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Social Engagement Of CEOs: An Analysis

Report Shows Fortune 500 Companies Fail To Get Online

Think of old white guys, and there are two pretty standard stereotypes that spring to mind. One, they probably aren’t all over this new-fangled social media fad. Second, they are probably the CEO of a Fortune 500 company with the livelihoods of thousands of people in their hands. Now new research has demonstrated that there is a significant overlap between these two groups.

Rarely has there been such a disconnect between how those at the head of the economy operate and everyone else. It’s taken for granted that the super-wealthy will be a little out of touch – it’s terribly difficult to get reception for BBC3 on a yacht in St. Tropez – but considering that social media is now not so much an aspect of life as the lens through which many people view the world, these latest figures are a little appalling.

The most outstanding figure revealed by the report is that 68% of CEOs have no presence whatsoever on social media – nary a Facebook or Instagram among them. In this day and age, such an absence from the online world is roughly equivalent to a CEO twenty years ago not having email, or fifty years ago not having a phone. Considering even the most minor celebrities manage to rustle up a couple of interns to run Twitter accounts for them, this kind of oversight on the part of our business leaders is hardly forgivable.

In addition, of those CEOs who do have a social media presence over two thirds of them are only on one platform. For many that platform is LinkedIn, with 25.4% of CEOs on the site; understandable considering its business orientation. Perhaps more surprisingly this is down from 27.7% last year, which suggests that despite its traditional role as the ‘entry point’ into social media for many CEOs its appeal is fading.

The rising star in this instance is Twitter, with a 46% increase in use by CEOs from last year. There’s still some way to go in terms of engagement, however: exactly half of CEOs on Twitter have fewer than a hundred total tweets. Special mention to Jack Salzwedel of American Family Mutual Insurance Group (follow him at @AmFamJack) who tweets on average 4.82 times a day – ten times the overall average. As Mr. Salzwedel said in a tweet yesterday: ‘Interesting to me that more F500 CEOs don’t/won’t engage socially. It’s quick, timely, easy, effective. #why?’ Well said, Jack. 

Perhaps most surprisingly, only 8.3% of CEOs have a Facebook profile – although that is up from 7% last year. Compare that to the 71% of online adults who use the platform worldwide and the breadth of the gulf between those on this list and the everyday individual becomes especially apparent. The most active CEO on Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, who allegedly has some stake in the service. Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard, despite having the second largest number of followers, is the only CEO whose fan page hasn’t been updated in over 100 days.

Apart from this, one unusual fact is the discovery that more CEOs are on Instagram than Google+, with 2.6% on the former but only 1.6% on the latter. Michael Rapino of LiveNation is the only business leader to utilise the photo-sharing platform as a tool for company promotion – the others who are on it use it for sharing personal photos. 

The overall picture, therefore, is one of low engagement and incremental growth. What is perhaps most disappointing is that while there are 41 technology companies on the Fortune 500, the figures indicate that not even every CEO of these businesses is socially engaged online. Perhaps David Murdock, the 90 year old CEO of Dole Food, can be excused for not being able to name every Instagram filter, but it seems an astonishing oversight that Jeff Bezos of Amazon doesn’t even appear to have a Twitter account. Perhaps if he was a little more in touch with current trends he wouldn’t have to be selling his company’s phone for less than a dollar.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Social Engagement Of CEOs: An Analysis Reviewed by Douglas Clarke-Williams on Thursday, September 11, 2014 Rating: 5
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