Aussie CEOs are snubbing social channels despite there being more than 2.4 billion active social media users globally and ongoing evidence that social media significantly impacts people’s buying decisions. 

Just 35 per cent of the CEOs of Australia’s 20 largest listed companies are active on Twitter and only half have a LinkedIn profile, according to proprietary research released today from The IMPACT Agency and ECCO International Communications.

The research analyses the social media presence of CEOs of the largest listed companies in Australia and more than 17 countries; revealing significant differences in CEO social media participation and engagement around the world.

For those Australian CEOs that do have a social media presence, frequency of posts and engagement is relatively low. The average number of posts for CEOs who are active on Twitter is one per week, with an average of 8.2 retweets. For those ten CEOs on LinkedIn, only two have ever posted content on their account.

Interestingly, prominent careers do not equate to social media prominence globally, with Australian CEOs on par with other countries’ results:

  • Globally, just 14 per cent of CEOs are on Twitter and 41 per cent are on LinkedIn.
  • Australian CEOs rank fourth in terms of total presence on Twitter and LinkedIn, sitting behind France, Norway and the Czech Republic respectively.
  • France has the largest number of connected executives, with 35 per cent on Twitter and 70 per cent on LinkedIn.
  • US CEO Tim Cook (Apple) is in a league of his own in the Twitter popularity stakes with more than five million followers, followed by Russia’s Sergei Galitsky (Magnit) with 167,000 followers. Third is Australia’s Andy Penn (Telstra) with just over 40,000 followers.
  • Team USA also takes out top individual honours on LinkedIn, with Microsoft CEO Staya Nadella the most followed CEO with over 1.5 million followers. UK’s Paul Polman (Unilever) has 500,000 followers and Germany’s Bill McDermot (SAP) comes in third with 178,000 followers.
  • Both Germany and Russia have only one CEO on Twitter and three on LinkedIn.

So, with LinkedIn and Twitter collectively providing a direct connection to more than 434 million active users, why aren’t CEOs leveraging these channels to connect with their customers, clients, investors and stakeholders?

Is it time, or lack thereof, or is their fear of ‘stuffing up’ and being trolled? Or has the Trump-style use of tweets as a stream of consciousness, instead of an effective communications amplification tool, hindered adoption? Perhaps it’s because the average Australian CEO is in his mid-fifties, a demographic that has lower participation on these social platforms?

Whatever the myriad of risk-averse reasons, they are missing a very significant point: the era of CEOs sitting in their ‘ivory boardrooms’ is over.

Consumers want the CEO of today to use his or her power to make sure a brand or company does what it says. They expect the person at the helm of a company to be looking out for their individual interests, both as a customer and citizen.

Posting and sharing on social channels like Twitter or LinkedIn not only provides a direct form of external communication, it can provide a platform for the leader of the business to offer a real, human face for the brand.

In a world where companies have lost connection with the people who drive their brands forward, the CEO is in a unique position to use social media to help reconnect his or her company with the people who matter the most.

And the benefits of a social CEO are extensive. Another recent study shows CEOs who are social media savvy not only improve a brand’s reputation, but also become better leaders.

The study concludes that compared to executives who aren’t active on social media, CEOs who are social savvy are:

  • 89 per cent better at empowering others
  • 52 per cent stronger at compelling communication
  • 46 per cent more influential

With evidence of stronger connection to customers, positive influence on buying decisions and enhanced leadership, the perceived risks of participation are dwarfed by missed opportunities and potential growth of CEOs on social media. So, what is your organisation waiting for?

* Participating countries/regions: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA