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CEOs Say One Thing About Social Media Then Do Another

by Steve Olenski  |  
January 3, 2013

When discussing social media and its use, far too many CEOs are telling their employees---and the rest of the world for that matter---that they know their company needs to be "doing social" while not practicing what they preach on a personal level.

What CEOs Are Doing on Behalf of Their Companies

"As a percentage of overall marketing budgets, spending on social media is expected to increase 17.5% over the next five years," according to a study conducted last year of nearly 250 top executives by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Information released by revealed how corporations are using social media.

  • 94% of corporations are using social media in one way, shape, or form.

  • 85% credit social media for providing increased exposure to their business.

  • 74% indicated an increase in website traffic, thanks to as little as 6 hours a week on social media.

  • 58% say they use social media for creating lead generation and brand loyalty.

  • 65% say social media is key to learning about their competition.

Corporations' preferred social media networks are...

No great surprise there, right? CEOs are investing more in social media, and corporations are "getting" social media and realizing that is not a fad. Social media is here to stay, and to stay alive in today's business world, one better "get" social media.

What CEOs Are Doing on Behalf of Themselves

Earlier this year I wrote an article on Josh James, his company Domo and the now infamous #domosocial experiment. James is the embodiment of a CEO who gets social media, so I urge you to read about his groundbreaking experiment.

James and his company recently teamed up with to conduct a survey on Fortune 500 CEOs and their use of social media. James wrote about the findings of the survey, which clearly revealed that a very large number of CEOs are "touching the hot stove." 70% of all Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence of any kind on social media.

(An infographic from the Domo and survey explains it well.)

When you get right down to it, the fact that CEOs openly acknowledge the importance of social media for their companies yet don't see the need to be socially active themselves is downright hypocritical.

Yes, I saw the stat that read the number of CEOs using social media is expected to grow to 57% from the current 16% in three to five years---but I will believe that when I see it. And by the looks of things, I won't be seeing in 3 , 5, 7 or even 10 years. Sorry, not buying it.

I want to leave you with quotes from Josh's article and also one from David K. Williams who recently penned CEOs and Social Media---How Much is Too Much?

From Josh's aptly titled article CEOs Afraid Of Going Social Are Doing Shareholders A Massive Disservice...
"It is my hope that CEOs come to believe in the transformative power of social media.  But if they persist in lagging far behind the general population in social media participation and not delivering value to the shareholders that is there for the taking, they may not be CEOs for much longer."

From David's article...
"If we haven’t convinced you yet (of the importance of social media), consider these two results from the BRANDFog 2012 CEO Survey as the final clincher: More than 82% of respondents are likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engage in social media. And an amazing 77% of respondents are likely or much more willing to buy from a company whose mission and values are defined through their leaderships’ involvement in social media.

The conclusion is clear: Any leader who isn’t engaged in social media today is like the leaders of 50 years ago who insisted on sending a telegram instead of dialing a phone.

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Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions.

He has worked on everything from a Super Bowl TV spot to a Mom and Pop radio spot---and all points in between. He doesn't drink. He doesn't smoke. He doesn't use foul lang... well, he doesn't drink or smoke.

He is a naturally curious and opinionated person who's had to fight his way (sometimes literally) for everything he's achieved professionally. And if it were not for his rock (AKA his wife), he would not be here today. He would still be stocking shelves, not that there's anything wrong with that... 

Follow @steveolenski on Twitter

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  • by Doug Devitre Thu Jan 3, 2013 via blog

    Not only are those some great stats but I love the picture with the woman holding her face in one hand. Great post!

  • by Jim Matorin Fri Jan 4, 2013 via blog


    Beautiful. I believe that in the IBM article you referenced the stats of 16% currently using, 71% admitted they were not properly prepared for today's business envirornment. Sad!

  • by SDGSteve Sun Jan 6, 2013 via blog

    I guess it's nice if a CEO is doing social and giving out some kind of direct connection to them, but then I can also think of a thousand other things I'd rather a CEO of any company I had shares in be doing, I don't base any of my buying patterns in anything on whether the CEO has a social account.

  • by Jeff Wilson Mon Jan 14, 2013 via blog

    I must disagree with the argument that CEOs must use social media. When we look at how a CEO spends their time, i can't help but think as a shareholder that i want them engaged in activities to increase the value of my shares. Does social media increase share value if a CEO uses it? Highly doubtful and the stats don't suggest otherwise.

    Further, while i believe a company and its leadership should embrace a strategy that puts them on a path to the social enterprise, it does not mean they should necessarily use social media to do so. There are many strategies to be social that do not involve social media including dozens of collaboration software solutions, video conferencing, events, intranets, etc... If social media makes sense for them, then by all means it should be part of their social strategy, but if it doesn't, well...

    I mean, what happens if social media disappears or transforms? Having a strategy based on social media rather than being social implies a lot of risk. Its far too early to tell whether it will thrive, evolve or die out.

    I think we can push too far sometimes and this is one of those cases. People will always be social - its human nature. Let them be social in ways they are most comfortable and provide the most value to their roles.

    Side note: Is it me or are many social media advocates akin to the religious fanatics of old who have a "conform or die" approach to anyone who doesn't embrace their way of thinking? Its suddenly like the only way that is acceptable to be social is to join social media networks. Forget all the conferences, meetings, phone calls, seminars, emails, texts and appearances that a senior leader of a major corporation has to make inside and outside the company.

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