How CFOs Engage on Social Media: 5 Key Insights

By Robert Half on May 21, 2015 at 2:00pm

When it comes to social media, is the CFO the final C-suite holdout? The answer is yes … and no.

Without question, finance executives haven’t embraced social media to the degree that chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) have. However, finding a “Social CFO” is no longer the equivalent of balancing the company’s books on the very first try. In fact, CFOs now turn to social media to get the scoop on financial (and sports) news, connect with peers and friends, and share videos, pictures, and articles of interest.

So, what’s prompting CFOs and other finance leaders to finally join the conversation?

The reasons are many — and varied. They include:

  • Becoming a more strategic leader
  • Tapping into a broader peer network
  • Communicating with investors and gauging their sentiment
  • Relating better to staff and employees
  • Gaining a “hands-on” perspective of why social technologies are disrupting industries

Whatever the motives, CFOs are starting to realize that social media is not only for millennials. It also has a place in every executive’s communication arsenal.

How are CFOs engaging in social media?

My firm, Leadtail, collaborated with Intacct to study that very question by looking at the Twitter activity of 501 senior finance professionals during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Specifically, we analyzed 48,050 tweets and 25,212 shared links to better understand what finance executives are concerned with, what they’re reading and sharing, and which people, publications and brands most influence them on social media.

Here are five things we learned that can help you become a better finance leader using social media:

1. Be human (really, it's OK)

Despite the perception that CFOs are “all business,” their social media behavior shows more personal affinities and interests than other C-suite executives we’ve researched.

Yes, finance executives use terms like CFO, VP, CPA, Finance and Accounting in their Twitter bios. But they also include personal words such as Husband, Dad, Family and Kids. And in addition to topics like finance, leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship, they actively use Twitter to engage in lively conversations about politics, sports and current events.

So, go ahead and use social media to connect professionally and personally. Remember you’re engaging with people, so it’s OK to be human, too.

2. Explore a range of social networks

This may come as a surprise to some, but CFOs aren’t just on LinkedIn. Many CFOs also share YouTube videos, and photos and status updates from Facebook and Instagram. Put another way, finance executives are like most people in that they use social media to share content from multiple social networks — especially during the holidays!

Whether it’s the major social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter or up-and-comers like Instagram, Vine and SlideShare, discover which social networks make sense for you while experimenting with others, too.

3. Tap into the right content sources to become more strategic

Finance executives are looking to play a more strategic role in helping the C-suite navigate what’s happening in the marketplace. That means they’re making it a priority to read and share publications that keep them current with the latest financial and economic news, thought leadership perspectives, and technology innovations.

Follow and read these (top 10) publications if you want to have more strategic conversations with your boss, colleagues and internal teams:

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. Forbes
  3. Business Insider
  4. WSJ Blogs
  5. TechCrunch
  6. Harvard Business Review
  7. Inc.
  8. The Business Journals
  9. Bloomberg
  10. Entrepreneur

4. Build stronger partnerships with your peers

Having a common understanding of the big issues your colleagues are grappling with is key to bridging any communication gaps and developing strong partnerships. With that in mind, CFOs are tuning into many topics grabbing the attention of CMOs and CIOs: mobile, big data, innovation, technology and leadership. Maybe finance executives should start thinking about the Internet of Things (#IoT), too?

Are you “listening in” on the conversations your peers are having on social media? Searching the top hashtags used by CMOs and CIOs will give you insights into the issues keeping them up at night.

5. Become influential with your target audience

One of the benefits of social media is its ability to help you build an audience of friends, colleagues and contacts who have the same interests as you. In the context of business, this can mean prospective customers (or employers) and others influential to the success of your business or personal brand.

On Twitter, we gain insights into influence based on how often someone is retweeted or mentioned. For the CFOs we looked at, they liked to retweet and mention articles from @Forbes, @WSJ, @NYTimes and @LinkedIn.

CFOs are still relatively early in their participation on social media. That means you have plenty of opportunity to build a name for yourself using social media. Start by sharing and engaging those publications, brands and people that influence your target audience. This will put you on the path to becoming influential, too!

The full social insights report on CFOs also includes the list of the top 25 news and lifestyle content sources and the 50 publications, brands and people most retweeted by CFOs.

This post was authored by Carter Hostelley, CEO of Leadtail.

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