The events of this year, from the global pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement have shown how critical it is for business leaders to participate in vital conversations with customers, employees and the public. Nowadays, we not only want to hear from the CEOs of our favourite brands, we expect to. Indeed, nearly three-quarters of employees believe it’s critical for their CEO to speak out on issues of the day, from political events to the future of work. 

And social media is proving to be the place for these conversations. The best “digital leaders” today are finding ways to speak out with authenticity, transparency and passion on the issues that matter. Having worked in executive communications for nearly a decade, I’ve seen firsthand the impact digital leadership makes in terms of building trust, deepening relationships, and having an impact. 

This year’s top leaders on social media have now been recognized in the 2020 CSuite Digital Leadership Awards. Open to business leaders globally, and judged by a panel of experts in social media, business and media, the awards spotlight influencers using social and digital channels to inspire and influence. 

From small business owners to heads of global companies, here are this year’s top nine digital leaders and how they inspire their loyal followers:

Best Leader on LinkedIn: David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs

Industry analysis. Company news. #CorporateCulture. This Digital Leader takes business networking to a whole new level.

With a focus on leading with transparency and accountability, David uses his LinkedIn to share his thought leadership, management perspectives and major firmwide announcements. As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, he immediately adapted to the new challenges and regularly shared Goldman Sachs’ support and response, with a focus on impacted small businesses and communities. 

Best Leader on Instagram: Michele Romanow, President of Clearbanc

This Digital Leader has mastered the art of Instagram by using compelling visuals AND video to tell a story about their business, values and leadership style.

Michele is unapologetically herself — and that shines through her Instagram. She posts relevant and educational videos with topics ranging from leadership, management and entrepreneurship. Since the pandemic started, Michele has been an active voice on social media, urging people to stay at home, raising awareness to stop the spread of fake news and using her platform to help those affected by the crisis.

Best Leader on Facebook: Brian Scudamore, CEO of O2E Brands (1-800-Got-Junk?) 

Catchy posts. Heartfelt updates. Live videos. This Digital Leader dominates social media’s biggest and most versatile platform with a Public Figure Page or Personal Profile.

Through genuine and energetic social media posts, Brian shows his “if I can do it, you can do it” attitude. Whether it’s shaving his hair into a mohawk for charity or speaking at a company-wide video conference in flannel pajama pants, he frequently shares behind-the-scenes looks at life as a business owner, shows what corporate culture is like and offers insights to aspiring entrepreneurs. 

Best Leader on Twitter: Jack Salzwedel, CEO of American Family Insurance 

Timely commentary. Unbeatable for being retweetable. This Digital Leader showcases personality and insight in 280-character bites.

Jack has used Twitter for nearly a decade to connect with customers and employees — and he’s one of the few property and casualty insurance CEOs actively using social media. Jack’s best use of Twitter is his ability to engage. You’ll find him actively retweeting, following up on his audience’s recommendations and replying to his comments. He also uses his platform to call out his own privilege and urge others to do the same in support for Black Lives Matter.

Best Video Leadership: Karen Cahn, CEO and Founder of iFundwomen

Lights. Camera. Leadership. This Digital Leader leverages live and recorded video to connect with employees, customers and followers across digital platforms.

A pioneer in tech and media who started YouTube’s Branded Entertainment business, Karen uses video to have meaningful and honest conversations with her audience. Whether it’s casual check-ins or giving advice to iFundwomen’s community of business owners and entrepreneurs, her direct and frank personality is refreshing to see. She also has a powerful IGTV series, “How To Be White, Tangible Advice for Business Leaders” that addresses racial inequality.

Business Leader Taking a Stand: Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal

#CSR. #SocialForGood. This Digital Leader harnesses the power of their platform to support social causes and shine a light on issues inside and outside the workplace.

Dan has invested in social media to inform, engage and influence, using his platforms to authentically connect with employees and customers on matters of societal importance. From posts that highlight PayPal’s ESG priorities to taking action for racial equity and social justice, he leverages social media to reach PayPal’s mission and most importantly, follows it up with action. 

Best Blog or Op-Ed by a Business Leader: Ganes Kesari, Co-founder and Head of Analytics at Gramener

Original insights. Passion and purpose. This Digital Leader shares wisdom and drives business results in blog posts or published articles devoured by followers.

As an AI thought leader and regular contributor to leading magazines such as TechCrunch and Entrepreneur, Ganes is on a mission to simplify data science and help everyone understand its true potential. Through his articles, he shares not only his expertise on data science innovation, but also his futuristic views on the industry as a whole. 

Best Podcast Hosted by a Business Leader: Mike Payne & Mitzi Payne, Hosts of Waves Social Podcast

This Digital Leader has their own podcast where they tackle issues in their industry, talk shop with other influencers and connect with their community.

With the goal of educating peers and up-and-coming creatives on the world of social media, Mike and Mitzi created a podcast where they share their own insights as social and content strategists and interview guest experts. They spark original, meaningful conversations and have also charted on the Apple Podcasts “Top Shows” list in the Business category.

Crisis Leadership Communications: Paulina Cameron, CEO of Forum for Women Entrepreneurs

From social media to blogs and videos, this digital leader uses their platform to guide stakeholders through unprecedented challenges. 

Paulina has been an advocate for women for over a decade. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, she’s provided a steady stream of relevant and needed content, supporting women entrepreneurs across the country. She continues to champion entrepreneurs by sharing honest reflections on life in social isolation and candidly sharing information from government and experts on her social media in a comprehensible way. 

Having a platform is one thing, but going above and beyond to use that platform to share ideas and drive change is what makes a strong digital leader. And the list of leaders doing just that is certainly not limited to these nine. Who’s a social savvy leader you admire? Let us know in the comments below!