3 Things CEOs Should Never Lose Sight of in Social Media

This post was originally written for and published at Danny Brown’s Blog, but I wanted to share it with my readers here as well!

I just spent two full days in a phenomenal leadership simulation program entitled, “Magnetic Leadership” that was conceived, created and offered by Profitability Business Simulations.  I had the privilege of playing the role of the customer throughout the simulation, and then coaching the teams and their leaders after each round was completed.

During each round one person on each team was appointed “CEO” and was responsible for determining the overall direction and strategy for their team of eight people.  They had one hour to prepare the team for the 10-minute, high-stress simulation in which they were given a business challenge along with a fickle customer (me) and tasked with meeting the challenge while satisfying the customer.

Three Overarching CEO Success Principles

There were three overarching principles that were critical to the CEOs’ success that surfaced during the simulation.  As I was reflecting on how I would talk with my leadership-focused clients about how the experience confirmed the importance of these principles, I realized that it was imperative to talk with my social media clients about the experience as well.

Why?  Because these principles are such that they must be communicated and absorbed throughout the entire organization so that the company can exude them and livs them on a daily basis.  As a critical part of marketing, sales, business development and customer relationship building, employees on the front lines of social media must also exude and live these principles through their work.


As someone committed to ‘visionary leadership’ I was thrilled to see how the high-ranking leaders I was working with understood the importance of vision to their success, and how they got better over the 2-day experience at clarifying and communicating their vision.

In an organization, those individuals on the front line of social media must clearly understand the vision for the organization in order to exude that vision when talking and sharing content with customers.

For example, though Patagonia does not have a formal vision statement, it shares its vision when it writes about its “Reason for Being:”

Patagonia grew out of a small company that made tools for climbers. Alpinism remains at the heart of a worldwide business that still makes clothes for climbing – as well as for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running. These are all silent sports. None requires a motor; none delivers the cheers of a crowd. In each sport, reward comes in the form of hard-won grace and moments of connection between us and nature…

For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.

Patagonia’s vision is to enable its customers to experience that hard-won grace and moments of connection with nature, and to express its love of wild and beautiful places by saving them.

Now see how Patagonia’s social media efforts further their vision to enable customers to experience that hard-won grace and those moments of connection with nature…especially the wild and beautiful places.

From Facebook:


Picture Story: Conditions
Another in our occasional series of posts for the more visually oriented. This one goes out to all those lucky enough to charge off the couch and into the unknown without looking back or thinking twice . . . or doing much thinking at all, for that matter.

Story here: http://www.thecleanestline.com/2011/04/picture-story-conditions.html

And from Twitter…

Are Parks Protecting the Wildlife and Places They Were Created to Save? http://bit.ly/hRjCdz 8:47 PM Mar 30th via TypePad

Also check out a new video series from @dirtbagdiaries over on Nat Geo’s website, it’s called Fringe Elements http://on.natgeo.com/f6SraN Wednesday, April 06, 2011 5:03:47 PM via web

It’s clear to me that Patagonia employees immersed in social media understand the company’s vision and how critical it is to share it, and inspire through it, via what they communicate.


It was striking how in such short leadership simulations one’s personal and leadership values became so immediately obvious.

For example, whether or not a leader valued the input of others was demonstrated by how well they listened, because there’s a difference between asking for someone’s opinion “to appease that person” and asking because you truly want to know. Of course, this is just one of so many ways to demonstrate values.

It’s critical that CEOs not lose sight of the fact that the values that are rewarded in the organization are those that will ultimately be imbued in conversations with, and content shared with, customers socially.

Contrast the fact that I worked with a client who would not allow me to tweet birthday wishes from the organization’s Twitter account to some of our most loyal and active members  with the following, recent tweets from Patagonia:

Paul Marsh 1945-2011, Pioneer Patagonia Sales Rep http://bit.ly/geQKFl “Paul lit out this Saturday on the road that cannot be mapped.” Wednesday, April 06, 2011 7:47:57 PM via web

Bean’s Battle http://bit.ly/ecWCUB Rallying behind our friend Bean Bowers to help in his fight against cancer. Tuesday, April 05, 2011 8:47:59 PM via web

Which organization would you naturally gravitate toward; the one that allows itself to be human and places value on sharing the human experience or the one that believes doing so just isn’t professional?

Value Proposition

Your company’s value proposition is what sets you apart from your competition; what makes you unique and provides that niche in which you cannot be rivaled.  For Apple and Disney it’s about customer experience while for Walmart it’s low cost and for Nordstrom it’s service.

If Disney social media employees tweeted about low-cost tickets to Disney World or asked Facebook fans to share stories about how to explore the park on a budget, it simply wouldn’t fit with the brand’s value proposition.

Rather, you see tweets about unique customer experiences that cannot be had anywhere but Disney World:

Party like a princess: Attend a Royal Wedding tweetup at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion April 29. http://bit.ly/dQGg0c #DisneyRoyal 8:55 PM Apr 14th via CoTweet

Meet Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ Angelica at Magic Kingdom Park. http://bit.ly/ekT1mX about 15 hours ago via CoTweet

And yet, without guidance and clear communication from the CEO, an employee in a small company might make the mistake of expressing the company via social media in ways that are in direct contrast to its value proposition.

It is the CEO’s responsibility to ensure that all employees understand the vision, values and value proposition (amongst other things!) that the company is committed to, to be their head steward, and to never lose sight of how critical it is to align these principles with your company’s social media efforts.

–> If you’re in the C-suite of your company, ask yourself if you’ve communicated your vision, values and value proposition well enough so that employees in social media roles may do their jobs to the best of their ability and are empowered for success.  If not, you run the risk that what they share socially may not be aligned strategically!

–>If you’re in a social media role and you realize you’re not clear on these principles and priorities, make sure you ask and get clear direction!


Please join my Leadership Chat co-host Steve Woodruff as he leads a discussion about leadership and social media tomorrow night, May 17th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time.  I’ll miss this week’s chat because I’ll be spending time with CEOs from CEO Connection – I hope to share some insights gleaned from these meetings with you here later this week.

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it with others using the share links below.  I would also be honored if you would subscribe to my blog. Subscribe Here to receive posts in your email in-box. To receive posts via “READER” Subscribe Here.

Thank you for reading and for being part of this community – it means so much to me.

You can find me on Twitter at @LisaPetrilli and on LinkedIn. To hire me for Visionary Leadership programs, Magnetic Marketing Consulting or for the Social Media Concierge program, email me at [email protected].

Photo is Eiffel Tower Telescope by Jose and Roxanne.


  1. Love love loved this post…. It would seem we all had Social Media strategy on the brain the last few days.

    This post actually pairs really nicely (like a good cannoli and a Moscato di Pantelleria) with a little “nudge” I just posted over the weekend – discussing how Social Media shouldn’t be measured – but rather helps to measure us.


    Have a wonderful week… Looking forward to #LeadershipChat
    Robert Rose´s last blog post ..Social Media Shouldn’t Be Measured – It Should Measure Us

    • Hi Robert,

      Yes, we have! And I saw your post as well…love how we content strategists complement each other so well. :) Thank you, as always, for your tremendous support – it means the world to me!

  2. Hi Lisa,

    An interesting and thought-provoking post – I like the way you have linked the C-level activity to the front line staff (social media in this example).

    Tying the Vision to the Values is spot on – driving the Value Proposition from these two is absolutely key – it avoids putting the cart before the horse – and is at the heart of customer-centricity.

    From an employee perspective, the Vision and Values should also feed through to:

    – measurement against the Vision/Values (how well are we doing),
    – communication (how are we ensuring ALL staff deliver the same brand experience),
    – leadership (by exemplifying appropriate behaviours),
    – reward and recognition (catching people doing things right),
    – recruitment (hire/fire for attitude),

    Haven’t heard Steve Woodruff speak for years!

    Great post!
    Dean Carlton´s last blog post ..Still focussing on your products You’re doomed to extinction

    • Dean,

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you adding the employee’s perspective here – and so thoughtfully. This is a significant and valuable addition to the post – thank you so much! Were you able to join in for Leadership Chat last night to reconnect with Steve? I wasn’t able to make it but hope to see you there soon. All the best and thank you so much for taking the time to really ponder this question and to share your added insights.


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