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A Social-Savvy Generation of Fortune 500 CEOs Is Emerging, Despite Majority of Chief Execs Being Absent from Social Media, Study Finds

Texting businessmanA new study sponsored by business management platform Domo and CEO.com finds that 61 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are not active on any major social network—and are missing an opportunity to use social platforms to interact with their key audiences. This year’s Social CEO Report, an annual survey that investigates the social media habits of business leaders, shows that social media usage among this elite group is gradually increasing, as 70 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs weren’t active on social media when the first report was published in 2012.

While social media adoption among these CEOs remains sluggish, the report reveals that CEOs of companies new to the Fortune 500 or newly appointed CEOs to companies already on the list are responsible for much of the increase.

The current report also found that 195 CEOs on the list are active on at least one of six major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube), yet no single CEO is active across all six platforms.

Not surprisingly, the social platform most closely associated with business networking, LinkedIn, continues to dominate as the “entry network” of choice. Seventy percent of the CEOs on just one social network chose LinkedIn, and the number of active CEOs on the platform increased from 25.4 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2015. The site’s influencer program is particularly popular among Fortune 500 CEOs and has seen a significant uptick in participation within the group—14 of the 33 LinkedIn influencers in the Fortune 500 joined the network in the past year. Thirteen influencers have more than 100,000 followers on the platform. Another opportunity lies with the nearly 40 percent of CEOs on LinkedIn who have more than 500 connections despite not yet being designated as an official influencer.

The number of Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter increased slightly year-over-year – up just 1.7 percent from 2014. While 10 percent of CEOs now have profiles on Twitter, fewer use the platform on a consistent basis, with half of all active members tweeting once a month or less. The 31 CEOs who were active on the platform in 2015 only tweeted once every five days on average, which was a significant decrease from the previous year when active CEOs averaged one tweet every other day. Having a Twitter profile seems to be cursory to many, as seven of the CEOs with Twitter profiles have never even sent out a single tweet. Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com and a new addition to the Fortune 500, bucks this trend by tweeting more than five times per day on average.

“We’ve been following the social habits of business leaders across the United States for four years, and the data continues to show that a minority of F500 CEOs account for the majority of the social media presence in that peer group,” said Josh James, founder and CEO of Domo, in a news release. “Despite this, the winds are changing and a progressive, social-savvy breed of CEO is emerging, establishing a new benchmark that will set the tone for the future of executive leadership.”

The report also revealed that using Facebook as a medium to act as the face of their company’s brand seems to be slowing among CEOs in the Fortune 500. Only 11 percent have Facebook accounts and the majority of those are kept private with only eight maintaining official fan pages. Additionally, nearly 50 percent of those on Facebook have fewer than 500 friends.

While social media adoption is slow overall, the report found that video appears to be a new focal point for both CEOs and their companies, and participation is growing faster than any other medium. Although only two Fortune 500 CEOs operate a personal YouTube account, 41 percent have been featured in a YouTube video for their company.

The study concluded that it is important for CEOs to be visible to the public in order to strengthen a positive reputation, and that social channels provide a medium for CEOs to increase visibility and engage with their key stakeholders. In most cases, an increased awareness pays off, seeing that highly regarded companies are more than three times as likely as those with weak reputations to have a CEO who participates in social media.

Other notable findings from the study include:

  • Warren Buffet has tweeted only seven times and yet holds the record for the all-time highest retweeted tweet.
  • The average CEO includes links to content in 19 percent of tweets, while 11 percent of tweets are replies.
  • Jack Salzwedel of American Family Insurance is the most engaged CEO on the Fortune 500 list.
  • Though Google+ usage by Fortune 500 CEOs has more than quadrupled over the past four years, it is still lagging far, far behind other social platforms, with only 17 CEOs having accounts.
  • Only 2.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have Instagram accounts.
  • Larry Page of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook are the only two CEOs with active YouTube channels of their own.

To find out how many CEOs were actually using social media, and what kind of influence they had, the firm turned to the FORTUNE 500 list, searching for every CEO on each of the six major social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and YouTube. Results for the report were collected in July 2015.

Source: Domo; edited by Richard Carufel

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