Study by Weber Shandwick Finds CEOs Embrace Social Media, But Struggle With Engagement


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Weber Shandwick released results from their research that found that the majority of leading U.S. public and private company CEOs, as well as the top CEOs in Silicon Valley, are visible online in social media and on their company websites.

“Due to the strong link between corporate reputation and CEO engagement, we are committed to better understanding how CEOs can adopt and leverage social media and other digital platforms to communicate, listen and respond,” said Andy Polansky, Chief Executive Officer, Weber Shandwick.

Weber Shandwick researched the online activities of CEOs from the top public companies in the U.S. Fortune 500 rankings, Fortune’s Most Important Private Companies in the U.S. and Mercury News’ top companies in Silicon Valley.

Throughout their investigation they looked at three levels of CEO activity:

  1. Public CEO visibility on the company website or on social networks
  2. CEO posts from the past 12 months on the sites on which they are visible
  3. CEO engagement from the past 12 months

The report defined engagement as:  any open dialogue between the CEO and site visitor, such as responding to comments or joining in a discussion.

“CEOs and other executives can amplify and deepen their company narratives by creating social content and sharing it online,” said Chris Perry, chief digital officer, Weber Shandwick. “More CEOs have made the leap to communicating online to help shape their brands digitally and personalize the company. However, we are now at a point where CEOs need to truly embrace social engagement and move it up the next notch.”

CEOs are Visible, But Not Consistently Engaging

While most CEOs excel in online presence, they’re not making extensive use of their platforms. Fewer than four in 10 public and private company CEOs have posted online within the past year. Silicon Valley CEOs have a slightly higher posting rate, but not by much. In addition, engagement levels are low, with 22 percent of public company CEOs and 34 percent of private company CEOs interacting with other people online within the past year. Silicon Valley CEOs can be seen as the most engaging of the CEOs, just surpassing private company presidents.   

“Engagement is the new presence when it comes to CEO sociability,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist, Weber Shandwick. “Distributing content online and engaging with stakeholders allows CEOs to humanize the conversation, demonstrate transparency and touchability, forge connections with stakeholders and to achieve the reputational advantage. Social engagement is more important than ever in this highly politicized climate and preparation is key.”

Silicon Valley CEOs Lead the Way in Social Network Presence. Social networks are the top platform for Silicon Valley CEO visibility (71 percent), far surpassing the social network presence of public (50 percent) and private company CEOs (59 percent). However, Silicon Valley CEOs do not lead their public and private peers in social network engagement to the same degree (39 percent vs. 22 percent and 34 percent, respectively).

Eight Tips for CEO Social Engagement

Weber Shandwick recommends that companies consider the following digital and social media strategies for their chief executives to become more effective chief storytellers and strengthen their company reputations.

  1. Get online if not already there.
  2. Own real estate on the company careers page.
  3. Aggregate and centralize CEO communications.
  4. Take advantage of video.
  5. Regularly author content and content publish.
  6. Be more than just visible on social networks. Engage.
  7. Establish an authentic voice.
  8. Be mindful of risks.

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