Social CEOs: Why More Leaders Are Getting Virtual

As the internet becomes the dominant calling card for most organizations, more and more CEOs are investing in their online social presences, a new study found.

How social is your CEO? Socially engaged online, that is.

According to a recent study, CEO social engagement at some of the world’s largest companies has almost doubled since 2010.

“Socializing Your CEO 2013,” conducted by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, found that 66 percent of CEOs engaged online in 2012 as opposed to 36 percent in 2010, and most of the engagement is happening on company websites.

“Traditionally, CEOs have built reputations through means other than social media,” Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist, said in a statement. “However, this year’s CEO sociability audit provides evidence that chief executives are decidedly testing the social waters.”

One of the most significant changes was the number of CEOs appearing in corporate videos. Forty percent of CEOs now appear in videos posted on their company websites or YouTube channels, compared to just 18 percent in 2010.

One area where CEOs are more hesitant to participate is social networking. Only 18 percent of surveyed CEOs had at least one social network account in 2012, a small increase from 16 percent in 2010.

“The slow growth in CEO usage of social networks demonstrates that either CEOs are worried about taking a risk or are unsure about the return on investment by going online,” Chris Perry, president of Weber Shandwick’s digital practice, said. “We should recognize, however, that they may be more comfortable now just being social listeners, social observers, and big data gatherers rather than social engagers.”

Social media has also enhanced CEOs’ leading, listening, and learning opportunities, said Steve Drake, president of the consulting firm SCD Group, Inc.

“Whether a blog, a tweet, or a YouTube video, CEOs can lead by sharing vision and updates,” Drake said. “They can inform and lead with updates to boards and/or staff.  They can influence opinions.”

Drake gave the example of one association CEO who uses Google news alerts to find stories on his member companies. If he finds a positive story about a member, he’ll send a congratulatory note, or if he happens to find a negative story, the CEO will forward it with a note saying, “Just in case you haven’t seen this.”

“This ‘early warning notice,’” Drake said, “has resulted in valued connections with his member-company CEOs.”

What do you think are the most effective ways for CEOs to engage online? Tell us in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!