CEOs Struggle With Social Media Engagement: Study

by CXOtoday News Desk    Mar 17, 2017

social media

CEOs of top global companies are visible online in social media and on their company websites. However, in terms of social engagement, they still have a long way to go, according to a recent report that aimed to understand how CEOs can adopt and leverage social media and other digital platforms to communicate, listen and respond. [Read the full report here]

The study that was conducted through a survey, investigated three levels of CEO activity: Public CEO visibility on the company website or on social networks, CEO posts from the past 12 months on the sites on which they are visible and CEO engagement from the past 12 months.

The report defines engagement as any open dialogue between the CEO and site visitor, such as responding to comments or joining in a discussion. For example, the study quotes one CEO who frequently writes back to people who comment on his Facebook posts. This CEO even responded to a criticism about customer service and offered his email address to the customer to follow up on the issue.

Visible, But Not Engaging

The research notes, while public, private and Silicon Valley company CEOs excel in online presence, they are not making more extensive use of their platforms. Fewer than four in 10 public and private company CEOs (38 percent each) have posted online within the past year. Silicon Valley CEOs have a slightly higher posting rate (41 percent), but not by much.

Engagement levels are also low, with 22 percent of public company CEOs and 34 percent of private company CEOs interacting with other people online within the past year. Silicon Valley CEOs are the most engaging of the chief executives included in the audit (39 percent), just surpassing private company CEOs. It is noteworthy that when private and Silicon Valley company CEOs post, they typically engage.  

 

“Engagement is the new presence when it comes to CEO sociability,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist, Weber Shandwick. “Distributing content online and engaging with stakeholders allows CEOs to humanize the conversation, demonstrate transparency and touchability, forge connections with stakeholders and to achieve the reputational advantage. Social engagement is more important than ever in this highly politicized climate and preparation is key.”

Limited engagement online

The company website is the top destination for public and private company CEO visibility with 90 percent of public company CEOs and 66 percent of private company CEOs having a presence beyond just their name and standard biography page, the study notes. Silicon Valley CEOs are also likely to have a company website presence (65 percent), though social networks are their top platform. One in 10 public (8 percent), private (10 percent) and Silicon Valley company CEOs (8 percent) have a “spotlight” page, or a centralized location of CEO messages, pictures, videos and speeches. One-third of public company CEOs (34 percent) have a presence on the careers page, a rate three times that of private (10 percent) and Silicon Valley company CEOs (10 percent).

“Incorporating the CEO into the careers page is an opportunity for companies to attract talent,” Perry said. “Previous Weber Shandwick research found that a CEO’s reputation affects candidates’ decisions to accept jobs. The talent wars are only going to heat up and promoting culture from the top could make a difference to job seekers.”

Silicon Valley CEOs Lead the Way 

According to the study, social networks are the top platform for Silicon Valley CEO visibility (71 percent), far surpassing the social network presence of public (50 percent) and private company CEOs (59 percent). However, Silicon Valley CEOs do not lead their public and private peers in social network engagement to the same degree (39 percent vs. 22 percent and 34 percent, respectively).

Corporate Video, an Important Component

Silicon Valley CEOs also lead in video use, with 65 percent appearing in company video, either on the company website or company YouTube channel. More than half of public company CEOs (58 percent) appear in video, with private company CEOs (52 percent) not far behind. Public, private and Silicon Valley company CEOs are equally likely to appear in video on the company website (46 percent, 45 percent, and 43 percent respectively). Silicon Valley CEOs are most likely to be in a video on the company YouTube channel (47 percent), followed by public company CEOs (40 percent) and private company CEOs (31 percent).

Types of CEO videos found on the company YouTube channel vary. The audit surfaced videos such as repurposed clips of CEO speeches and TV interviews, one-on-one interviews and clips of the CEO speaking directly to the audience. Topics covered in CEO video include customer insights, company news, market predictions and industry outlook.

Tips for CEO Social Engagement

The study recommends that companies consider the following digital and social media strategies for their chief executives to become more effective chief storytellers and strengthen their company reputations.

- Get online if not already there

- Own real estate on the company careers page

- Aggregate and centralize CEO communications

- Take advantage of video

- Regularly author content and content publish

- Be more than just visible on social networks

- Engage. Establish an authentic voice

- Be mindful of risks.

“CEOs and other executives can amplify and deepen their company narratives by creating social content and sharing it online,” said Chris Perry, chief digital officer, Weber Shandwick. “More CEOs have made the leap to communicating online to help shape their brands digitally and personalize the company. However, we are now at a point where CEOs need to truly embrace social engagement and move it up the next notch.”