Social Media: President Obama Does What 70% of Businesses and Executives Do Not!

President Obama’s 5 Social Media Lessons For Business

As we mark President Obama’s second inauguration, business executives should learn from his social media playbook because consumers trust businesses that actively engage on social media platforms.

It’s easy to argue that Obama is the most social media savvy President to-date. This is because, during his four years in office, social media has grown and evolved into a very persuasive form of communications, not only for getting elected, but also for reaching a broad base of Americans.

The reality is that President Obama does what 70% of business and executives don’t do. Specifically, Obama has a social media presence where he listens and engages.

Here are five cues businesses and senior executives should take from the President of the United States (aka POTUS).

  1. Be transparent. You can’t hide behind your computer screen and act as if the public is some amorphous group out there somewhere. Being open and honest matters. This requires a healthy dose of respect for your customers and the public.
  2. Master the ability to tell a story. President Obama doesn’t just read a set of facts, rather he crafts a story around the information he wants to convey. People are used to listening to stories. You have to give your information a context so your audience will remember it better. (Check out Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers.
  3. Be willing to engage on social media platforms. The President is open to testing new ways to communicate with the public. Your business and management must be willing to participate on social media venues. This doesn’t mean they should spend their entire day reading comments on Facebook. Rather, like the President, they should be strategic in their use of platforms.
  4. Show you’re human. By being engaged on social media, Obama proves that he’s real and understands the current culture. This is at the heart of all social media. The public wants to know that you’re a real person not an empty suit locked away in some distant office.
  5. Understand what you can and can’t say on social media (or other public forums). While POTUS is privileged to high security information, he doesn’t disclose it on social media. Being open doesn’t mean that he leaks what he knows. Rather, he knows what he can and can’t divulge. It’s a matter of national security and the public respects him more for participating. Every business, including regulated ones, can do this. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be situations where you can’t talk publically but, if you’ve built up goodwill on social media, you’ll be able to weather the storm.

President Obama engages on social media directly. Here are five examples from the POTUS social media playbook.

  1. Obama opened up the conversation on his website to listen to what Americans are concerned about. Through the use of “We The People”, Obama provided a means for Americans to let their voice be heard. Actionable Marketing Tip: Create a space on your social media page(s), blog or company website where you allow your prospects, customers and the public to ask questions. Include a set of rules for what’s acceptable to discuss so that you don’t appear to delete every negative question or comment. Also, establish expectations for responses.
  2. Obama knows his audience. He’s got a Tumblr account that’s updated with a wide variety of content. (Here’s how to stake your turf on Tumblr.) Actionable Marketing Tip: Determine who your target market is by creating a marketing persona. Then use the appropriate social media platforms to engage them and be present. At a minimum, update this information regularly.
  3. Obama created a regular social media communications vehicle to talk to Americans directly. He updated FDR’s weekly radio chats with the use of current technology, namely videochats. This is a great way for business executives to engage with their target audience. Actionable Marketing Tip: Develop a regular videochat by a senior executive. Establish a regular schedule of presentations such as weekly or every other week. These can often be recorded in advance. This helps you build an audience that you can reach out to in the event of a PR crisis.
  4. Obama understands how to use social media. During Clint Eastwood’s Republican Party speech to an empty chair, Obama tweeted, “This seat’s taken.” While Obama’s team does tweet on his account, he identifies his own tweets by adding his initials at the end of his messages. Actionable Marketing Tip: Train your senior executives how to use social media. Don’t assume that they know how to engage on these platforms. Where necessary, give them tailored training.  (BTW, we can help with this!)
  5. Obama is willing to engage with Americans in real time. He had an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. Most business leaders and many public personalities are scared to be that exposed. Of course, the President used his official position to select which questions to answer. Actionable Marketing Tip: Test ways to engage with your customers in real time on social media. While Reddit’s AMA can be a double edged sword for most high profile individuals, there are other ways to interact such as Twitter chats and Google hangouts.

Engaging with your prospects, customers and the public on social media helps build trust in ways that other marketing venues can’t. So follow President Obama’s lead and get your business and C-suite active on social media.

What challenges have your business and executives encountered when engaging on social media?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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