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CEOs on social media who are using it right

At a time when the demand for business transparency is greater than ever—especially on social—smart businesses know that building a trusted brand must be a company-wide effort. And that means having active CEOs on social media.

Research indicates that people define transparency as being open, clear and honest. Employees often look to executive leadership to be a living example of how that actually manifests for their business.
And they’re not the only ones.

CEOs with personal profiles seem more approachable, accessible, human, honest and trustworthy. Just look at the data: According to the Sprout Social Brands Get Real report on transparency, 63% of people say CEOs who have social profiles are better representatives for their companies than those who do not.

You already know how important executive presence is on social media. But if you haven’t updated the executive communications strategy to fit this type of transparency, it’s time to get to work.

In this guide, we’ve compiled some of the best CEOs on social media and how they use their platforms. Learn how you can apply their methods to your executive social strategy to shift your executives’ presence from personal, to a powerful brand advocacy tool.

For a shortcut to leveling up your c-suite’s social presence and impact, check out our executive communications article.

The most authentic CEOs on social

The c-suite has a reputation for being a “wizard behind the curtain”: fully in control, yet free from criticism and, in some cases, accountability.

The demand for greater business transparency is changing that. And this means having more visibility and access to a company’s c-suite, primarily on social media. According to our research, 64% of people said posts about a CEO’s family and friends would have a positive impact on their perception of the company, as well as posts about the CEO’s personal interests (63%).

Authenticity on social media can take many forms. Take co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian Sr.’s LinkedIn. His feed is rich with celebrations of the diverse companies his current venture capital firm invests in.

But you’ll also find posts like his Papa Pancake series where he makes “pancake art” for his daughter.

Screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Alexis Ohanian Sr. featuring a video of him making pancake art for his child.

This kind of authenticity goes a long way, and has the power to translate into earned media. This series and his “business dad” identity even became the focus of a feature in People magazine.

On his Twitter feed, you’ll find a completely different collection of content, from threads that deep dive into AI technology and Tweets about sports to funny, emoji-riddled Tweets. The difference between his social feeds are a testament to how active he is on social.

Another example of authenticity on social is the CEO of Code2College Matt Stephenson. His LinkedIn feed is a crash course on professional authenticity. He puts a personal touch on company news, including using short-form selfie videos to pitch open roles, posting photos with employees and actively posting while attending events (while also discussing the fact that he’s an introvert, no less.)

A screenshot of Matt Stephenson's LinkedIn post recapping his time at the Afrotech 2022 conference

Takeaways for executives and your social team

Being authentic on social media doesn’t mean turning your social accounts into a diary.

Rather, an executive’s social content should aim to level up to business values and goals. The aforementioned pancake series ladders back to an important value Ohanian often discusses on social: #PaidFamilyLeave.

Done right, this feeds your larger social strategy by creating executive content that employees will want to share and amplify.

Some CEOs are ready to jump at the chance to share selfies and personal moments. But others may not know how to start.

Provide guidance on capturing content—the when, where, what and why. Go through their upcoming schedule to identify opportunities for capturing content. This can even start in the office with interns and staff—after all, 76% of highly-engaged social users say it’s important for companies to post about employees.

People just want more access to CEOs, and that can be as simple as sharing pictures or videos on their personal accounts, providing that “behind-the-scenes” experience people are looking for.

The most consistent CEOs on social

Not all CEOs are prepared or eager to post on social. But connecting with consumers doesn’t necessarily demand that brand leaders generate new thought leadership or spend a lot of time on the channel.

It’s not posting frequency that matters; it’s consistency. And supplementing new posts with resharing existing content—like links to news and interviews—makes posting consistently much easier.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, former CEO of Chase, is extremely consistent on LinkedIn. She uses a mix of content to fuel that consistency, balancing posts she creates…

Thasunda Brown Duckett's LinkedIn post highlighting a talk she held with students and the importance of talking about mental health.

…with commentary on articles she reshares…

A screenshot of Thasunda Brown Duckett's LinkedIn post featuring an article she's featured in.

…and posts she reshares or comments on. Whether it’s original or reposted, the driving force of the content on her feed ladders up to her and her company’s values—specifically sharing information and commentary about retirement, retirement inequity and gender and racial wealth gaps.

A LinkedIn post reposted by Thasunda Brown Duckett.

Interacting with posts through likes and comments can help CEOs be more consistent on social without constantly posting. LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslanksy is a consistent poster by supplementing his original content with reposts, likes and comments—all of which populate his feed on LinkedIn.

A screenshot of a post by a LinkedIn employee celebrating 10 years at the company and a comment from the CEO congratulating this employee.

Whether your CEO wants to keep their posts focused on business needs or incorporate personal updates, they’re most likely to make a positive impact when they share consistently and transparently—no matter what they post about.

Takeaways for executives and social teams

It’s not always easy for executives to carve out time to create content or write a post. Developing a social strategy with your CEO can help make it easier to post consistently by planning content ahead of time.

For example, establishing a set of content pillars or categories is a shortcut to social success for CEOs, while setting posting guidelines.

Try proposing a posting schedule for your executive communications strategy. This can be as simple as taking 5-10 minutes every morning, or every other morning, to share an article, respond to a few Tweets or give a quick company update.

Sprout’s publishing and scheduling tools make planning content easier by empowering you or your executive to schedule their posts in advance.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's Publishing Calendar. In the image, you can see a weekly view of upcoming social content, including YouTube videos.

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There’s only one hard and fast “rule”: Be open and authentic. Even if your CEO decides to outsource their profile management, the content still needs to feel like it comes from them.

Most impactful social media thought leadership

When it comes to CEOs posting on social media, 82% of people want to see industry thought leadership.

It’s ultra-shareable, for your employees and others in the industry alike. And can make your executive channels a go-to place to learn about your industry.

Matt Stephenson shares fantastic social media thought leadership that ranges from short-form video and photos to repurposed Tweets and long-form thought leadership blog posts from his Medium account.

A screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Matt Stephenson featuring a screenshot of a Tweet he wrote and commentary he added to the post.

And he makes posts about business partnerships interesting. In the below post, he highlights Code2College partner Google in a topical, interesting post that gives background to the doodle while also celebrating diversity and innovation in tech.

A LinkedIn post by Matt Stephenson highlighting a recent Google doodle that talked about Jerry Lawson.

For some CEOs, video may be an easier and faster way for them to express themselves and share social media thought leadership.

Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, often uses video to engage with consumers. He hosts a show called Never Stand Still—a podcast and video series about business and innovation. This series makes up the majority of his Facebook feed.

This type of series provides a consistent framework for your CEO—it also allows them to amplify the voices and learnings of other thought leaders.

But CEOs can also simply face the camera towards themselves and speak executive-to-audience. Schulman also uses video to address his audience directly for big announcements, like PayPal’s global impact report.

A screenshot of a LinkedIn post by Dan Schulman featuring a video of him talking about PayPal's global impact report and a written part of the post summarizing the video.

Takeaways for executives and social teams

Social media provides a unique platform for your CEO to assume the role of a progressive thought leader in their industry.

Thought leadership is ultra-sharable content that amplifies a CEO’s voice and, in turn, builds the brand. CEOs set the example and tone for what relationships with consumers on social media should look like; thereby inviting employees and fellow company leaders to serve as brand advocates on the channel.

It can also translate into sales leads and real financial impact for your company. According to Edelman, 54% of decision-makers said they purchased a new product or service from an organization they hadn’t previously considered after engaging with a piece of thought leadership.

To really amplify your executive’s presence and reach, make their articles and posts shareable to your staff. Using a platform or tool, like Employee Advocacy by Sprout, makes it easier to share CEO thought leadership for staff to post on their channels, empowering employees to become thought leaders, as well.

An example of how to add an approved story in Sprout's Employee Advocacy tool

Best crisis management by CEOs

An executive speaking up in the right way during a crisis can mean the difference between building brand image and empathy, and fueling the fire by coming across as apathetic with silence.

At Walmart, the executive voice and channels are a key piece of crisis communications. CEO Doug McMillon—notorious for his engaged LinkedIn presence—took to social during Hurricane Ian to pledge relief efforts made by his company.

A LinkedIn post by Doug McMillon pledging that Walmart is contributing to Florida's relief efforts from a hurricane.

He didn’t stop here. He took it a step further and continued posting progress photos. Then, traveled to Florida to visit the people who helped during the hurricane and the staff.

A LinkedIn post by Doug McMillion updating the community on the relief efforts he highlighted in a previous post.

This is a shining example of how a CEO can express empathy while also putting words into action and embodying the values and actions he posts about.

But of course, the elephant in the room is when a brand crisis occurs.

Your CEO’s voice and, most importantly, transparency, is a pivotal part of your crisis management. After all, according to our Brands Get Real report, 85% of people say a business can regain their trust if it admits to a mistake, and is transparent about the steps it will take to resolve the issue.

Social media provides a space where CEOs can directly share their response with their audience. And when a CEO gets it right, this can earn them praise in the press.

Takeaways for executives and social teams

No business is completely safe from facing public backlash in the wake of an unpopular decision or controversial event, and social media is a key place to get ahead of the conversation.

But there is immense business value in transparency. Our research found that 38% of consumers say a CEO’s transparency on social would inspire them to show a brand more loyalty, and 32% would purchase more from that business.

Then there’s the fact that 22% say a CEO’s transparency on social would positively influence their interest in working at his or her company.

So not only does an executive social presence lead to more purchases, it can also help boost interest in career opportunities at the company and improve corporate reputation—all leading to a real, significant financial impact on the business.

But the fear of saying the wrong thing is understandable. Working with your CEO on a crisis management strategy for their social channels and your larger strategy alleviates uncertainty—for your social team and your executives—if a brand crisis ever needs to be addressed.

If your CEO really wants to see some progress, set up social listening tools so they—or you—can monitor what people are saying about them and your company.

Sentiment Summary dashboard in the Sprout Social Listening tool

Listening and sentiment analysis are two great methods for “measuring” or evaluating reputation. If their efforts on social are being noticed, chances are someone somewhere is talking about it.

Social monitoring and listening tools can also help you and your CEO identify potential product issues or watchouts, and address them faster.

Best social leadership


While thought leadership is an easy get for CEOs on social media, social leadership is a relatively new concept. As described by Eliot Partnership, it’s “the emotional and empathetic leadership style of leaders who focus on connection, collaboration and communication. This type of leader understands the importance of building strong relationships within their team and creating a positive work environment.”

Patagonia’s leadership is a great example of supporting the company’s message and mission. Founder Yvon Chouinard made the incredible move to live the Earth-friendly mission of the company by giving all profits back to specific conservation projects, making Earth their “only shareholder.”

A LinkedIn post by Ryan Gellert about company values and the Patagonia founder donating all proceeds to improving our planet.

Their CEO Ryan Gellert has led the way with mission-supporting communication, emphasizing that taking care of their employees is part of the process. While he’s not as active on social as other executives in this guide, he regularly uses LinkedIn to share thought leadership that directly links back to the company’s values.

A LinkedIn article by Ryan Gellert that calls out companies who aren't taking action around the climate crisis.

Takeaways for executives and social teams

In today’s world, a CEO who goes silent on social and in supporting business values is doing a disservice to themselves, the company and their employees.

Corporate responsibility is crucial. Not to mention, it has real business value. Company alignment with personal values is 74% more important to consumers today than it was in 2021, according to The Sprout Social Index™ 2022. Leaders are pivotal in shaping these changes and supporting the message.

Use your executive channels to emphasize and amplify messages of social leadership, and the company values that support employees and society alike.

Report on channel success

At the end of the day, CEOs need to see that their efforts on social are paying off. What they really want is data that proves measurable success.

Establish a reporting cadence to help your CEO visualize the value they’re providing the organization with their commitment to social.

Some key metrics you might track include:

  • Engagement to identify what types of posts are resonating with their audience.
  • Reach to see the full impact of their posts.
  • Traffic from their posts, to see how many clicks to the company website are being driven by their content.
  • Increase in likes/followers on your CEO’s personal profile, as well as your business’. The more people you can bring into your inner circle, the better the chances they’ll become customers.
  • Earned media. If their articles become newsworthy (in a positive way), highlight this. Sprout’s employee advocacy platform calculates earned media value from employee-shared content automatically.

Using a reporting platform, like Sprout’s reporting and analytics tools, will make it easier for you to organize your data and present findings with pre-made graphs and data visualizations.

A screenshot of Sprout's LinkedIn analytics report.

Now’s the time to get CEOs on social media

The power dynamic between consumers and brands has shifted, putting people back behind the wheel. And they’ve got their sights firmly set on the truth.

As the demand for honesty and transparency from brands and businesses grows, social remains your CEO’s best bet for not only surviving the scrutiny, but also amplifying your brand and company values. It’s no longer a matter of “if” they should be on social, it’s “how”.

Use the examples in this guide to help your CEOs and executives build a powerful social presence that helps fuel your company’s social strategy, builds rapport with employees and ultimately builds your business.

To apply some of these tips to your own CEO’s online presence, check out our article about creating an executive communications strategy.