The C-Suite Finally Embraces Social Media: Here’s What That Looks Like


It doesn’t seem that long ago that if surveyed, most CEOs would admit to either a lack of use for social media for themselves or a complete abhorrence for it. Times have changed. A recently released study by Weber Shandwick found that 80% of the chief executive officers of the world’s largest 50 companies are now engaged online and on social media. The results published in “Socializing Your CEO: From Marginal to Mainstream,” show that CEO sociability has more than doubled since 2010.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that LinkedIn was the most popular social media network for CEOs, followed by Twitter.

Image Source: Weber Shandwick

According to the Weber Shandwick CEO study, Facebook usage in 2014 was non-existent for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the number of fake CEO accounts on the site. Otherwise, usage on other social networks increased substantially.

As the study learned, CEOs are becoming more comfortable with the idea of some level of social engagement and are more rapidly beginning to understand its value and embrace it. Newer and more established CEOs alike are now realizing that being more socially engaged can help them communicate more quickly and easily when demands on their time prevent them from doing so with more traditional communication channels.

However, as the survey report indicates, there is no one-size fits all approach for CEOs since the types of networks used and what gets posted on them can vary depending on personality and situation.

But C-suite adoption of social media isn’t just confined to CEOs or even CMOs. A different study CIO Social Insights Report (by Robert Half International and Leadtail) indicates the need to broaden that perspective with the inclusion of CIOs. While that study doesn’t delve into specific numbers related how social media use among CIOs has changed, it does provide some insight into how CIOs are using it today.

While the key findings listed below aren’t too surprising, they do indicate that CIOs may be using social media more for conveying and accessing information than for being outright social within their company and with their industry peers:

  • CIOs engage on social media to showcase expertise and leadership, and drive conversations about technology strategy and innovation.
  • Cloud computing and infrastructure, big data, analytics and the Internet of Things are top-of-mind topics for these technology executives.
  • CIOs and IT leaders actively engage with the social media content of other technology leaders, industry analysts and journalists, as well as with marketing and social media influencers.

Like their CEOs, CIOs seem to prefer Twitter to most other social networks. Where this gets interesting, though, is what the study reveals about the publishers CIOs prefer to retweet information from. While the top 20 includes what you might expect — (number 1) and CIO Magazine (number 20), in between are sandwiched sites like Mashable, Venture Beat, and The Verge. A bit of an eclectic mix that indicates that this audience isn’t as confined to pure technology plays as one might think.

Image Source: Robert Half

The CIO Insights Report reveals a mix of technology, business and financial outlets as source material for Twitter activity by CIOs.

The list of thought leaders CIOs mentioned for the report or follow is equally varied and includes Vala Afshar (CMO of Extreme Network), Peter Thiel (PayPal founder) and Steve Wozniak. Yes, Steve Wozniak is still relevant with CIOs.

What both of these reports indicate is that the adoption by the C-Suite of social media that employees at every level have been clamoring for is finally starting to happen. Will a couple of high profile slip-ups on social media reverse that trend? More than likely not. As new apps for sharing more visual information over social networks become easier to use and more readily available, there will likely come a day when the C-suite will wonder why they didn’t embrace social media earlier.