More CEO's using social media to connect with customers and employees

More CEO’s using social media to connect with customers and employees

CEO’s prefer LinkedIn, use Twitter, shun Facebook–for now

It’s happening. The number of chief executive officers who are social has more than doubled since 2010, increasing from 36 percent to 80 percent today, a recent study released by public relations firm Weber Shandwick shows.

For its 2015 report, “Socializing Your CEO III: From Marginal to Mainstream”, Weber Shandwick worked with partner KRC Research to look at how CEOs running the top 50 Fortune 500 companies are using social media.

CEOs-meeting

The study found that 80 percent of CEO’s from the world’s top companies are social, either through their company website (68%), company YouTube channel (38%) or a social network (28%).

New CEO’s (in office three years or less) are quicker to take up social media, 80 percent now using social media vs. 48 percent in 2012. New CEO’s understand from the start that sociability allows them to reach wider audiences, faster, Weber Shandwick reported.

U.S. CEO’s are the most social at 94 percent, surpassing their European (84%) and Asia-Pacific (55%) peers. The top engagement tools are social networks, You Tube videos and company websites. The study also found that 76 percent of women executives are social through their company websites (60%), company YouTube channels (40%) and social networks (30%).

A CEO is considered “social” if he or she has a public and verifiable social network account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Weibo, or Mixi; engages on the company’s website through messages, pictures, or video; appears in a video on the company YouTube or YouKu channel; or authors an external blog.

While CEO’s have undergone a transformation over the part five years, from mostly absent in social media to socially engaged, the overall number of CEO’s using social networks is still low at 28 percent.

LinkedIn tops the list with 22 percent, up from 6 percent in 2012. Most Fortune 500 CEO’s, 73 percent, prefer the B2B network. Twitter rate of use also gained ground, increasing to 10 percent from 2 percent three years ago. Facebook didn’t make the cut at all.

Why many CEO’s are not using social networks

Despite numerous surveys, polls, news reports and academic research pointing to social networking as the best way for executives to communicate and engage with stockholders, customers and employees, most Fortune 500 CEO’s aren’t jumping on the social network bandwagon. Yet.

Time commitment, return on time invested and risks of being a public figure are among the main reasons CEO’s give for not using social networks, according to Weber Shandwick’s report. After all, they have companies to run.

Social networks are risky. In today’s politically correct climate, CEO’s fear saying the wrong thing online and unleashing a tidal wave of criticism from unhappy customers, disgruntled employees and others who could threaten company reputation and provoke advertisers to pull their ads. As a result, CEO’s of public companies are advised to have their staff check, edit and approve every word to be posted, which defeats the purpose of being open, engaged and transparent.

Nevertheless, experts maintain that the benefits of social networks outweigh the risks, noting that having a social presence puts CEO’s in a better position to connect with existing and prospective customers and employees. Furthermore, engaged CEO’s are viewed more positively than those with no social presence.

People want to see CEO’s online. In another study, Weber Shandwick surveyed 630 senior professionals from around the world and found that 76 percent of executives think it’s a good idea for CEO’s to be social because it improves communication, reputation and business results. For more information, read “The Social CEO: Executives Tell All.

The bottom line is that there is no turning back. Social media is here to stay. It is a crucial part of business-marketing strategies and costly to ignore. Progressive CEO’s embrace social media and use it to their advantage.
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G. Torres is a business writer and editor.

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