Will Social Media Be of Any Help to CEOs?

twitterExperts believe social media presents good opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers. By Fayazuddin A. Shirazi at Chief Executive Online.

Although industry analysts are increasingly advocating the usage of social media by companies, CEOs apparently are going easy on the suggestions. As against the increased usage of social media – such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the fast growing blogs domain - by general public, CEOs are still lagging behind in adopting to such emerging trends and technologies.

Writing for his blog “My Three Cents”, Ken Makovsky, CEO and President Makovsky + Company, a NY based global investor relations company believes, CEOs are losing, what he calls, a powerful opportunity to connect with their customers by ignoring social media.

Commenting on a recent research piece which pronounced most of the CEOs to be social media slackers, Makovsky thinks social media is a rapidly growing community and CEOs should identify and align themselves with these emerging technologies.

The research by UberCEO.com, a blog watch on CEOs, found most of the Fortune 100 CEOs they surveyed were social media hermits. Out of the 100 CEOs analyzed only two had twitter accounts.

Eighty-one percent of chief executives did not have a personal Facebook page. Only 13 had profiles on the professional networking site LinkedIn. Three-quarters of the CEOs did have some kind of Wikipedia entry, but nearly a third of those had limited or outdated information, such as incorrect titles, or failed to provide sources. While some CEOs contribute to other blogs, not one Fortune 100 chief executive had his or her own blog, writes Makovsky.

However, recent research data from Nielsen revealed that people are spending more time on social networking and blog sites than ever before. Nielsen research found the number of minutes spent on social media in the United Sates is doubling over the past year. “Despite an increase (82 percent) in the total number of minutes spent year-over-year and average time per person (67 percent) year-over-years, the CEOs are still staying aloof from the rapidly growing social media community,” wonders Makovsky quoting the Nielsen and UberCEO report.

So why is that CEOs are wary about social media? Experts believe CEOs fear, their open dialogue could spell potential trouble for them as they are closely watched by the law and the governance agencies.

"No doubt regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Reg-FD make CEOs cautious about communicating freely, but they're missing a fabulous opportunity to connect with their target audience and raise their company's visibility," Sharon Barclay, editor UberCEO.com told Reuters, referring to financial reporting regulations aimed at protecting investors.

Experts feel unless CEOs are motivated to use the social media themselves, they really cannot know what it is.

“You (CEOs) can't understand Twitter, Facebook, or blogging by reading an article in a magazine or a report from your CMO. Sure, they can tell you what they are, but you won't be able to truly understand how they could change your business unless you actually use them,” George F. Colony, CEO Forrester Research and the self-proclaimed CEO Guru had observed in his recent blog posting. He says the only way CEOs can understand social technologies is by using them.

“Social is like sex. It's fun to talk about and read about, but you can't truly comprehend unless you do it,” Colony noted in his blog posting at Counter Intuitive CEO.

According to Colony, the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, uses social extensively and now has 300 customer service representatives at the company on Twitter. Why? As Tony says..."People don't relate to companies, they relate to people."  “This is important insight. You, the 57 year old CEO may not use social, but that doesn't mean that your customers don't use social. You are not your customer,” Colony points out referring to Tony Hsieh’s view.

Makovsky believes, while not every CEO has the skills, inclination or regulatory freedom to blog, it’s worth remembering that the social media represent a powerful opportunity for a company — or virtually any other entity— to really connect with its most important stakeholders.

“Yes, much of the social technology is a titanic time waster. And yes, much of the technology is crap. But there may be real value here for your company -- something that you can't grasp unless you engage with social,” George F. Colony pointed out.