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This article on a personal social media strategy was a lightbulb moment. It is accepted that social media plays an important role in personal brand building. Critical when you are building your own business or if you are likely to be in the job market.

An issue that has not come to view, particularly in the early and slightly behind the rest of the world stages of social media in South Africa, is the personal branding of high level business leaders.

At first the idea may seem a little absurd.  Running a national corporate surely requires no personal branding and someone who has reached this level must be branded well enough.  However, it begins to make a lot more sense when viewed from the perspective of the public domain being more and more transparent.

The greatest argument for businesses to have an active social presence is that conversations are taking place about their business whether or not the business is participating and a continued absence from the conversation is dangerous.  In this light the same can be said for business leaders, the C-Suite.  Today’s connected and savvy consumers are interested in the personality of  business and they recognise that personality reflects those in charge.

It follows then that conversation will begin to include those executives and indeed it already has.  The example given in the link at the beginning of this article highlights the point:  An executive might give a semi-private (or indeed private) briefing where his personal views are expressed, perhaps on controversial topics.  Those views can very quickly find their way into the public domain through tweets, facebook posts or blogs and from there to  mainstream media.

In the current set up, and admitedly I’m thinking more government departments here, what follows is a scramble of clarification and counter clarification from media officers and spokespersons which just serve to further confuse matters. The question arises, were comments in a personal capacity, or as the CEO of the business and who should respond? If this particular CEO has not cultivated a public profile he or she will naturally shy away from public discussion which exacerbates the problem even more.

Executives must have a personal digital strategy to tackle their social presence. A Twitter account and a Blog would seem the minimum. This provides a platform where issues can be clarified, where this is required, but more importantly to build the brand of an executive as someone with strong leadership and a willingness to engage.  These build confidence and trust.

How do our high profile business leaders stack up?  Clearly this is not something on their minds.  I’m sure this will change in time.  I slected 5 MDs or CEOs at random from Who’s Who South Africa and then had a look at their social profiles.  This is what I found:

Maria Ramos, Group Chief Executive for ABSA. No Twitter profile or blog and, quite surprisingly, no LinkedIn profile. On the plus side, as one of South Africa’s most influential woman the social conversation about her is very positive.

Stuart Aberdein, MD Digicore Holdings. Basic (personal) Facebook profile, no LinkedIn profile, no Twitter account and no blog.

Jabu Mabuza, CEO Goldreef Holdings Limited. No Facebook profile, no LinkedIn, no Twitter account and no blog.

Grant Pattison, CEO Massmart Holdings Limited.  Given the controversy surrounding Wallmart a social media strategy is important and it seems some thought has been given to it.  He has a restricted Twitter profile where followers need to be approved, private and work Facebook profiles but no blog.

The issue will become more pressing as more businesses go social.

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