CEOs and Social Media: How to Get the Boss on Board

Feb 06, 2013

Article ImageSocializing Your CEO, a report released by Weber Shandwick indicates that only 18% the CEOs of the largest companies in the world have their own social network pages-a 2% increase from the 2010 report. It would appear that CEOs are simply not jumping on the social media bandwagon, at least not personally. In fact, in a search of the CEOs of the top 25 companies, according to Fortune, Margaret C. Whitman with Hewlett-Packard is the only CEO whose profile shows up (though it lists her as Director of EBay and she only has six connections).

What gives?

Well, perhaps it's not so surprising that CEOs - especially CEOs of the top firms in the country - would not be engaged in social media. After all, as Ralph Burns, with Antares Enterprises, Inc., in Massachusetts notes, "I think the biggest thing is time. They don't have the time for it and they don't really know what to do; there are so many choices - it's overwhelming for them."

Still, notes Burns, other CEOs can gain value from becoming involved. "The CEOs that I have found that embrace social media do it in a very methodical way," he says. "They do it at a specific time and allot time for it every day - and they don't expect results in the first couple of weeks. It takes a little time."

For CEOs engaged in content management or content marketing, social media would seem to hold some benefit beyond what those in other industries might perceive. Some have jumped into the fray and say they are seeing value in their online activities.

Chris Huse, CEO of, for instance, a company that works with advertisers hoping to engage sports enthusiasts online, says, "I had been hesitant to jump on the social media bandwagon for a while, but with a little nagging from our marketing team I jumped in." Huse says he has been on Twitter for a little over a year and that he has seen "some amazing benefits." Clients and partners have found his company through Twitter which "has resulted in a nice additional stream of new business," he says. "It's been a free and easy way to stay in touch with other members of our industry." (@ChrisHuse has 333 followers)

Cathryn Sloane, marketing coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a tutoring company with more than 1,600 tutors across 16 major metro areas, says, "Our CEO, Chuck Cohn, does embrace and has encouraged the use of social media for our company." Importantly, she notes, "We weren't always consistent with our activeness in our social media accounts, but Chuck found that once we made it a priority to utilize those outlets daily, it had a huge impact on our client engagement."

Blogging is one of many important tool for engagement and Sloane notes that the company's Education Blog, promoted through Facebook and Twitter, has attracted thousands of readers, and has increased the firm's number of Facebook fans from 2000 to 20,000, "in just a couple of months."

Embracing, of course, does not necessarily have to mean personal involvement. And, as Burns acknowledges, that level of involvement is probably outside the realm of possibility for the nation's busiest CEOs. But for those aspiring to someday reach those heights, social media can be a valuable tool he says.

Getting CEOs and other senior leaders to embrace social media can also be challenging - but not impossible. It requires a focus on meaningful, bottom-line impacts, says Kari Rippetoe, content marketing manager at Search Mojo, a search engine marketing agency. "Nearly everyone in our organization is engaged in social media and content creation, from the top down," she says. She also notes, "We approach social media from the perspective of how it impacts search. So when we measure it, we place more emphasis on metrics like website visits, conversions and inbound links, rather than engagement metrics like followers, Likes, retweets, etc." Those metrics, she says, are what is kept in mind "when proposing new social media initiatives to the CEO-whether it's creating new profiles on other social media sites, or a new social media content strategy."

Ultimately, social media is just one more means of connecting, through communication, with key audiences. For CEOs it has always been, and is always likely to be, about the numbers. Show them the value in measurable ways and they're more likely to get on board - perhaps not personally, but through their support of the organization's efforts.

("Social media on laptop keyboard" courtesy of Shutterstock.)