Memo to Social Media Pros – Social Media is NOT necessary for the C-suite

You know what this is right?

Earlier this week, my pal Gini Dietrich (even though she has zero skills in Draw Something, we are still cool) wrote a post showcasing social media usage by CEOs in the Fortune 500. Unsurprisingly the usage in this group was quite low:

  • 3.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs use Twitter
  • 7.6% of these CEOs are on Facebook
  • 25.9% of them are on LinkedIn – not surprising given their role in partnerships and recruiting
  • .8% are on Google+ – Larry Page is the leader in the clubhouse1.2% contribute to blogs
  • 0 are on Pinterest

The report, generated from CEO.com, should really not surprise anyone. The main reason for this is that these CEOs of these companies get paid boatloads of money to care about things that impact their bottom lines and dividends for shareholders, not communicating with folks 140 characters at a time.

One thing that I fear coming from this report is a panties-in-a-bunch overreaction to the numbers above within the social media community. Rallying posts of “10 Reasons why CEOs must Tweet”, “Five reasons your CEO should ENGAGE with your fans,” and other nonsensical posts. When these posts roll out, they will all have the same thing in common – social media professionals are taking themselves too seriously and some are looking to jack up consulting rates from companies scared of falling behind.

The problem with this is that within the echo chamber that is social media, we all tend to take ourselves way too seriously. Sure CEOs should know what is going on within their company and marketing or communications department. They should also care about what is being said about their brand overall and how their employees feel about the company.

Does social media play a role in this? You betcha! But is social media the only factor in this? Hell no.

Social media is in an infancy stage within most organizations and has some ways to grow. Sure some companies on a fast-track growth model might benefit from a CEO getting out there on social as it can humanize a brand and build up important contacts with influential reporters. But I would argue that for the most part, CEOs have more on their plates than what is trending in their business and that they should care more about pluses on their P&L sheet rather than +1 on Google+.

So what are you supposed to do with this? Keep calm and carry on and keep a steady stream on what your team is doing in social media flowing uphill. This can help you avoid having top executives getting spooked with chicken little posts (mentioned above) on why your company sucks because your CEO isn’t Pinning cute kittens all day.

34 Responses to Memo to Social Media Pros – Social Media is NOT necessary for the C-suite
  1. ginidietrich
    July 18, 2012 | 9:53 am

    I definitely think executives need to understand the social web and how it can affect their business growth, but unless they’re Mark Cuban or Tony Hsieh, there is no reason on earth they should be tweeting or Facebooking.

  2. adamtoporek
    July 18, 2012 | 11:23 am

    A good follow up post Jeff. A CEO has to triage focus everyday and for the non-celeb CEO’s, social media just doesn’t make the cut.

  3. […] Memo to Social Media Pros – Social Media is NOT necessary for the C-suite. […]

  4. jeffespo
    July 18, 2012 | 12:43 pm

    ginidietrich  see it is nice when we agree and get along… I think the big disconnect on all of social is within your favorite topic – silos. Which I think you wrote a *cough*book*cough*on*cough*…. I started to get into that tangent but had to delete as it was getting to Solis levels of words but will co

  5. jeffespo
    July 18, 2012 | 12:43 pm

    adamtoporek Thanks for popping in… I agree with that and for some reason it might work for some smaller companies, but as it gets larger probably not. Too many big ticket issues to worry about 140 characters. 

  6. jeffespo
    July 18, 2012 | 1:38 pm

    hmmm LF fail there @ginidietrich will continue the thought and post next week… its more on who is and will be involved with social as it grows out of the puberty stage. 

  7. […] My friend Jeff Esposito has a great post today on the same topic. TweetBuffer Filed Under: Insights Tagged With: conversations, social media […]

  8. 1680PR
    July 18, 2012 | 2:43 pm

    While I agree with the thesis, CEO’s like myself who have built their companies in the digital native arena may be a necessary figurehead in the frequency of social engagements in the overall communications scheme. At just over three years-old, my company has expanded throughout the US and UK without spending one dollar on traditional marketing. I still maintain an active role interacting with clients and associates in some social platforms, but to balance the demands you outlined, I have involved other members of our C-suite and Senior staffers assisting when necessary.

  9. 1680PR
    July 18, 2012 | 2:58 pm

    ginidietrich Hi there! I am definitely not a rockstar like Cuban or Hsieh; however, the success my company has been blessed with is 100% attributed to my direct engagement on twitter, so I have to respectfully comment that is the sole reason on Earth I continue cultivating relationships in the social media arena. -Ken Lingad @1680PR

  10. Danny Brown
    July 18, 2012 | 3:08 pm

    1680PR Looking at your username, I’m guessing your agency is in PR. Which, agreed, needs a more active role in the social space. But for the majority of corporations and organizations, outside the PR and Marketing vertical, the need for the CEO to be active is far less important.

  11. 1680PR
    July 18, 2012 | 3:18 pm

    Danny Brown Absolutely agree with what has been proposed – as I stated in previous posts. The reason I weighed in is because I believe the necessary balance can be achieved, and should be, if at all possible for most companies.  Respectfully in addition, the industry (PR) my company is in is actually irrelevant – had I started a different company, in a different vertical, my initial success would still be dependent on my relationship equity with brand evangelists and others in the social media arena.

  12. jeffespo
    July 18, 2012 | 4:33 pm

    1680PR @dannybrown not really sure I agree with that. If you are a small company sure, but at the end of the day money matters and for many tracking revenue in social is a bitch and to many it is for branding. However what are relationships if there are no sales or customers?

  13. Danny Brown
    July 18, 2012 | 4:33 pm

    1680PR I’m not sure a broad picture can be painted like that. While I understand and commend the approach, the relationship doesn’t guarantee success (look how Google+ is seen as a “failure” despite all the influential evangelists it has promoting it).Social evangelism can help, and certainly has in a lot of cases – but I’d be hard pushed to see a purely social-only success story. And I love this space as much as the next person. 🙂

  14. jeffespo
    July 18, 2012 | 4:48 pm

    Danny Brown Stop pimping the fact that you paid $47 for that webinar. I agree with you on that though… for every person like Gary Vaynerchuck there are how many that fail in their effort to Crush It? @1680PR WOM is awesome and social is #2 in terms of awareness so I would be happy to see any other cases you know of that relied on it.

  15. ginidietrich
    July 18, 2012 | 4:53 pm

    1680PR I”m with you – I run a growing business and I spend time on the social networks. But I’m also not responsible to stockholders or Wall Street, nor can I be sued if I mistakenly tweet something that could hurt the stock price.

  16. jeffespo
    July 18, 2012 | 5:08 pm

    ginidietrich ummm you Tweet something wrong? NEVER

  17. Nikki Little
    July 18, 2012 | 11:13 pm

    Your last paragraph sums everything up perfectly!

  18. jeffespo
    July 19, 2012 | 6:58 am

    Nikki Little Thanks for popping in lil lady 🙂 It all comes down to the 80/20 rule at the end of the day

  19. iamreff
    July 19, 2012 | 7:08 am

    For established companies I think a CEO can be “lightly social” consisting of a blog post or two a quarter and 6-12 tweets a month.  Just enough to establish a presence but not so much as to waste energy or overwhelm the overall corporate message.

  20. jeffespo
    July 19, 2012 | 7:18 am

    iamreff Agreed on that sir. Problem with social and our bubble, is that stats like these become a call for arms that is overly-inflated to CEOs need to be on social or your company is doomed. Not everyone is going to be Tony H, but then again is his new CEO tweeting that much? I would say not as I think the cost of goods sold for Kindles keeps Bezos up more than Tweets saying Amazon sucks or a YouTube video on Amazon Yesterday Shipping… A lot of times we forget that social is new and is not the top dog in terms of sale, thus it does not demand the level of attention that some other channels, who carry the financial burden receive. Will it change in say 3-6 years? Probably. 

  21. iamreff
    July 19, 2012 | 7:43 am

    jeffespo agree on a tempered approach based on business goals.

  22. abdallahalhakim
    July 19, 2012 | 10:08 am

    jeffespo agree with your comment and your post. I just posted another comment on Danny Brown other excellent post on this topic (http://dannybrown.me/2012/07/18/advance-the-conversation/). I think CEO if they are to engage with social media they need to decide where their time is best spent. I would argue that spending your time within insightful social conversations in engaged online communities is a good option

  23. danperezfilms
    July 19, 2012 | 2:13 pm

    Because very few of these social media “consultants” ever worked a day in their life in an executive position for a mid-sized and/or large company or organization, they have no idea what a CEO or C-level exec has to deal with on a daily basis. Because of this, they spend their time preaching (blogging) to the choir (the many mindless social media “evangelists”) to get a few cheap hallelujahs.Can I get an “Amen”?

  24. danperezfilms
    July 19, 2012 | 2:23 pm

    ginidietrich Or the CEO from the local 50 employee accounting firm, or the printing company with 30 employees, or the catering company with 10 employees. The “how” it can affect their business growth ends up being based mainly on ideology and theory and case study examples from companies totally different than their own to include the personalities of the execs and staff. Sure, social media can be advantageous but it can also be disadvantageous when you consider the time it pulls from other, time-tested, business practices.I’ll shut up now…

  25. jeffespo
    July 19, 2012 | 7:53 pm

    danperezfilms Damn you piping down when you were getting to the good stuff. Communications are communications no matter what. Video, calls, social, emails all get the job done no need to measure social members. 

  26. johnnybond86
    July 20, 2012 | 10:08 am

    @danperezfilms @jeffespo I disagree… The problem is that most C-Level execs are not ahead of the curve tech wise because they are too busy

  27. jeffespo
    July 20, 2012 | 10:38 am

    @johnnybond86 @danperezfilms not always… social just a small sliver of actual tech. It is more a marketing/brand play than anything.

  28. danperezfilms
    July 20, 2012 | 12:18 pm

    @johnnybond86 C-Level execs are busy with C-Level exec responsibilities that don’t include listening to social media evangelists. @jeffespo

  29. jeffespo
    July 20, 2012 | 12:33 pm

    @danperezfilms @johnnybond86 $ > thank 140

  30. LisaThorell
    July 20, 2012 | 1:33 pm

    danperezfilms Heh heh. A headline we will never read: “Company Stuck in Obsessive Social Media Trance Runs Stock Price and Shareholders Off Sheer Cliff”

  31. jeffespo
    July 20, 2012 | 1:43 pm

    LisaThorell Well possibly not, but then again remeber when the Whole Foods CEO got in trouble for a false blog handle to belittle a competitor they tried to acquire? Presocial, but still a big deal, today would have gotten much more pickup:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19718742/ns/business-us_business/t/whole-foods-ceos-anonymous-online-life/

  32. johnnybond86
    July 20, 2012 | 3:38 pm

    @danperezfilms @jeffespo some are, but others just don’t realize social media’s potential. @PanthersYormark and @RichardBranson are great!

  33. jeffespo
    July 20, 2012 | 3:48 pm

    @johnnybond86 @danperezfilms but you are getting into celebrity and sports CEOs still extremely rare birds.

  34. jeffespo
    July 24, 2012 | 7:19 am

    danperezfilms AMEN sir. A-F*ingMen

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