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Fortune 500 CEOs Shun Social Media

July 16, 2012

Few CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are participating in social media channels: 70% have no social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Google+, according to a new study sponsored by Domo and

The 2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index, which investigates the social media habits of leading CEOs, also found that CEOs are more active on one social network—LinkedIn—than is the general public, despite being far behind the general population in overall social media participation.

LinkedIn was by far the most popular among Fortune 500 CEOs: 26% use the network, compared with just 20.15% of the US general public.

But on major social networks Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, the presence of Fortune 500 CEOs was minimal at best:

  • 7.6% are on Facebook
  • 4% are on Twitter
  • <1% are on Google+

By contrast, more than 50% of the US population uses Facebook and 34% uses Twitter.

Other notable findings (also see infographic, below) about Fortune 500 CEOs' social media use:

  • None of the Fortune 500 CEOs is on Pinterest.
  • Six Fortune 500 CEOs contribute to blogs, and only one of the six CEOs, John Mackey of Whole Foods, maintains his own blog.
  • 37% of Fortune 500 CEOs have an entry on Wikipedia.
  • The Top Fortune 500 CEOs on Klout are Rupert Murdoch, Michael Dell, and Warren Buffet, with Klout scores of 74, 67, and 62, respectively.
  • Of the 38 Fortune 500 CEOs on Facebook, Michael Rapino of Live Nation Entertainment has the most friends, with 1,723.
  • The average number of followers for Fortune 500 CEOs with Twitter accounts is 33,250.
  • Among the 20 Fortune 500 CEOs who have opened Twitter accounts, 5 have never tweeted. (Note: At the end of the survey, only 19 CEOs had Twitter accounts. Oracle's Larry Ellison joined Twitter after the study was completed, boosting the number to 20.)
  • Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, with 249,000 followers, is now the most-followed Fortune 500 CEO, surpassing HP's Meg Whitman who was in the number one spot when the study was concluded.
  • 10 Fortune 500 CEOs have more than 500 LinkedIn connections, while 36 CEOs have one LinkedIn connection or none.

"We really expected to see more social engagement from CEOs, especially since the benefits of social media are no longer just wishful thinking," said Josh James, Domo founder and CEO. "CEOs who use social media are growing their businesses, attracting lifelong customers, generating exposure for their companies and closing new deals. As consumers become more social savvy, so must company leaders."

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  • by Ken Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    I think the CEOs are right. There's no real value in Social Media for business. I vote it the marketing strategy most likely to suck up the largest amount of marketing dollars that will go into a deep dark void with no real business results.

  • by Rishi Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    Having a CEO support a brand's marketing initiatives through social media has 2 benefits:

    1. Consumers are more likely to buy from (or at least follow) an organization whose executives are transparent and outgoing
    2. Employees who follow/are 'friends' with a CEO have an increased desire to perform and achieve results

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  • by Ken Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    There just isn't any reality to back up the claims of benefits. They are mere conjecture based on survey results. Especailly for small to medium sized B2B companies. Maybe the branding works for Fortune 100 B2C businesses but branding is a very small part of marketing. It doesn't translate to bottom line results in B2B marketing. For example, nobody is going to facebook to find information about what barcode scanners to purchase for their warehouse. There are lots of companies who will take your money to help develop your social media presence, but the results just aren't there.

  • by Apryl Parcher Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    Valuable information for marketers who target F500 companies, especially for lead-gen if their ideal readers are C-suite. Gotta know your customer's preferences for absorbing information, where they hang out in the social sphere (if at all), and why they shun certain platforms. Most don't have 2 minutes out of a day to rub together, and interacting on social channels takes a chunk of time. The ones that ARE on, I'm thinking, have a team. And depending on their philosophy, may or may not hand a lot of that interaction to team members.

    However, those who value relationship building (as opposed to squeezing out ROI) are the ones who really "get" the power of social media. As Eric Qualman said, "How do you measure the ROI of your phone?" There are a few companies who reap tons of benefit from social because they understand its benefits, but the majority struggle with it and ultimately abandon it because they don't get monetary return in a predictable fashion.

  • by Rishi Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    @Ken Since you mention it, there is a benefit for B2B CEOs. For instance, as a mid or high level marketing executive, I am more likely to purchase from a B2B business who I am already connected to (or am following) via social media. At some point, I would have seen the CEO tweet about his product benefits, link to his web pages, white papers, and webinars - all of which nurtures me into the company's sales cycle.

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  • by Ken Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    People may follow a celebrity CEO such as Rupert Murdoch but they are unlikely to follow the CEO of a lesser known, small, B2B company. It's important to understand their behavior during the sales cycle. Facebook, Twitter and other social media are not places where B2B buyers look for information about products and services. We have heavily promoted our Twitter account with limited success. What's more important is that, after hundreds of tweets, I can say with all confidence that there has been no influence or nurturing of buyers during the sales cycle. That's a case study that should be published, but it's not the politically correct thing to talk about in this environment of social media frenzy. I wish it was not so because I would jump all over it if it produced any results.

  • by Rishi Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    @Ken The article is about Fortune 500 companies, rather than small B2B companies :)

  • by Ken Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    Small companies often take their lead from the experiences of the Fortune 500.

  • by Rishi Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    @Ken The article strictly focuses on Fortune 500 companies. The point being, large Fortune 500 companies have much to gain from CEO social media participation. I think the focus might be on B2C rather than B2B. Here's an example of a successful CEO interaction:

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  • by Sue Coueslan Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    This is fascinating, but I wonder if we're missing something here: does the public really care if they're following the CEO on Twitter, vs the brand? ie. I'm a big cooking fanatic, so I might follow KitchenAid, but don't necessarily feel compelled to follow the CEO, whoever he or she is.

    I get that CEOs should be comfortable and confident in social media, but we don't put CEOs in all the ads we place, so why would we feel the need to put CEOs front and centre in social media. If it is a crisis situation, that's different. Strong leadership and accountability needs to be presented from the top. And I can see from a recruitment perspective why you'd want to present your HR brand as having a strong, connected CEO. But I'm not sure Twitter should be all things to all CEOs. Especially if it leads to their comms people actually tweeting for them because they're too busy running the company. The lack of authenticity that the latter conveys is worse, IMHO, than not being on Twitter at all.

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