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What Are The Key Characteristics Of A Social CEO?

What is it that makes one CEO recognise and embrace the value of social media marketing, and another fail to use it properly. Or worse, view it as a complete waste of time?
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I recently came across an article on the Harvard Business Review that describes truly social CEOs as "blue unicorns" – that is to say, they are so scarce that it's even harder than finding a common or garden unicorn. Or 'rare as rocking horse sh*t', to employ another quasi-equine analogy.

Whichever analogy you prefer, the point is that, even as little as five years ago, it simply wasn't that important for CEOs to have a strong social media awareness. But now, of course, it's essential – and is becoming even more so by the day.

Despite this fact, even those CEOs who do have a social media presence are not always doing it right – their messages can feel broad and impersonal, or they use it only to broadcast rather than create meaningful connections.

So what traits do these rare-as-blue-unicorns social CEOs have?


One of the best things about social media is the opportunity it gives you to 'listen'. Curious CEOs will want to find out what people are saying about the company, what their needs are, and what the brand's competitors are up to; all of which can be found through social engagement.

A desire to give back

CEOs who truly embrace social media are likely doing it for reasons other than the bottom line. Referred to as 'relentless givers’, these leaders wish to share their knowledge, offer advice on real issues and connect with people in a collaborative way.

The ability to connect

Similarly, social CEOs realise that these channels should not be used to simply promote, but to connect also. As well as sharing positive company news or reviews, they will also respond to negative feedback, engage with all types of follower (from the famous to the unknown), and work on building relationships.

Being an authentic brand ambassador

Studies show that for around two-thirds of customers, their opinion of a CEO will directly affect their perception of a brand. Just think of how Virgin is synonymous with my old boss Richard Branson - who, incidentally, was not long ago named the world's top social media CEO.

Presenting a positive personal brand on social media means they are helping to build their company's image, too.

What else does it take to be a successful social CEO these days?

And which other CEOs are showing the rest of their brethren a clean pair of heels - or perhaps that should be hooves - on social media?