How CEOs Are Using Social Media

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Many current discussions of corporate social media use have been focusing on one individual: the CEO. Brands are starting to realize how important it is to have the face of your company represented on social media, and engaging with consumers. However, the majority of CEOs still are not on social media – a surprising 70%, in fact. Despite this figure, some CEOs do have a social media presence, and while many of them are doing well, others are not representing themselves quite as positively.

Overall Use By CEOs

Overall, those CEOs who are using social media are on LinkedIn, which is logical considering that LinkedIn is the most popular social network that is dedicated to your professional life. 28% of Fortune 500 CEOs have a LinkedIn profile, while only 7% are on Facebook and 6% are on Twitter. A small minority of 1% are also using Google+.

Most CEOs (77%) only have a presence on one network, while only 19% are on two networks, 3% are on three, and 2% are using four. Twitter and LinkedIn are growing most rapidly in terms of CEO usage, with CEO presence on Google+ and Facebook remaining fairly static.

CEOs Who Are Doing It Right

The most recognized CEO on social media by far is Richard Branson of Virgin. He has 3.3 million followers on Twitter, 4.7 million followers on Google+, and 2.1 million people follow his blog on LinkedIn. This sets Branson drastically apart from his peers, as no other CEO has a comparable social media presence. Branson is incredibly engaged with his followers; he has made over 3,785 tweets and follows back several thousand Twitter users. Customers are drawn to Branson’s Twitter because he shares his celebrity lifestyle, from extreme sports to Virgin products.

Another CEO who is excelling in the social media realm is Anand Mahindra of Mahindra Group, which is a manufacturer of automobiles across the globe. He has over 846,000 Twitter followers and has made over 3,275 tweets. Mahindra is known for engaging users by posting a wide variety of content, not just about his company but also about politics, movies, and his own thoughts. This CEO is focused on making himself and his company a household name in areas outside of India where Mahindra is less well known. He is extremely personable, adding appeal to his social media presence.

CEOs Who Aren’t Doing So Well

In contrast to successful CEOs on social media, there are a couple of CEOs who have made major mistakes using their social media accounts. Most notable is Kenneth Cole, who made the serious gaff of using the hashtag #Cairo during the 2011 revolution in Egypt to promote his spring collection. As I mentioned in a previous post for CEM about using an authentic voice on social media, taking advantage of tragedy is a major taboo on social media. Unfortunately for Kenneth Cole, this mistake led to parodies with #KennethColeTweets.

Another mistake that CEOs should not make is using social media for the wrong purpose. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, used Facebook to announce that the site had reached over 1 billion hours of streaming. This may seem innocuous, but it lead to the SEC considering a civil lawsuit because Netflix did not post a press release about this important information for investors. Fortunately, Netflix did not come under fire. The lesson here is that CEO’s should use discretion in their social media postings, and the main goal should always be user engagement.

Does your CEO have a social media presence?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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