According to a recent study conducted by public relations firm Weber Shandwick, 76 percent of executives believe it is a good idea for CEOs to participate on social media networks. Of the executives working for CEOs who use social media, 67 percent believe that it is a good use of their CEO’s time.
The study revealed that CEOs who are active on social media channels rate significantly higher when it comes to leadership attributes than CEOs who do not leverage social media.
When asked which words described their CEO, 43 percent of executives with socially active CEOs labeled their company’s leader as inspiring compared to only 26 percent of the executives with CEOs not using social media. CEOs who participated on social media networks were more likely to be defined as good communicators, open and accessible, and were considered good listeners.
Of the nine leadership attributes used to compare socially active CEOs versus unsocial CEOs, the only attribute where unsocial CEOs scored higher was competitiveness, with 48 percent of executives with unsocial CEOs claiming their CEO was competitive compared to 37 percent of executives with socially active CEOs.
With the help of KRC Research, Weber Shandwick surveyed 630 professionals ranging from manager level to C-suite employees, excluding CEOs, asking executives their thoughts about CEO social media engagement. Survey participants were employed by companies with revenues of $500 million or more and represented 10 countries across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific.
While 42 percent of the executives surveyed currently have CEOs who participate in social media, 63 percent believe their CEOs will be active on social media channels in the next five years, representing a 50 percent increase in the number of CEOs likely to join the social conversation in the coming years.
The Benefits Of a Socially Engaged CEO
When considering the benefits of a CEO who participates in social media, 80 percent of executives with socially active CEOs believed their CEOs social engagement was a good way of sharing news and information about the company, and 78 percent believed it had a positive impact on the company’s reputation.
Other benefits of a socially active CEO included:
- Shows the company is innovative (76 percent)
- Gives company a human face or personality (75 percent)
- Good way for CEO to communicate with employees (75 percent)
- Helps CEO build good relationships with news media (75 percent)
- Gives more employees chance to communicate directly with the CEO (73 percent)
- Has a positive impact on business results (70 percent)
- Helps find and attract new customers (64 percent)
- Gives company a competitive edge (64 percent)
Of all the benefits identified, the least popular benefit had to do with crisis communication. Only 61 percent of executives with socially active CEOs believed that their CEO’s social media activity enabled their company’s leader to be more effective in managing a crisis.
The study also found that the benefits associated with socially-engaged CEOs have more of an impact the longer a CEO participates in social media, with executives noticing an inflection point at the three-year mark for CEOs who remain consistently engaged on their social media networks.
The CEO Blogger
Interestingly, the benefits of a socially-engaged CEO were all magnified when the CEO was also a blogger. The study found that CEOs who blog positively impact a number of business factors that drive a company’s reputation, even more so than a CEO who simply participates in social media.
Not only are CEOs who engage on social media channels and blogs believed to enhance their company’s reputation and outcomes, their social media comments are considered to be more credible than traditional news media coverage – or, at least, equally as believable.
The study reported that among executives with socially active CEOs, 32 percent of the executives believed CEO comments posted on social media channels are more credible, compared to 24 percent of executives who deemed CEO comments quoted by news media to be more credible.
A CEO’s Social Media Audience
Executives with socially-engaged CEOs also believe that their leaders reach a much a broader audience, including company employees, customers, investors, the general public and the news media.
Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross points out, “The emphasis on employees as an intended audience for CEO sociability should not be underestimated or overlooked – the presence of loyal, productive and satisfied employees is rising on many CEO agendas as the key to enduring success.”
The study findings show that executives believe company employees are the CEO’s primary audience when it comes to their social media communications.
Why CEOs Are Reluctant to Join the Social Media Crowd
Of the executives with CEOs who do not participate in social media, the most common reason given for their non-active CEO was that it wasn’t typical for their region or industry. Other reasons for unsocial CEOs included:
- CEO saw no measurable return on investment (34 percent)
- Too risky (32 percent)
- CEO thinks social media is for young people (25 percent)
- Legal counsel discourages social media (20 percent)
- CEO does not know how to use social media (18 percent)
- Too much industry regulation (13 percent)
- Other executives participate in social media on the CEO’s behalf (7 percent)
While 32 percent of the executives with unsocial CEOs blamed their CEO’s non-activity on social media participation being too risky, 49 percent of executives with socially-engaged CEOs acknowledged the risk associated with their CEO taking an active role in the company’s social media efforts.
The Weber Shandwick study noted a Fortune 500 CEO who believed that the real risk is not taking advantage of social media, “There are risks and concerns with all kinds of things that you do as CEO. You just focus on the positives and you mange whatever the risks might be.”
The CEO’s Communication Style Says Everything
While the study claimed that executives with both social and unsocial CEOs characterize their leader’s communication styles as open, honest and respectful, executives with social CEOs were more likely to assign favorable qualities to their CEO’s communication style.
The communication styles of CEOs who participated on social media were more likely to be considered respectful, friendly, spontaneous, and people-focused, while the communication styles of unsocial CEOs were more likely to be considered condescending, distant, scripted, impersonal and numbers-focused.
Beyond communications styles, socially active CEOs are more likely to be identified as good listeners, with 37 percent of executives working for socially-engaged CEOs claiming their CEO is a good listener compared to only 27 percent of executives with unsocial CEOs.
The 7 Habits of Highly Social CEOs
From the study insights, Weber Shandwick assembled the following list of the seven habits of highly social CEOs: According to the public relations firm, highly social CEOs:
- Use a more expansive set of social tools
- Own a blog
- Leverage the company website
- Are forward-looking
- Are spontaneous, yet not too informal
- Engage a wider variety of external stakeholders
CEO’s Preferred Social Media Channels