How Social Media is Transforming the Role of the CEO

By: Brandon Chesnutt

It’s not a coincidence that in virtually all cases where a CEO’s or entrepreneur’s brand has become enmeshed with the brand of the business, that business occupies a coveted place in the professional brandscape.

Think about Bill Gates and Microsoft, Tesla and Elon Musk, or Apple and Steve Jobs. The creativity and innovation we associate with those brands are/were personified in the person of those chief executives, larger than life figures whose energy and initiative have become inextricably linked with the companies they built.

But here is how the game is changing: you don’t have to be a prodigy or an iconic global company to leverage your brand.

The rise of social media and the equal opportunity nature of its digital megaphone means that your capacity to build and burnish your personal brand to boost your business is limited only by your ability to connect with the public and build a loyal following online. Being a CEO today is, arguably more than ever, a cult of personality. And social media allows you to put that personality on full display.

It’s now a race to build a platform and a presence, and some CEOs and entrepreneurs are already up on the medal stand. Consider Andy Frisella, the health and fitness mogul behind the wildly popular fitness brand 1st Phorm International. Frisella, who also founded Supplement Superstores and Paradise Distribution, has more than half a million Instagram followers (on top of an additional 1 million 1st Phorm followers across its social footprint), and has used everything from his own personal Facebook page to the popular MFCEO podcast to connect with consumers and cultivate his personal brand. Frisella’s journey is outlined in a recent Forbes article, How One CEO Hit $100M In Sales By Building His Career Through Social Media.

Like more and more successful entrepreneurs, Frisella’s personal brand is as important as the brand of his business(es). In fact, in almost every way that matters, his personal brand is his professional brand. Today’s CEO can both literally and figuratively become the face of the company. The character of a company is so frequently connected to the personality and perspective of its founder(s), that this process can be both seamless and intuitive. And when you replace a logo or an abstract corporate entity with a charismatic and relatable presence, you can give your brand and business real and lasting emotional traction with target audiences.

Here’s what CEOs and entrepreneurs looking to build their personal brand online should be thinking about:

Building a true connection and instilling a feeling of belonging to something larger than yourself is enormously powerful. It’s right there in the name: social media is social, fueled by personal engagement and collaborative exchanges. But creating that community takes time. You have to work at it, building slowly and organically, without sacrificing authenticity. Experienced social media specialists understand how to make that happen, and how to develop a sophisticated digital strategy that enhances both your personal and professional brands.

Frisella and 1st Phorm work hard to motivate and inspire. To the extent that it’s possible, give your customers and potential customers reasons to get excited about what you can do for them–or what you can help them do for themselves. Nothing is as alluring as potential, or as appealing as possibility.

Engaging your followers in a way that boosts your personal profile and enhances your professional brand means speaking to them, not at them. If you treat social media like just another advertising platform, you’re doing it wrong. Be accessible, interactive, and responsive to your followers.

Building your personal brand in a way that is beneficial for your professional endeavors is fundamentally an exercise in blurring the lines. CEOs and entrepreneurs can and should share content across multiple social media platforms, and shouldn’t miss opportunities to cross-promote. Over time, your personal brand becomes interchangeable with your business brand–and, if you grow your personal brand the right way, that’s a very good thing.

Andy Frisella sums up the entrepreneurial brand-building potential of social media perfectly: “Entrepreneurship has changed, it’s not about fancy boardroom meetings and custom suits…it’s about how good you are at connecting with people and solving their problems…”. We are in the midst of a huge digital rush for online influence and brand real estate in the hearts and minds of consumers, and entrepreneurs shouldn’t miss an opportunity to stake their personal claim.