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Should CEOs tweet, poke and generally 'get social' online? It's a good question.

One that Fortune 100 CEOs are apparently answering 'no' to. That's according to ÜBERCEO, which looked at how Fortune 100 CEOs are using social media. The result: they're not.

The numbers ÜBERCEO came up with:

  • 2 Fortune 100 CEOs use Twitter.
  • 13 have LinkedIn profiles; only 3 have more than 10 connections.
  • 81% don't have a Facebook page; of those who do, only 2 have more than 10 friends.
  • None have a blog.

ÜBERCEO believes these CEOs are "social media slackers" and states:

In our opinion, the top CEOs appear to be disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating. They're giving the impression that they're disconnected, disengaged and disinterested. No doubt regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley and Reg-FD make CEOs cautious about comunicating freely, they're missing a fabulous opportunity to connect with their target audience.

These are not bad points. Social media does provide CEOs (and other C-level executives) with a means to connect and engage with their company's customers in a manner never before possible. A great example of a CEO who has used social media to his company's benefit is Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who has over 800,000 followers on Twitter. Obviously, Zappos is not a Fortune 100 company, but it's no slouch either with over $800m in annual revenue.

But is it realistic to assume that Fortune 100 CEOs can really do social media well? Probably not.

Every company on the 2009 Fortune 100 list has over $24bn in revenue; the top company, Exxon Mobil raked in over $442bn in revenue. Most of these companies are international and all told, they employ millions of people. So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that their CEOs are pretty busy. Tweeting and poking probably doesn't make it to the top of the priorities list when you're running a huge company.

I think it's also worth considering whether consumers really want to connect and engage with the CEOs of these companies. According to ÜBERCEO, Warren Buffett has less than 10,000 Twitter followers. That's right: one of the most venerated investors has exponentially fewer followers than Ashton Kutcher. Given that, it's probably safe to say that consumers are not going to jump for joy at the opportunity to tweet with Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, or to poke Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Bank of America. No, all most of them care about is the availability of gas when they go to fill up the tank and the safety of the money they've deposited at their local bank branch.

That doesn't mean these CEOs shouldn't get social -- if they really want to. But doing that just for the sake of doing it doesn't make sense because anything worth doing is worth doing right. Social media is increasingly being used by brands in more sophisticated and enlightened ways but there's still a lot of fluff too. So before the CEO gets involved, the brand itself should be getting it right.

Photo credit: aflcio2008 via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 25 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2379 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Peter Bordes

Peter Bordes, CEO & Founder at oneQube

I cany imagine not being CEO of MediaTrust without having Twitter Facebook and other social tools. They are extremely valuable and allow me to interacy with our industry community and business partners in a way that was never before possible. Any CEO who does not strat to participate will be out of touch in the not so distant future.

Here is a great article from Business Week on 50 CEO's who Twitter http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/05/0508_ceos_who_twitter/index.htm

about 7 years ago

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Tunde Cockshott

Two sides to this story. In some ways social tools provide the CEO with a digital equilivant of working on the shop floor and getting to meet real customers and employees unfiltered by layers of mid management. In this way it is a very powerful knowledge gathering and monitoring/validation tool. As pointed out, it also can change the perception of the CEO being detatched from reality - also applys to politicians.

The other side is setting the balance of listening to broacasting. The original model was for a CEO or a ghost writer to blog, but without a great deal of listening or responding to comments. Now the communication is more likely to be a real dialogue, or at least the time involved in micro bloging increase the likelyhood that it will actually be the CEO who twitters.

about 7 years ago

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Gaurav Gurbaxani

I think if the CEO of a fortune 500 company actually does come out on twitter and or facebook it could be a superb brand building excercise.

Its putting a face behind a great band. People feel good to be assoicated with the big boys. Just reading status updates pertaining to the company wouild be a really nice driving force.

Imagine Steve Jobs placing a facebook update "Looking forward to our new launch - the I thing"  Its certainly going to create a frenzzy.. It will be blogged, twitted dugg thousands of times.

Im pretty certain that the stastics would change in the next 2-3 months.

about 7 years ago

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