CEOs are gettin’ jiggy with it—social media marketing, that is. A 2012 study by Weber Shandwick found that executive use of social media soared to 66 percent in 2012, from 36 in 2010. That’s big news, if the numbers are accurate. A similar study by CEO.com, pegged the percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs online at closer to 32 percent, with more than half of those merely dipping a token toe in the social media waters by posting, or having someone post a LinkedIn profile on their behalf.
The payoff: Weber Shandwick reported that two-thirds of consumers judge a company by their perception of the CEO.
The risks: Like live television, it can be hard for a CEO to erase an online mistake. The cautionary tales are legion—the CEO who sparked a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry after blogging about a previously unreported pricing strategy, the racist rant, the heated retort heard round the world.
The reality: CEOs are a busy bunch. Given their typical hourly pay rate, it’s hard to justify spending critical working hours online pontificating. And honestly, it’s what they do when they’re not online that makes the biggest difference in their organization’s performance.
And yet . . . there is no denying the panache of Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, the reigning Social CEO Supreme, with more than 4 million Twitter followers, 4.5 million LinkedIn connections, 1.1 million Facebook friends, and a Klout score of 91 of a possible 100. Klout is a form of social media that assigns an “influence” score based on an individual’s social media reach. The average Klout score is 62. Mick Jagger, by the way, had a Klout score of 89, as of April 28th.
So how is it that some executives seem to find time in their busy schedules to tweet and greet? Some even manage to keep up with weekly or even daily blog posts. What’s their secret? Only their ghostwriter knows for sure. I’m not saying Richard Branson uses a ghostwriter. I’m just saying that for the past four years, I’ve played Cyrano to a number of online thought leaders and I can tell you there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for a normal human to keep up with the voracious appetite of the social media succubus—so, yeah, maybe I am calling Richard Branson out.
This shouldn’t come as any big shock—nothing like Milli Vanilli, or lip syncing at the SuperBowl. It’s just the way it’s done.
Social media, done right, requires consistence and persistence. And hiring an executive communications consultant to accelerate and sustain the flow of ideas is good business. It’s not unusual for me to turn a 15-minute monthly phone call with a CEO on the road into a weekly 500-word blog. The ideas are theirs. I just facilitate and accelerate the passage from thought to page.