Not Every CEO Needs to Be a Social-Media Star

Not Every Communication Challenge Is a Nail to Be Hammered With Social Media

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Judy Shapiro
Judy Shapiro
Pity the poor CEO in today's media world. UberCEO recently did a study with the headline "It's Official: Fortune 100 CEOs Are Social Media Slackers." It goes on to analyze the social-media habits of CEOs at large companies and concluded, shockingly, that they don't use social media much.

Aside from the vaguely self-serving nature of this study (a social-marketing company promoting use of social media), I, too, am shocked! I am shocked how quickly people assume that social media is something everyone should do. I am shocked at the lack of understanding of how impractical social media can be for the CEO of any large company.

Yet, this study's conclusion just about pillories these CEOs for not being social-media savvy, and the media industry went right along. Take a look at some of the headlines: "Top CEOs Leave Social Media to the Plebs" (TechCrunch); "Study: Top CEOs Still Shunning Twitter, Facebook" (Computerworld); and my favorite from Marketing Charts, "100 CEOs Remain Social-Media Hermits."

Here's a real-world fact, folks: For a CEO, participating in social media is fraught with practical, business and strategic risks. Let me use the examples in the study to make my point.

  • "Only two CEOs have Twitter accounts." Uh ... it's useful to remember that Twitter penetration in the general population is still limited. But more than that, you can imagine how challenging it is for a CEO to tweet about anything that really interests him or her because it might send an unintended "endorsement" signal. Heck, I can see the blogosphere speculating about an acquisition should a CEO say they like this or that.
  • "13 CEOs have LinkedIn profiles, and of those only three have more than 10 connections." And this is a surprise to anyone? CEOs must manage external contacts fairly to enable equal access to lots of folks who want to reach them. How would they possibly know who allow as part of their networks without either offending people or, worse, creating unmanageable business issues?
  • "81% of CEOs don't have a personal Facebook page." Again a no-brainer. CEOs of large companies have legitimate security issues and must be careful to protect their families. Again, I am shocked that is even up for conversation.
  • "Not one Fortune 100 CEO has a blog." Business leaders tend not to be the best "brain dump" writers. More importantly, though, blogs express a person's individual ideas, but CEOs of large companies do not have the luxury of publishing their opinions as it may incorrectly signal the company's business position on a company, person or technology.

So give it a rest, all you folks who are liquored up on the appeal of social media. Not every communications challenge is a nail to be whacked by the social-media hammer.

It's cool -- but not for everyone.

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Judy Shapiro is senior VP at Paltalk and has held senior marketing positions at Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.

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