Many Canadian CEOs not using social media: Survey

Only seven per cent have Twitter accounts
||Last Updated: 10/17/2016
BlackBerry CEO John Chen. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Just over half (53 per cent) of Canada’s top CEOs are on at least one social media platform. However, only 16 per cent of them are using two or more social networks, found a survey conducted by Ryerson University in Toronto and released by Signal Leadership Communication (SLC).

“Almost half (47 per cent) of top Canadian CEOs have no presence whatsoever on social media. When you consider the digital disruption their companies are confronting nowadays, that’s a shocking statistic,” said SLC principal Bob Pickard. “But it also underlines a galvanizing PR opportunity for the country’s chief executives to become ‘social CEOs.’ Communication capability in general — and digital presence in particular — are becoming must-have business assets for leaders and our study shows that CEOs are really only just getting started on social.”

LinkedIn is the most popular platform for the CEOs surveyed (45 per cent have accounts there). However, only 50 per cent of those CEOs have a profile photograph and just 33 per cent have a proper biography.

Only seven per cent of the CEOs have Twitter accounts. Not including BlackBerry CEO John Chen (who has an impressive 19,100+ followers at last count), the six remaining CEOs on Twitter averaged just 316 followers. All the CEOs on Twitter (including Chen) showed limited interest in following others. On average, they followed only 65 Twitter users, found the survey.

There are obvious risks in CEOs using social media, said Ryerson’s professor Greg Elmer.

“A novice and unprepared CEO risks offending communities by contravening online practices and conventions, or may simply post unedited comments by accident. That said, there is another less tangible — yet equally important — risk for the CEO: Silence. In other words, by not engaging with social media, CEOs run the risk of being perceived as aloof, out of touch, or uncaring by their own employees, customers, or the public at large.”

Now is the time for leaders to invest in social leadership communication, he said.

“This will serve them well, and ensure that they won’t learn about social media the hard way by making mistakes when inevitable crisis situations occur.”

Many CEOs are afraid to use social media, but they shouldn’t be, said SLC principal Janice Mandel.

“A platform like Twitter offers a way for executives to be visible, connect with people and build trust. It also allows them to listen to what’s being said about their company, weigh in and create transparency. There really are many practical benefits. It’s a shame more executives don’t understand this.”

Just 17 per cent of the CEOs studied are known to have Facebook accounts, the study found. Only nine CEO accounts could be viewed publicly, and they had an average total of 79 friends. Seventy-eight per cent of CEO Facebook posts were personal in nature while two per cent promoted business operations.

The CEOs share several different types of content on social media, including: thought leadership (20 per cent), business promotion and philanthropy (tied at 13 per cent), mentorship (11 per cent), and governance (9 per cent). But only 2.5 per cent of posts promoted or lauded the employees of a CEO’s company.

Fear of social media’s new power may be the key emotion explaining the disparity between the obvious potential of digital media to help achieve positive image outcomes and the limited uptake and personal involvement of high-profile business leaders, said Pickard.

“Our study found little evidence of strategic social media or leadership communication campaigns designed and implemented for, or by, CEOs,” he said.

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