Canada's Condominium Magazine
A new study found that only about one-half of Canada’s top 100 CEOs are using social media, while almost half (47 per cent) have no presence whatsoever, a “shocking” statistic, according to the group that conducted the study. It is not quite as shocking, however, as the recent finding in the US that more than 60 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have zero social media presence. These busy executives apparently find social media a “distraction” or even an outright liability. The absence of all of these powerful business leaders from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest may be seen as evidence that CEOs are afraid of social media, but it also presents a “galvanizing PR opportunity” for the executives to come into their own as “social CEOs.”
The benefits of social media marketing are widely understood and accepted. Being talked about by many people, preferably in a favourable way, is good for your brand. Social media provide opportunities to generate inbound traffic to your web site, leading to more leads and conversions. There is evidence that being active on social media can improve search engine rankings. And social media give you an opportunity to interact with your customers in a direct, personal way that can be very valuable.
While these and other reasons for using social media may be perfectly valid, the question is, why should the CEO get involved? Doesn’t the company already have research, sales and marketing departments whose job is to keep ahead of the social media curve? Isn’t the CEO’s time more valuable than that? Isn’t it, in fact, a possibility that they will screw up if they do get involved?
This is why some observers think CEOs are afraid of social media: they just don’t get it. Greg Elmer, a professor at Ryerson University where the Canadian study was done, said that there are real risks when an inexperienced CEO uses social media, one of these being the risk of inadvertently offending one community or other. It’s better to sit back and say nothing than to say the wrong thing and then have to undertake extensive damage control. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 84 per cent of Canadians rate social media as the easiest way to damage an individual’s or an organization’s image.
Also, it probably does not help reassure the tentative social media-using CEO that the most famous, charismatic CEOs on the planet—the Elon Musks, the Larry Pages, the Jack Dorseys—who represent the world’s most successful brands and enterprises, are the competition. These big-name CEOs give talks, they are paid for their opinions, they are interviewed constantly on television, they are celebrities. Who, one can imagine some Canadian mining company CEO asking, would want to hear what I have to say about X or Y when they can follow Donald Trump, or Barack Obama?
That way of thinking would be wrong, though, according to Fast Company writer Ryan Holmes, because social media can be both an intimate, one-to-one way of communicating, and an endlessly scalable platform for reaching mass audiences. Setting aside what the global superstars are doing, the ordinary CEO can share his or her excitement about a new product or piece of company news very effectively by sharing a quick post on Facebook or Twitter.
As of now, according to the Ryerson study, which was carried out by PR firm Signal Leadership Communication, social media uptake by CEOs is relatively low in Canada and there is little evidence of “strategic” social media or communication campaigns designed for CEOs. “Generally speaking, CEOs are not directly engaging with other users, customers, clients, investors or employees on social media platforms. The relative absence of CEOs on social media may raise questions about CEO engagement in the day-to-day affairs of the company or long range and strategic design of a company’s future digital business.”
Simple necessity may eventually change this. Researchers at the McKinsey Global Institute estimate that companies who are successful with their social media efforts in areas like sales, customer service and internal communications stand to make $1.3 trillion in coming years. Social media are here to stay, already widely embraced by the public. Businesses, including CEOs, that don’t keep up may risk being seen as irrelevant.