On: October 16, 2014
Social media is the most profound communication advance the world has seen since the invention of the printing press. It is the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of humanity with over a billions users on Facebook alone. It is transforming society, changing business and fomenting revolution. By any measure, social media is kind of a big deal.
So why are so few major CEOs using it?
A study by CEO found that nearly 70 percent of FORTUNE 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all. Two-thirds of those who do use social media only use one platform – LinkedIn in most cases. Less than 9 percent Tweet, and of those, about half of them have posted fewer than 100 tweets.
Curiously (or maybe not) Instagram is more popular with big time CEOs than the sad, lonely world of ‘no one came to my party’ Google Plus. Of course, that’s still less than 3 percent of CEOs.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is the only CEO with a presence on all the major social platforms, though, not surprisingly, he isn’t very active on Twitter.
What’s with all the anti-social behavior?
CEOs are often a key part of a big company’s brand. As the face of the organization, they have a responsibility to engage with their customers and stakeholders, and there’s simply no better way to do that effectively and at scale than social media.
By using social media effectively, a CEO can:
- Develop a strong platform for proactive, unfiltered communication
- Humanize the company
- Support the company’s inbound marketing program
- Positively impact corporate reputation
- Build her or his personal brand
- Build relationships with customers
- Showcase her or his leadership style
- Establish a presence amongst media and analysts
- Better manage a crisis situation
Of course, the key here is using social media effectively. That means no streams of corporate jargon or 20thcentury PR doublespeak. It means not posting only links to press releases or financial results. It means taking part in the conversation.
A good social media program requires the CEO to be authentic, even if someone else is actually writing the posts. Social CEO content must reflect the vision and personality of the leader – otherwise it becomes more noise in the market. And no one wants more noise.
With all the benefits, why are so few CEOs embracing social media?
The big answer is risk. CEOs don’t become leaders of the FORTUNE 500 companies by taking foolish risks. And with the continued difficulty in measuring the ROI of social media, and the very real risks it entails, the business case for executive engagement on social media is often considered questionable.
Then there are the lawyers – enough said.
And there is a still a lingering perception that social media is not a “professional” sphere for a top executive, that it is somehow juvenile and inappropriate. Today, that’s demonstrably false. On the other hand, not every CEO, and not every company, needs to engage on social media. It needs to make sense for the business and the leader.
As social communication becomes normalized, it will be increasingly difficult for high profile CEOs to stand apart. Their absence will be glaring. Perhaps it already is.