Where are all the Social CEOs? Not in the Fortune 500

Every year I look forward to receiving the CEO.com #socialceo report, because it gives me statistical fodder to back up my personal branding argument. With that said, this year I was a little disappointed. The growth is so slow and yet the world is moving so fast… it appears the message isn’t getting though.

Social CEO

So what did the report unveil – now in it’s fourth year…

Measuring the Fortune 500 CEOs across the six most popular social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and YouTube) none are on all six, but that’s OK. I’d be happy with one, however:

  • 61% of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies have no social presence at all – none. It was 68% last year
  • While CEOs are not active on their own social accounts, 41% were featured on their own company YouTube channels… which to me doesn’t count as active social participation
  • Of the 70% active, LinkedIn is the first choice of CEOs – which is quite right
  • 50 of the Fortune 500 have Twitter accounts, and the report claims that 60% of them are active. Active means they’ve tweeted in the last 100 days… not exactly active in my mind, but hey ho
  • However, an interesting point. Two of the CEO super stars are Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Dara Khosrowshahi of Expedia. Both companies are new to the Fortune 500 in 2015 and guess what, they’re both at the top. This means the growth in CEO involvement is due to new companies joining the F500 with socially active CEOs, versus the old guard getting with the times. Other new entrants include Netflix, Amphenol and Hanes. I could only find Reed Hastings of Netflix on Twitter
  • You can read the report for all social channels measured, but I thought this was interesting. LinkedIn has it’s 500 Influencers (business leaders, celebrities, speakers, authors, etc..) and 33 of the F500 are in this list. BUT 14 of those influencers joined LinkedIn in the last 12 months. All leaders in business should be fighting for those top 500 Influencer positions. It’s gold dust as a platform of influence
  • Only two CEOs – Larry Page and Mark Zuckerbeg – have their own YouTube channels – what a missed opportunity

So while there appears to be a little bit of uptake, it seems to be due to new companies entering the F500 or new, younger CEOs taking over at existing F500 companies.

What are some of the reasons quoted for why they’re not jumping all over it?

  1. Too busy
  2. Metrics aren’t clear
  3. No coaching or training

And then there was this quote from Jack Salzwedel, CEO, American Family Insurance, which I think nails it:

“One of the things that has really surprised me about social media is how many people are afraid of it, or don’t feel they have anything to say that anyone would be interested in. Too many leaders haven’t thought through their own voice or have become too concerned about it. Quite frankly, too many leaders let these fears stop them from trying.”

And to me that nails it. Fear aside, the first thing anyone must do before actively building their personal brand is to define their voice – what they want to stand for. I did a blog on that too.

Everyone has a unique perspective that is valuable – and I mean everyone. But CEOs of the world’s biggest companies DEFINITELY have something of value to add to the social mix. We want to know who you are, what you care about and we want to know if you’re taking care of our world. That’s important today.

I get what’s holding leaders back. CEOs have grown into their careers behind very high and well-built PR walls. Everything is rehearsed and practised. Your communications team have spent hours and hours crafting messaging around the hot issues relevant to your business. If you go off topic by even a little bit, you could cause a global meltdown in your industry. We get it. We know it’s not easy. And yet here we are asking you to participate.

But that’s why you need to craft your social voice in advance. This is not about sharing the wins and successes of your business – that’s PR and marketing.

It’s about elevating your community – your employees, customers and partners. It’s about leaving an inspiring legacy. It’s about sharing your career lessons with young people so they can get ahead. It’s about being you, the human being, who happens to lead one of the world’s most powerful businesses. We want to know and trust you.

What do you get in return?

  • Significant competitive edge – according to the report “highly regarded companies are more than three times as likely as those with weak reputations to have a CEO who participates on social media
  • This is where your customer is today and you get to interact with customers on their terms, in their world, where they make decisions, and your presence helps them to trust you and by default, your business
  • Customers can give you live feedback and if your business is agile in responding to that feedback, you win loyalty, new fans, customer endorsements, and growth
  • You attract the best talent to your business, because they want to work for a company led by you – recruitment and retention is a massive opportunity. It’s also a critical need with today’s skills gaps. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to work for Richard Branson?
  • On a personal level, this is about opening up the door for you to be you. We are all human. We work for humans. We buy from humans. And let’s face it, the world of business is fundamentally changing and humanity is at the core of that. So we’re asking you to be more human, more open, and more reachable. Yes, I appreciate it’s not an easy ask, but that is where we are today. Why not join us? It’s a great world really

Those of us who are active on social media really get the benefits – every day we invest in this medium; we feel it’s power. So if your CEO is still not having it, check out this blog, listing the nine tangible and intangible benefits McKinsey reported back in 2013. It’s not just me saying it!

To conclude, social media is at the core of the digital revolution. If you want to be a part of this revolution and grow a business during these turbulent years:

  • You have to be where the decisions are being made
  • You need to be where the discussions are happening
  • You need to understand how your employees, customers, partners and influencers are speaking to each other and how they are using technology

If you are not participating, I seriously struggle to understand how you can possibly build a business of the future when you do not understand your customer today? That is what this is about.

Will you be the last CEO to join? Or perhaps you’ll find yourself dropping down or off the Fortune 500 list too?

What do you think? How do we change this?



And please, if you like this, I’d love a comment, a discussion or a favorite chocolate cake recipe, because no one sent me one last time I asked! Of course, please also feel free to share with your communities. That’s what this is all about today – sharing and giving to each other. If you like my style and what I talk about, feel free to follow me on LinkedInTwitter or on Facebook. My blog is here too if you’re interested. Thanks for reading.

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