Should CEOs Use Social Media?

A few months ago, a survey said that CEOs who use social media are considered more trustworthy. And, perhaps more importantly, respondents of the survey said they are 77 percent more likely to buy from a company where the CEO uses social media to define company values.

One would think that this kind of news would have executives pulling out their smart phones to start tapping away at status updates.

Yet, that’s not the case. A new study shows that 70 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs do not engage in social media.

This isn’t altogether surprising. For instance, if you take one look around Nashville’s largest companies, you’ll be hard-pressed to find CEOs who use social media.

So, what’s the disconnect?

There are likely a number of reasons CEOs are hesitant to jump on the social media bandwagon:

  • They don’t have time.
  • They have more important priorities (after all, they’re responsible for running a company).
  • It doesn’t interest them.
  • There are PR repercussions – everything they say can be considered a statement for the company.
  • Depending on their industry, they’re concerned about regulations and laws surrounding what they can say.
  • They don’t want to make their life even more public.

I’ve long said that social media success boils down to personality and interest in using the tools. If executives are not interested in social media, it will shine through in their efforts and I doubt their investment will pay off.

But, CEOs DO Value Social Media

There’s a big difference between CEOs using social media themselves and believing in the importance of using social media for their company. Most CEOs recognize that social media will eventually replace traditional communication.

CEOs should definitely take the time to understand the value of social media and help shape the company’s vision for how their social media strategy is executed.

But that doesn’t mean that CEOs should be the ones pulling the trigger. Smart executives will hire the right team to lead and manage the company’s social media efforts.

And, even if the CEO doesn’t manage the social media accounts, he or she can still be engaged in the company’s efforts.

Scott Monty, the head of social media for Ford Motor Company, shared a comment on Mitch Joel’s recent blog post on the topic stating that they offer up periodic Q&A sessions on Twitter with their CEO. This is a great way to be transparent and provide access to company leadership without tying them down to the day-to-day management of social media.

The bottom line is that CEOs can indeed be a powerful and strategic weapon in a company’s social media arsenal. However, executive participation on the social web isn’t imperative to a company’s success.

What do you think? Should CEOs be engaging in social media?

This first appeared as a guest article for the Nashville Business Journal.

Image credit: Joi

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Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

4 replies on “Should CEOs Use Social Media?”

When I read the reasoning behind CEOs not blogging or using social media, it makes sense, Laura! I would think the time investment would be the biggest obstacle, followed by a fear of making a public gaffe that has to be cleaned up later.

Interestingly, the CEO of one of our WordPress website clients, a finance and mortgage company, is very active on social media. He has his own Twitter and Facebook profiles, includes his company’s name in his bio, and tweets/posts about a lot of different things. Most of his tweets are about sports, but he also fearlessly plunges right into politics, and even shares religious thoughts! I’ve cringed a few times at the gutsy things he says, but then I congratulate him on having the spine to speak his mind. Of course, he also knows what he’s talking about, and that goes a long way. If anyone wanted to argue with him, he’d welcome the debate and be able to back up his opinions with facts.

For blog posts, he creates 1-minute videos at his desk, usually business-related, and always along the lines of “How to do a better job at _______” to encourage and inspire others, whether the viewer is in business, sales, or any other field.

He’s really gutsy, and I love that in a CEO anyway! Gutsy CEOs are successful CEOs, as long as they have the solid-as-a-rock character to back it up. And he does.

I think it’s great to see CEOs who are using social media and doing it well! It most certainly can be done, but it’s not for everyone. Just because the data supports the idea of it, doesn’t necessarily make it a practical or sensible approach for an executive. Like most endeavors, you have to figure out what works best for you.

I will also say that a lot of this depends on the size of the company. If you’re a small shop, oftentimes the CEO or owner is the best person to be behind the social media efforts (much like you and I are for our own businesses). But, it’s a different story entirely when it’s a large corporation.

Thanks for weighing in and sharing the example of a CEO who is doing a good job with it! I love the 1-minute videos. That’s a super idea!

I fall in the same camp as you – as long as the executives support the use of social media internally, it doesn’t need to be them executing. Last week I had someone ask me what the repercussions are for me having such a strong voice in the blogosphere and never wavering on my opinion. I guess I don’t really know if it’s losing us business, but my feeling on it is this: If my opinion pisses you off so badly through a blog post, we don’t want to do business with you anyway. I know that’s different than if we were a public company, but that’s why I love social media. It qualifies leads for me.

It always makes me nutty when I read articles that say CEOs HAVE to be using social media. It’s just not practical in many instances.

As for having a strong voice, I’m with you. I think it helps you stand out and weeds out the people you’re not going to jive with anyway. When you stand up for something, you’ll lose the detractors and those that agree will love you even more.

Thanks for weighing in, Gini!

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