both into hysterics!

  • @ginidietrich @Griddy Noooooo. Not CMS hell! Where’s my foursquare?

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @sydcon_mktg Good old gumbyonthedesk – Love him.

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @livefyre Pretty sure Gilamonster is just trying to create a post that outperforms yesterday’s now infamous “post about nothing” – I mean at least this one has some substance to it, right? Right? I mean there is substance….what was the substance again?

  • @CristerDelaCruz “I’ve worked with CEOs who would have been amazing utilizing social media – great communicators, engaging, accessible, etc.”

    I know you’re not talking about your current CEO with that, right?

  • girlygrizzly

    Gini! Geeze, Lady. I thought you were going to teach me to say your LAST name! Too funny! (I’ve never been able to sing that funny song!) (Where does “Arment” come into your name?, just wondered…) Yeah, been there. Amber, not April or Spring (??), Hey! works at times and B**ch is only a nickname, the guys have to do better than that to get a reaction after 19 years ram-rodding these ya-hoos. Ok, back to work and by the way, thank you for the inspiration (and it didn’t seem that I was the only one inspired!!) from your Blog About Nothing. I hope you will look tomorrow, let me know if you’d like to go for a “ride” on the Last Frontier!

    Sincerely, Always.


  • ginidietrich

    @girlygrizzly HAHAHAHA! It’s Dee-trick. Like Marlena. I can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve tomorrow.

  • Ha, I actually remember all of the examples you referenced above. Was just organizing the bookshelf and picked up Tony’s book to skim through it again… I really like what he and the Zappos brand have done to provide a high level of customer service through social media.

    As for the bad examples, I guess common sense isn’t so common sometimes, eh…

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  • KDillabough

    @HowieSPM @Sean McGinnis @DHLasker @ginidietrich This is the best way to spend a Friday!

  • KDillabough

    Imagine what gets done with Kaarina Dillabough. And I don’t have a song either:(

    Gini gini bo binny…sounds familiar:)

  • Courtney Engle

    @ginidietrich Yep – stick it out for the long haul. Live and learn.

  • Definitely bookmarking this video, just in case I decide to apply for an internship with you in the future…I’ll either start singing that song in the interview if I get one, or just go GIN, GIN GIN GIN! in my head.

    On that note, I love the good, the bad, and the ugly. What Kenneth Cole did was absolutely ridiculous and senseless. How did anyone think that was a good idea, ever? Maybe it drew just the kind of attention they wanted, but…yeesh.

  • jennwhinnem

    I’ll have to watch the video later, as it’s 5:40AM and my VSO is still asleep. I’d like to add something for Jennifer.

    Back in 2006, one of my roles was editing and posting internal executive blogs. I’m going to break this experience down into the categories you mentioned.

    THE GOOD: Hey, executives were trying for transparency. In fact, this was my introduction to the cult of this word.

    THE BAD: Comments. Everyone, everyone was freaked out about comments. Because, did we allow them to be anonymous or not? I argued fiercely for anonymous comments. The comments that had names on them were ass-kissing comments…no conversation was started….nothing. Anonymous comments were the only dissent we ever got – and usually it was “why the hell are you cutting my job?” or “you’re a crap leader.” Nothing in the middle! It was a culture not ready for blogs, I don’t think, and in retrospect I’d say my team did not properly prepare the executives to nurture and respond to comments. Oh, and I’d also add that the “transparency” was just public posturing.

    THE UGLY: One leader in particular got really defensive about the anonymous comments and used his blog as a platform to call them cowards. I was furious. First off, it irritates me when people in positions of power fail to understand that they are in positions of power – in fact, I stop reading popular blogs when the blogger whines about anonymous comments that attack him/her. That’s the price of doing business, sunshine, shut up.The more powerful you become, the more you are surrounded by sycophants, because people are either afraid of what happens when they disagree, or on their own quest for power. DUH. My personal prejudices aside, all this did was perpetuate the very culture he was attacking. The ass-kisser comments were all “oh my anonymous commenters are terrible you are so right!.” Gross. And the anonymous commenters just got more fuel for their fire.

    In short, be ready for comments.

  • ginidietrich

    @RicardoBueno We were just talking about Zappos and how they’ve disappeared from the marketing world since the Amazon acquisition. It’s a shame – they were really good at it.

  • ginidietrich

    @KDillabough I think I can sing it if I shorten your name.

  • ginidietrich

    @annedreshfield Gin like the drink! It’s easy. 🙂 I can’t imagine wanting to draw bad attention, but I guess it takes all types.

  • ginidietrich

    @jennwhinnem This is awesome, Jenn! Thanks for adding your own experience to this. Wow.

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  • NancyM.

    The good: Answering customers inquiries on twitter and hosting events on facebook, then posting pictures later in a way that makes people relate to the brand in a personal way.

    The bad: Businesses that post nothing except blog links. advertisement links or marketing material.

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