Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How a Social Media Maven Ranks on Her Own Turf

As public relations professionals, we are typically the silent surveyor during an interview, the nodding head of approval as the camera rolls, the invisible mouthpiece that guides communications. On the social media front we play the role of auditor, monitoring and sometimes engaging in conversations about the companies and brands that are under our auspices.
It is less common that we find ourselves in the spotlight, forced to evaluate our personal reputation and check in on our own public persona. Similarly, I suspect that most executives’ foremost concern is with the public sentiment of the brand they represent than the perception of themselves as individuals. However, leadership must also cultivate their online reputation with comparable prudence as invariably individuals reflect on the companies they keep.
This week I appraised the social media sentiment of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, known for her savvy business skills as well as commitment to empowering female business leaders. Credited for building Facebook into a profitable enterprise, Sandberg is indelibly associated with the social network’s identity and success. But how does she stack up when she is the subject du jour on her own social media platform and the blogosphere?
While opinion of her efforts on behalf of women leaders varies, it seems Sandberg is generally a neutral subject and would benefit from a greater degree of personal social media engagement. Sandberg, who has a Facebook page and a Twitter profile, is minimally active, remitting 4 Tweets to her 4,232 followers since March 2009. Surely, we should expect a greater degree of presence from a social media maven of Sandberg’s stature. 
Sandberg's social media sentiment is generally neutral and positive.

Despite her tacit digital nature, Sandberg generates social media buzz as a fixture on the public speaker circuit and a popular subject of main stream media coverage. Her highly viewed TED talk in December 2010 on why there are too few women leaders was seen by over 600,000 people on the web and led to hundreds of social media comments. Similarly, a recent article in The New Yorker incited myriad blog postings about Sandberg and her role as a powerful woman in male dominated Silicon Valley.

Social Mention rates Sandberg as a subject associated with “girlpower” who has a group of impassioned commentators and a decent degree of influence. The small, albeit significant, negative blog posts and comments criticize her of being privileged and out of touch with the reality of obstacles to female leaders. Sandberg is chastised for blaming women for their own shortcomings and her success partially attributed to her status as “white, conventionally attractive, and socially graceful” along with her Harvard education.
Positive commentary focuses on her “tour de force” messaging to advance women, calling Sandberg inspiring, absorbing and a capable leader. There is even hope in the blogosphere that she will be named the next Treasure Secretary. Sandberg clearly is a thought provoking presence in social networks with a compelling message. Hopefully, we’ll hear more in the future from Femme Facebook herself.

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting! Your though about how most executives’ foremost concern is with the public sentiment of the brand they represent rather than the perception of themselves as individuals was definitely thought provoking. It seems that executives such as Sandberg achieve social media success simply based on their celebrity personas and therefore do not have to work as hard to engage a following... people follow them purely based on who they are rather than the value they bring to their networks. I do think that Sandberg has the same responsibility as any other executive to dedicate time and effort into her social media initiatives. The fact that she is COO of Facebook yet has been minimally active on Twitter is quite embarrassing if you ask me. How can you hold a C suite position at a social media company when you are not active on social media? Hopefully she begins to internalize all of the advice from flourishing social media literature that stresses the importance of authenticity, transparency and commitment.