Some call it a waste of time. Others say it is pivotal for building a brand with impact.
More than three-quarters of all Americans under 49 are on a social platform, according to Pew, but among CEOs that percentage shrinks. Are those execs who choose to sit out missing a chance to engage with customers--or dodging a bullet and a time suck? We asked Sallie Krawcheck, who has more than two million followers on LinkedIn, and Beatriz Ramos, who doesn't even own a cell phone.
Beatriz Ramos (left), co-founder and CEO of Dada.nyc, a social network where users communicate through drawings, and Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment service aimed at women.CREDIT: Bijou Karman
Is having a personal brand good for business?
Beatriz Ramos: I don't have any social media presence besides LinkedIn. We're trying to build a thing so complex, I need to have the fewest distractions possible. I need to put a filter between me and everybody else so I can keep that space to do the work I need to do.
Sallie Krawcheck: People want to know who we are. We're moving away from being a faceless financial services company to becoming one where our women users can see we respect them. On social media, they see a company that's majority female and 40 percent people of color, and that we represent them, and not their fathers.
Maintaining an active social media presence takes time. Is it worth it?
Ramos: When you're a first-time founder, the learning curve is so huge. There are so many things you need to do well that you've probably never done before. That's where you should put your effort.
Krawcheck: We're meeting users and potential users where they are. It's not something we do for fun. Our cost of acquisition is well below the cost for the industry. That's a result of our organic outreach and social media through Ellevest's and my accounts.
Can CEOs sound truly authentic--not stilted--on social media?
Ramos: The problem with social media is it rewards you for being controversial or hyperbolic. Just writing it yourself doesn't mean it's authentic. You're still putting up some projection of how you want people to see you. That people actually hire other people to manage their accounts says a lot about social media in and of itself.
Krawcheck: My personal social media feels authentic because I write it. You shouldn't be like those boring cocktail party people who talk just about themselves--to be successful you have to really engage with your community.
What about the risks--like gaffes?
Ramos: They're going to happen if you're an avid user and you're really connected with your audience. Some of those missteps are moments of transparency that reveal who the person behind the tweet is.
Krawcheck: Not everything you say will be loved. We talk a lot about the gender investing gap, and as soon as we do, there's some group of men who seem to live in their mothers' basements ready to just give it to us.
It's hard to dispute Ramos's points about time and focus, but social media is here to stay: Studies from PR firm Weber Shandwick find that 76 percent of lower-level executives say it's important for the CEO to be visible, and prefer that their leaders post often.
Originally published May 2019 on Inc.com