Why CEOs should use social media

Published 31 July 2012 05:55, Updated 01 August 2012 05:27

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Why CEOs should use social media

For CEOs who are trying to decide whether participating in social media is worth their time, there’s new research that could help tip the balance.

The report from CEO.com and business intelligence firm DOMO notes that social media is more pervasive than ever among consumers: 50 per cent of the population currently uses Facebook, and more than 37 per cent use Twitter. Yet among Fortune 500 CEOs, the report says, only 7.6 per cent are present on Facebook, only 4 per cent use Twitter, and less than 1 per cent use Google Plus.

LinkedIn is the only social network where CEOs are slightly ahead of the general populace, the study concludes: Twenty-six percent of CEOs surveyed use LinkedIn, compared to 20.15 per cent of the population at large.

However, another recent report shows CEOs’ reluctance may be changing: When IBM surveyed 1709 CEOs, it found just 16 per cent currently participating in social media. However the study predicts the percentage will likely grow to 57 per cent within 5 years — and, in fact, social media will become one of the two most important forms of engagement with employees and customers, second only to face to face interactions.

Why the change? Corporate leaders — and especially large company CEOs — are finally realising what their employees and customers already know: That using social technologies to engage with customers, suppliers, and even with their own employees enables their companies to be more adaptive and agile.

This is a principle we take to heart at our own company, Fishbowl, as well. For example, we maintain a Facebook group for our customers of our inventory control software that allows them to interface directly with our engineers. This allows customers to send complaints, praise, ideas and requests for new features to our programmers through a forum the entire world can see. We also make it a practice to share our competitors’ information freely and to praise their successes as well as our own.

In many respects, social media is becoming the “universal university” that allows all of us to learn from each other through comments, feedback and spirited dialogues, even when we may not agree.

As leaders, we see social media as a way to obtain contacts that would cost far more money (and perhaps be far less engaged) if we were trying to simply purchase all of our leads through PPC ads. For us, that indicates a positive Return on Investment.

Consider one more piece of recent research: The BRANDFog 2012 CEO Survey says more than 82 per cent of respondents are likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engage in social media. The study also reports that 77 per cent of respondents are likely or much more willing to buy from a company whose mission and values are defined through their leaderships’ involvement in social media.

Clearly social media is becoming vital for business; however, the biggest rewards are available for companies whose commitment to social media comes from the top. Regardless the size of your organisation, why would any company want to let such a strong potential competitive advantage go?

David K. Williams and Mary Michelle Scott are CEO and President, respectively, the paired leadership team of Fishbowl, provider of Fishbowl Inventory Software, and one of Utah’s and America’s fastest growing companies. Fishbowl is based in Orem, Utah.

Harvard Business Review