Facebook has seen an uptake of business leaders creating their own pages on the social media platform as a way to connect with the public, within the last three months alone.
Execs including Beth Comstock, vice chair of General Electric’s Business Innovations unit; Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman; Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group; Jeff Jones, EVP and CMO at Target; Devin Wenig, eBay president and CEO; and Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, have recently created public-facing pages on Facebook.
"In the past you might have seen business leaders communicating via brand pages on Facebook," said Craig Mullaney, Facebook’s strategic partner development manager. "But what we are seeing now is executives [also] leveraging their own persona as a means of connecting with those same constituents."
It wasn’t until three months ago that Loic Le Meur, a cofounder at LeWeb, as well as an entrepreneur and investor at LinkedIn, Lending Club, Evernote and other startups, started using Facebook as a PR tool. In fact, he now considers Facebook his go-to social media platform for communicating with the public.
What drew him in was Facebook’s "Live" video feature, which launched last August, but was only available to celebrities with a verified Page. Eventually, the feature was rolled out to all users in December.
"I have been on social networks since 2003; I am a LinkedIn Influencer," said Le Meur. "But I really only used Facebook to talk to my friends; it wasn’t so impressive [as a PR tool]."
In January, Le Meur created a public page on Facebook and started experimenting with Live to get feedback on his startup leade.rs, an app and a website where people can discover the top people in their field.
At first he created live videos randomly, but quickly noticed an impressive uptick in views and engagement numbers . The feedback he was getting from his Facebook audience was also "really helping" him as an entrepreneur.
Last month, he started doing live videos for one hour each day, which he said he will continue to do. Le Meur’s page already has over 160,000 followers and he said he is gaining more than one thousand per day. A lot of people are following due to his video posts, he added.
"My approach with Live was to try to do something original and share the way I am building my startup in an authentic and transparent way," Le Meur told PRWeek. "I wanted to come across as a founder telling his friends what I am doing and what I need."
Each day, Le Meur updates his audience on where he is with leade.rs and gets feedback and advice from them.
"Yesterday I asked for advice on logo design on Live and [my audience] came up with links, introductions to designers, and an idea for a logo contest," he said. "On this platform, I get hundreds of comments on my videos each time and have 500-1000 people who watch and help."
Le Meur also conducts live meetings with well-known execs. 31,000 people tuned in on Facebook last week to watch a live stream of a meeting between Le Meur and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. Another meeting he streamed on Live with Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover garnered 8,000 live watchers.
Mark Zuckerberg has even tuned in for Le Meur’s videos.
Facebook Live has aided Le Meur with investor relations and brand partnerships. He explained that it is like "having a focus group I can tap into anytime."
In terms of why Facebook is now his preferred social media platform for PR, he said simply, "It is where people live." Le Meur said he also uses Periscope and Twitter, but engagement numbers are lower.
"I get 100 times more viewers on Facebook Live than I do on Periscope," he said. "It is nice to have a real audience as well, rather than just usernames." He added that on Facebook, his audience consists mainly of business people.
Aside from Facebook’s updates to its Live and Messenger features, Mullaney said more execs are adopting the platform as a comms tool to help close the widely publicized credibility gap between CEOs and the broader public. He explained that people want to hear more from CEOs and see them engage in an authentic way the builds trust.
When asked for his take on experts’ claim that temporary, anonymous platforms like Snapchat, Whisper, and Yik Yak are gaining popularity among younger generations while social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are on the way out, Mullaney let the numbers speak for him.
"There are a billion people using Facebook for more than 45 minutes every day around the world and more than 40% of American adults – and 88% of millennials -- get their news via Facebook," he said. "It is absolutely a place where an executives message can connect with the audience they want to reach."
How execs should use Facebook, straight from the horse’s mouth
Mullaney’s advice for execs hoping to use Facebook to communicate publicly is to be authentic, consistent, and ready to learn.
"Authenticity is the coin of the realm on Facebook and public figures who bring themselves and their voice to fans tend to have the best experience," he said. "Whatever your particular cadence of engagement is going to be, try not to go big blocks of time where you are not communicating at all."
Most importantly, execs must listen to their audience and understand what they want to hear from them. Additionally, noted Mullaney, execs must be prepared to learn new ways of communicating as the Facebook’s platform evolves.
In terms of what to avoid, Mullaney said do not recreate a press release on Facebook.
"Wherever possible, share natively," he said. "Rather than copying a link to a video or an article or to a blog post you have done on the company blog, sharing that content natively to Facebook will reach and engage more people."
Popular exec Facebook posts in recent months include a video from Edelman highlighting the most important takeaways in the firm’s Annual Trust Barometer study. Mullaney said that has been one of the best performing posts he has seen from a CEO on Facebook, garnering over 600,000 views and 172 shares.
Sprint CEO Claure’s Facebook post last month about acquiring Miami property to launch a Major League Soccer franchise there also got a lot of attention, with over 23,000 reactions.
Claure has also been sharing on his Facebook page what he has been learning by listening to customers via his cross-country listening tour.
"You see robust engagement between consumers and [Claure] via his Facebook page that you wouldn’t necessarily see on Sprint’s Facebook page," said Mullaney. "He is fluent in both English and Spanish and shares posts in both languages. You get a sense of who he is as a person."
And this is how other execs are using Facebook Live:
- T-Mobile CEO John Legere took fans to visit T-Mobile's Times Square store via Facebook Live video.
- Comstock went Live on Facebook with Aaron Levie, Box CEO, taking questions on innovation and entrepreneurship from fans.
- AOL cofounder and former CEO Steve Case brought fans and readers along on his book tour though live video, including footage of himself "re-applying" to Harvard Business School.