This is the third consecutive year that Domo and CEO.com have conducted a study of the social media habits of Fortune 500 CEOs. The results are in — and I can report that there’s good news and bad news.
First the bad news. This year’s “Social CEO Report” found that the vast majority of the world’s top business leaders are still not using social media. All told, 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no active presence on any of the major social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Instagram. These results sadly echo what we saw last year.
Now the good news. Of those with a social media presence more are adding Twitter to their line up of social media channels. In addition, some are experimenting with newer popular networks such as Instagram.
The report also signals that a new breed of social-savvy Fortune 500 CEOs may be emerging. This group is represented by the likes of Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and ManpowerGroup’s Jonas Prising, both of whom were named CEO by their respective companies in 2014. Among all active Fortune 500 CEOs, Prising has been on Twitter the longest, at 2,145 days, followed closely by Nadella, at 1,961 days.
What makes these business leaders so special? They instinctively understand the value of social media and, beyond their own personal brand, understand what it can do for their organization in terms of awareness, customer loyalty and new business opportunities.
I’ve personally found that there’s no quicker way to drive alignment in my organization around the issues and topics that matter most to me than through social media. Whether I am sharing company growth or customer news, thoughts about key issues such as minimum wage reform, or updates on adventures with my family and friends, social media is a transparent communications channel that lets others know what makes me tick. And, at a time when our employees are based in multiple locations and numerous time zones, social democratizes the information that was traditionally accessible to only those with whom I closely worked.
Where’s the Value?
For CEOs who doubt the value of social media, there is plenty of evidence that employees want a Social CEO. One of our recent research reports, for example, reinforces the fact that employees want to hear from you more frequently. Social is an easy way to do that. In addition, according to research such as Weber Shandwick’s The Social Imperative for CEOs, most executives support having a social CEO because it is good for business on so many levels.
Take, for example, those CEOs who have added new channels such as Twitter or Instagram to their social media repertoire. (LiveNation’s Michael Rapino is a great example of a CEO who embraces new platforms.) They are sending a clear message to stakeholders that they aren’t afraid to push beyond the status quo and innovate.
Just Do It
This year’s Social CEO report revealed that a number of Fortune 500 CEOs signed up for new social media accounts, but many haven’t been active. My message to this group is to start using them today. You can’t understand how platforms work or imagine how you can use them to further your business, until you get the experience.
To CEOs who have been stuck on the social media sidelines, my message continues to be that you are doing your stakeholders a massive disservice.
To Each His Own
When you start testing the social media waters, don’t worry about measuring the impact right away. Over time, you will figure out what you want to achieve and can then use social more strategically. For some CEOs, such as GEs Jeffery Immelt, Twitter is mostly used to broadcast company news. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg uses it to engage one-on-one with his followers. Both use it differently — but both ways work.
Our company’s paid Twitter account is a good example of how you can go from experimentation to aligning use with strategic goals, once you get some experience. In January of this year, we were driving one percent of sales leads through that account. Seven months later, we are now driving 15 percent of all leads through it. That dramatic impact is a result of a better understanding of Twitter – knowing what works, what doesn’t and a willingness to invest the time and resources to figure it out.
I’ve been saying for a few years now that social gives business leaders a way not just to burnish their personal and corporate brands but to listen to the community at large and respond to the issues that matter most to their companies and, crucially, to their customers. As social platforms continue to wield significant influence, I encourage CEOs to jump right in. CEOs who aren’t afraid to embrace the power of social media will have a significant competitive edge. So go ahead and get your social on. Your stakeholders will thank you.
You can see the full report here.