Global PR firm Weber Shandwick has released a new study revealing the online sociability of CEOs of the most prominent world companies, as it stunningly increased during the last two years.
Two-thirds (66 percent) of the CEOs from the top 50 companies worldwide got involved with online activities in 2012, as opposed to 36 percent in 2010. (Weber Shandwick conducted one of the first studies about the social engagement of CEO in 2010.)
Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist of Weber Shandwick, said CEOs usually establish their name not through social media outlets but through other means. However, the PR firm’s latest sociability study of CEOs provided proof that chief executive officers are unquestionably testing the platform.
Ross added that the dramatic increase in online communication and interaction allows CEOs to (1) draw closer to customers, (2) listen to their feedbacks – be it negative or positive, (3) have a quick look on how their products are received, (4) show concern on acquiring the most talented prospects, (5) see the necessity to be more humane, and (6) be more “in-tune” with their investors.
The PR firm said the sudden increase in CEO online social involvement from 2010 to 2012 directly follows the increased exposure of their company websites from 32 percent to 50 percent and on video from 18 percent to 40 percent. Half of CEOs who appear on their company’s webpages (homepages and About US pages) have better presence than only showing their name. Adding information about the CEO on the company’s websites is the opening move to socialize the chief executive.
Weber Shandwick’s study found that CEOs use videos as promotional materials for company narratives and connect. In 2010, only 18 percent of top 50 company CEOs used videos, but the previously underused tool now caters to 40 percent of the CEOs, who also star in corporate videos. Appearances of CEOs in corporate videos are present on the company’s websites or YouTube channels. Repackaged videos on news blogs and webpages allow the company to exploit existing resources.
While CEO sociability gained good ground on company websites and videos over the past two years, chief executives hardly shifted the use of social networking sites from 16 percent to 18 percent.
Chris Perry, president of digital practice at Weber Shandwick, pointed out that the sluggish growth of CEOs using social networks shows that they could not afford to take chances, or they lack confidence on the ROI (return-on-investment) of joining Facebook and the like.
Perry added that customers should realize that CEOs might already find comfort as listeners, observers and data collectors rather than engage with customers on social networking sites.
According to the study, CEOs of US-based top 50 companies U.S. CEOs outperformed CEOs headquartered in Europe and Asia Pacific (APAC) in terms of sociability, even though Europeans showed the highest growth in online engagement over the past two years, rising from 12 percent to 67 percent. Interestingly, chief executives headquartered in the APAC region are more sociable in 2010 compared with 2012 figures, and they are less sociable than US- and Europe-based CEOs. CEOs in the United States have the most membership on social networks with 40 percent, while Europe’s CEOs are most likely to be on YouTube with 38 percent. The study found that CEOs from APAC and Latin America did not have social network accounts at the time.
An alarming issue showed up more often in 2012 than in 2010: about 33 percent of top CEOs had their names attached to fake social network accounts. The study discovered accounts with wrong or made-up information about CEOs or companies, some of which have multiple accounts that claim to be the real chief executive. Weber Shandwick notes that it does not necessarily mean CEOs do not own a verifiable account on social networks, but they frequently encounter several fake ones using their names.
The public relations company is urging CEOs and companies to follow social media strategies to get the most out of their online narratives, communicate with customers, and pull in the most talented individuals.
Technology is inevitably going social, so CEOs need to embrace it, as online, mobile, and social technologies meet.
Weber Shandwick was able to compile a list of tips for CEOs and companies to follow.
1. Formulate a social strategy and bring it online
Chief executive officers have a role in online discussions even if they do not want to participate. CEOs are free to choose if they want to be fully social or not, but their visibility on social networks promotes the company’s well-being. A good social strategy fully incorporates social media into its executive corporate communications.
2. Quality over quantity
The kind of social engagement is more critical than the number of social media accounts. CEOs can start small with one LinkedIn Page, a private Twitter account, or a Facebook page.
3. The company needs a recognizable face
The mere presence of the CEO on a printed image, a figure, or a message on the homepage makes him or her more well known to constituents and will likely expand executive communications to an array of audiences. However, keep in mind that CEO sociability means improving credibility rather than popularity.
4. Turn CEOs into listeners
The best CEOs use social media more often to hear and see customers, and accumulate business information. Social media is a great way to improve self-confidence and gain real-time data about the industry, clients, rivals, and investors.
5. Exploit the use of corporate videos
Corporate videos help CEOs make the first step forward to go social. Videos make chief executives more humane. Unlike conventional communications, it allows them to convey their feelings.
6. Watch over the CEO’s wiki page
Wikipedia, more than any other platform, misrepresents CEOs to a very high degree because it allows anyone to edit and add content, but Weber Shandwick already excluded this as a gauge of sociability. CEOs and communications teams must keep a watchful eye upon what the wiki article contains, and see if there are deceptive and falsified information. Comply with the rigid rules to request content changes from Wikipedia editors.
7. Bogus social network profiles of top CEOs are abounding