Get Tips to Help Leaders Maintain a Healthy Online Profile

Amidst the slew of recent CEO scandals and subsequent resignations, there’s growing concern over who organizations can trust when it comes to identifying their next leaders. While it’s hard to foresee hiccups down the road, social media can help.

Even once leaders are in place, their social media activities can portray the entire organization in a certain light, for good or ill. That’s why it’s important for them to be mindful of every tweet, blog or online post they put out there.

Ryan Pollock, president and director of business development at recruiting firm Objective Paradigm, advocates straightforwardness, but said executives should learn to use discretion.

“When you’re an executive, it’s all about judgment,” Pollock said. “People can be outspoken about what they are and who they are, I just don’t know that social media is the right platform to do it.” Releasing information into cyberspace — whether it’s personal or professional — can have a widespread impact, especially coming from a person of influence.

Organizations should expect their executives to demonstrate a sense of conscientiousness because they’ve been placed in a position of power, Pollock said. “You have to be careful when the job and responsibilities that you have, have a significant impact on others that either report to you or are affected by the decisions that you make,” he said.

Pollock suggests steering clear of certain topics to avoid trouble. “Not anything that’s too political, not anything that’s too personal — you’d want to stay away from any type of personal opinions that can be influential to others,” he said.

Still, maintaining one’s private and public personas separately is often a struggle when they are interwoven so inextricably online, said Steve Nicholls, author of Social Media in Business. But the best way to navigate the murky waters of the Web is to adopt a policy of straightforwardness.

Here are four tips for executives to maintain a healthy social media profile:

Be consistent. The greatest challenge and at the same time the greatest contributor to credibility is consistency. In terms of social media, it is important to keep public beliefs consistent with private practices.

Find the right fit. “Don’t pretend to be something you’re not,” Nicholls said. The harder executives try to fit a mold, the more they will fall into the trap of lying about who they are and what they truly want to convey.

Practice honest leadership. Transparency builds trust. Being honest about one’s actions both in and out of the office is indicative of an executive’s accountability. Someone who is open about personal activities and preferences is less trouble than someone with something to hide.

Admit when you’re wrong. In the event a leader has fallen into the trap of misleading employees or the public about personal details, the surest form of recovery is to come clean.

The key is openness, authenticity and transparency. The Information Age has us all living in glass houses, but this can be beneficial when embraced responsibly.

In a Bloomberg article titled “Openness and the Internet,” author Jeff Jarvis discussed the opportunities presented by an open society. He writes: “In the wake of the financial crisis, the public and government will demand far greater disclosure. Companies should view transparency not as punishment but instead as a necessary step in rebuilding trust and repairing relationships.”

Mohini Kundu is a former editorial intern at Talent Management magazine. She can be reached at