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Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social

70% of Fortune 500 CEOs have zero presence on social networks, according to new report. Perhaps newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, with her 183,022 Twitter followers, will inspire them.

8 CEOs Speak: IT Projects That Matter Most
8 CEOs Speak: IT Projects That Matter Most
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If the "social enterprise" is the direction in which organizations want to head, and common wisdom has it that the impetus for the social enterprise must come from the top down, then CEOs of the country's most successful companies must be all over social media, right? That's not what I found when checking out tech execs' public social presence for those who are setting an example, and it is not what DOMO and CEO.com found in a report they released jointly last week.

The 2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index, created "to evaluate the extent to which top business leaders are embracing social media," found that, with the exception of LinkedIn, CEOs at Fortune 500 companies participate in social networking less than the general public and less than smaller companies.

[ CEOs aren't the only ones having a hard time being social. Read Many Doctors Don't Take Social Media Beyond Marketing. ]

Cloud-based BI company DOMO and CEO.com developed their findings by searching for every CEO on the Fortune 500 list across the major social networks from May 7 to May 21. After verifying that an account was legitimate, DOMO and CEO.com examined the extent to which a CEO made use of his or her accounts. The study examined activity on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest, comparing the activity between Fortune 500 CEOs and the general public.

The social network most Fortune 500 CEOs have registered for is LinkedIn (25.9%)--not surprising, given the platform's decidedly business bent--followed by Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. No Fortune 500 CEOs had registered for Pinterest at the time the study was performed.

In contrast, Facebook was most popular among the U.S. public, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.

Of course, there's a big difference between simply registering for an account and actively using it. On Twitter, for example, five of the 19 CEOs who signed up for Twitter have never tweeted , and 1.8% were considered active--or had tweeted within the last 100 days the study was being conducted. The average number of followers for CEOs with Twitter accounts was 33,250, the report said.

The report did some shout-outs to a few of the Fortune 500 CEOs for their relatively active participation.

For example, the report noted that at publication time, News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch was poised to surpass HP's Meg Whitman in number of followers. Since then he has: As of this story's press time, Murdoch had 288,046 followers to Whitman's 242,751. Whitman is notable, however, for being the "longest-tenured" tweeter. Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffet is notable for being the second-longest-tenured tweeter, but he has tweeted only twice during that time. American Family Insurance's (AFI's) Jack Salzwedel has tweeted the most among Fortune 500 CEOs, according to the report--1,550 times at the time of publication.

More Fortune 500 CEOs—38--are on Facebook than on Twitter. Twenty-five of them have more than 100 friends, 11 have between 100 and 500 friends, and two have more than 500 friends. The report calls out Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino for his 1,723 Facebook friends.

Although more Fortune 500 CEOs are registered for LinkedIn than for any other major social networking platform, it does not seem that the CEOs or their handlers are updating their profiles all that often. They also have a dearth of connections, which is surprising for such well-connected people: 41.1% of the Fortune 500 CEOs on LinkedIn have 10 connections or fewer, according to the report, with 27.9% having one or no connection.

The least popular social networks among the Fortune 500 group, according to the report, are Google+, with only four CEOs registered, including Google CEO Larry Page, and Pinterest, with no CEOs registered. In general, the report says, Fortune 500 CEOs lag far behind the general population in social media participation: "After searching Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest we concluded 70% of F500 CEOs have no presence at all on social networks."

Maybe newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will inspire them. As of today, the 37-year-old former Google executive has 183,022 Twitter followers and has tweeted 663 times (including her tweet on July 16, announcing that she and her husband are expecting their first baby).

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

New apps promise to inject social features across entire workflows, raising new problems for IT. In the new, all-digital Social Networking issue of InformationWeek, find out how companies are making social networking part of the way their employees work. Also in this issue: How to better manage your video data. (Free with registration.)

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Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 9:14:04 AM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
Thanks for reading, Steve. Going social certainly does introduce some risk, and we've seen some top-level execs get burned by off-hand remarks. I wonder, too, when it matters most for a CEO to be active on social--at very big companies or at smaller companies, where maybe employees and customers expect more or are influenced more directly by their CEO because there aren't so many layers between them.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Lexirodrigo
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Lexirodrigo,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 1:56:14 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
These statistics are understandable. When companies are meeting lead generation and sales goals, why should they change what they're already doing. As one entrepreneur once told me after shutting off social media accounts, "I'm a marketer, not a networker."

I'm not sure how much longer this distinction will exist, but for many businesses, social networking is not necessary -- yet.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 9:13:39 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
Hmm. I wonder, too. Sounds like a good story: What Companies *Don't* Have To Bother With Social Networking"

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 3:14:55 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
I've seen many matrix or flat organizations that beat the drum of social necessity. They still maintain those org charts and have restricted, corporate strategic planning sessions rather than the coffee clutching 100% democratic vote on everything. Many social fad followers in trying to be "Agile" find themselves immobilized by passive-aggressive line techs who do not feel they have been properly consulted or included in decision making and impede operations until it is convenient missing time sensitive opportunities. It is unrealistic to believe we are all created equally in our educational or professional development and more importantly have access to decision making information (information management is still a critical asset of advantage).

When I was orienting myself to Twitter, I chose to follow the CTO of the major networking hardware vendor who had hundreds of thousands of followers. After 6 months in which 90% of the daily tweets dealt with the problems of wardrobe selection for a certain conference appearance, the play-by-play cultural orientations of their local representatives for the worldwide CTO visit, or her take on the local culinary styles, I unfollowed her. The 10% of business related tweets were one line presentations of upgrades or new hardware with a link to the PA site. Was I impressed with either the CTO or her firm based on this social presence? Actually I thought what a nice gig if you can get it and lost respect for the position even though I still find the products some of the best in the market. Social presence for company's senior leaders must have a positive ROI for the company or remove reference to the firm they represent and maintain it on a personal level.
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 4:49:15 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
I chose to follow the major networking hardware vendor's CTO for 6 months before I unfollowed. Six months where 90% of tweets was discussing wardrobe selection for conference presentations, play-by-play as corporate reps provided cultural tours, and local culinary oddities on the international circuit was not what I had expected when following a CTO. 10% were links to PA product announcements. Having a social presence when one is representing a business must have a ROI for the business or leave out references to your professional affiliation. Hopefully as Ms. Mayer's tweeter following increases to the level of this CTO she will recognize content also plays its part and should be proportionally relevant.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/20/2012 | 9:15:12 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
Agreed! On social networks, everyone is a publisher. And the first rule of publishing is to know your audience and given them the kind of content they need/want.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Sacalpha1
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Sacalpha1,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/21/2012 | 11:42:22 AM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
For all of you social networking hype-ers, you just don't get it. The survey results were just as I expected them to be. Social networking as a business tool only applies to a few industries like retail. Most CEOs will never invest the time in social networking because it has no business based payback. Their job is to run their company and with all of their responsibilities, spending time with social networking would be so far down their to do list that they never even give it a thought. The same will be true for most other C-level company officers, with the CMO likely being the exception. Just because social networking is something popular with consumers does not mean it will translate to the business to business industries like heavy manufacturing, chemicals, forest products, metals and mining, etc and in matter of fact is does not translate at all. Beyond retail it only translates to some market segments or for very specialized purposes. This includes industries like telecommunication, financial services, consumer products, etc. where there is some component of the business that is consumer based rather than business to business based.
Equipment Leasing
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Equipment Leasing,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/24/2012 | 11:20:21 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
Interesting to see that while their companies might have a strong presence on social media websites, many CEOs do not. All businesses have their own unique marketing practices which they find successful. Over the last few years, my company has had proven results from embracing social media and SEO techniques. Aside from marketing, it is interesting to see the statistics of Fortune 500 CEOs and their Facebook usage. One idea is that many of the Fortune 500 CEOs don't have the time to use social media for personal uses, as they are quite busy running their company. Whatever the reason, they most certainly have many professional connections, but not necessarily as many social media connections.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/26/2012 | 11:39:03 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
Just playing devil's advocate, but I wonder if CEOs took the lead and made more of a commitment to social for themselves and behalf of the company, would results (positive, that is) follow?

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Jennifer Abernethy
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Jennifer Abernethy,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2012 | 9:26:05 PM
re: Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social
I hear from frustrated employees (sales/ customer service etc) every day how frustrated they are that their CEO and/or C-level executives just don't get this social business landscape we are in right now. If they continue to turn a blind eye..they won't be around 7-10 years from now..my prediction.
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