I find December a fairly schizophrenic month. Half of your head is thinking back to what you’ve achieved, half of your head is focussing forward to what you will do in the New Year. Looking back on 2013, I re-read Should CEOs use Social Media?, a post I wrote back in February encouraging pharma CEOs to show their faces on the social networks. Looking forward, I wonder if CEOs will actually do it in 2014?
Depending who you listen to, as many as seven out of 10 CEOs are still to be convinced of the usefulness of social media. August’s 2013 Social CEO report, from Domo and CEO.com, showed CEOs at Fortune 500 companies have been slow to embrace social technologies. A November study from influence marketing software specialists Augure shows that only 30% of NASDAQ 100 executive directors are present and active on social networks; 70% have no presence on online platforms.
There is some growth, but it’s slow. The CEO.com study found almost 28 percent of CEOs surveyed using LinkedIn — the CEO’s social platform of choice. Although still ahead of general usage (20 percent according to Pew Internet), the increase is just 2 percent since last year. CEO Twitter usage still lags way behind the general population (18% according to Pew) at 5.6 percent, and again that’s a paltry 2 percent increase over 2012. Facebook at 7.6 percent and Google Plus at 1 percent are pretty much flat.
This quote from Rupert Soames, UK-based CEO of FTSE 100 mobile power-plant company Aggreko, sums up CEO scepticism perfectly: “I think my first question as chairman, if I found the CEO regularly tweeting, would be what else could you be doing?”. So Twitter is a timewaster, Facebook is for goofing off.
But there are successful CEOs using social media. Maybe they don’t care what the board thinks, or maybe they have spotted an opportunity that less socialized bosses have missed.
T-mobile CEO John Legere certainly gets it.
AT&T customer Jay Rooney took to Twitter to wonder why he was still with AT&T when competitor T-Mobile could offer him free international roaming. Lisa A from T-Mobile’s comms team quickly responded with encouragement to switch. AT&T responded with questions on T-Mobile’s reliability, T-mobile countered with the cost saving gambit. Then T-Mobile’s secret weapon appeared – John Legere tweeted “… bet @ATT’s CEO isn’t going to join the convo. Come join the #WirelessRevolution!” Game, set and match; Jay Rooney is apparently now a T-Mobile customer.
Winning one customer away from a competitor is a big deal for a rep, but small potatoes for a company CEO. That’s not the point. The Next Web article that reported the spat between T-Mobile and AT&T has racked up almost 6,000 social shares. That’s a pretty decent ROI on 140 characters.
Customers are just one reason for CEOs to get social.
“Innovative C-Suite and senior executives are at the forefront of social engagement, utilizing social media to attract new talent, deepen brand loyalty, increase purchase intent, and establish brand transparency.” So says Ann Charles, Founder and CEO of BRANDfog, a NYC venture offering social media leadership branding for C-Suite executives.
BrandFog recently released its second annual CEO, Social Media and Leadership survey, trying to understand C-Suite social media strategy. The survey reports responses, not from CEOs, but from their employees, 800 across a range of US and UK businesses from start-ups to Fortune 1000 players.
It’s interesting to think that, if your employees are anything like those surveyed, 71 percent of the them will think social media engagement would make you a better communicator. Conversely, almost 60 percent of them will believe that if you don’t engage on social media you are missing an opportunity to be a more effective leader. Most worrying, more than 40 percent will be concerned that you risk becoming less relevant in the digital age if you don’t get yourself on social media.
Risk aversion is still up there as the biggest reason employees think their CEOs are avoiding social media. If you’re part of the 70 percent of CEOs invisible on the social networks, but don’t like the idea of being thought of as a scaredy cat, the anti-social CEO’s guide to social media from Forbes might help. It has links to beginners guide on platforms from LinkedIn to Instagram, Pinterest to Google Plus.
Or you could just have a look at what other CEOs are doing. This list of CEOs on Twitter created by World of CEOs will inspire you and make you cringe in equal measure. Just don’t spend too much time looking for your fellow pharma leaders on the list. Maybe next year.