Most CEOs not tapping into social media

Study of top CEOs finds that 64 percent aren't tap into social networking to communicate with customers, stakeholders, says PR firm Weber Shandwick.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

A majority 64 percent of CEOs are not using social media to engage with the public and other stakeholders, according to a new study from PR firm Weber Shandwick.

Weber Shandwick

Released yesterday, the report "Socializing Your CEO: From (Un)Social to Social" (PDF) looked at the social media presence and activities of CEOs from the world's top 50 companies.

Among those CEOs profiled, 93 percent have been reaching out to people outside their companies in traditional ways. Most have been quoted in news and business publications, while 40 percent have talked to audiences directly at public events.

But in the online world, most information on top CEOs is found through Wikipedia, which is typically written by people outside the companies. Otherwise, only 36 percent of the CEOs were found to engage with the public through their own corporate Web sites via podcasts, blogs, and YouTube channels or through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace.

Why aren't more CEOs taking greater advantage of social media?

"There are several reasons why CEOs are not more social," Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick's chief reputation strategist and online reputation expert, said in a statement. "Time is better spent with customers and employees, their reputations are at an all-time low among the general public, the return on investment has not yet been proven, legal counsel tends to caution against it, and anything that smacks of 'celebrity CEO' is a no-win."

The study also found that the most admired CEOs had a greater online presence (41 percent) than those who were less admired (28 percent). CEOs with more years on the job tended to be heavier social networkers. And CEOs running American companies proved more socially active online than those in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), Asia Pacific, and Latin America.

Among the CEOs who are social, 28 percent post messages and letters on their corporate Web sites, 18 percent make use of podcasts and company YouTube channels, while less than 10 percent use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Among those 10 percent, though, is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who recently admitted in a CNET interview that he's fairly active on Facebook.

"It's not surprising that CEOs are less inclined to participate in social media given the perceived risk and time commitment required to engage in two-way conversations," Chris Perry, president of Weber Shandwick Digital Communications, said in a statement. "What's surprising, however, is how few CEOs are using social technologies as mediums to share information and company perspective. These are potentially powerful tools for real-time communication."

To conduct its research, Weber Shandwick tracked the online activities of 60 CEOs across the 50 top global companies. The PR firm looked at search engines, company Web sites, social media channels, and other online outlets.