APAC CEOs behind US and Europe counterparts in social media engagement
Fortune’s most powerful women are social too
ABOUT 80% of the chief executive officers (CEOs) from the world’s top companies are now engaged online and via social media, according to research released recently by global public relations (PR) firm Weber Shandwick.
CEO sociability has more than doubled since Weber Shandwick began tracking the social activities of chief executives in the firm’s first Socialising Your CEO study in 2010, when only 36% of CEOs were social, the firm said in a statement.
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“CEOs can enhance and strengthen the reputation of their companies by taking an active and visible role in creating and sharing branded content through their company sites and social media,” said Chris Perry, global president of Digital, Weber Shandwick.
“The proliferation of sources, the unpredictability of news cycles and the explosion of new, highly visual media formats can be a challenge to any company, but it’s also a massive opportunity to engage and connect,” he added.
In its latest report, Socialising Your CEO III: From Marginal to Mainstream, Weber Shandwick researched the online activities of CEOs from the top 50 companies in the 2014 Fortune Global 500 ranking, including 17 from the United States, 19 from Europe, 11 from Asia Pacific and three from Latin America.
The firm audited a range of sites and platforms to see how those CEOs are engaging socially and compared these results to its 2010 and 2012 findings.
Asia’s CEOs not so social
According to its findings, Asia Pacific CEOs are less social than those in the United States and Europe, and did not experience any growth since 2012.
US CEOs, on the other hand, surpass their peers in Europe and Asia Pacific in terms of sociability. Nearly all of the US CEOs in the 2014 audit were social (94%).
However, European CEOs have made great leaps in sociability over the past few years and are catching up.
“CEOs within Asia Pacific are likely to be conservative in line with their tradition and culture, and perhaps the fragmented social media landscape and multitude of social platforms in Asia may be contributing to the confusion,” said Tyler Kim, Weber Shandwick’s head of corporate and crisis in Asia Pacific.
“Nonetheless, there is great opportunity, as is being witnessed in the United States and Europe for CEOs to be more open and accessible, and carefully align their persona with the brand they represent.”
Rise in multiple channels
Weber Shandwick’s 2014 audit found that CEOs from the world’s top companies are visible on their company website (68%), company YouTube channel (38%), and social networks (28%).
Increased use of these three platforms contributed significantly to the increase in CEO sociability overall, it said.
“CEOs have made a remarkable transition from a point in time when being social was considered risky. It’s now crystal clear that having an online engagement strategy that extends through multiple channels is a reputational imperative for business leaders today,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist.
“CEOs who embrace online communications have an opportunity to tell their company story and connect with broader networks of stakeholders than ever before.”
The growth in sociability suggests that companies and their executives recognise the importance of online engagement in today’s digital world, said Weber Shandwick. Communicating online is the norm for today’s CEOs rather than the practice of a select few.
Additionally, CEOs realise that they need to use various channels of engagement to communicate with a diverse stakeholder set. One form of communication no longer suffices under today’s demand for transparency and engagement.
The company website continues its surge: The company website is the top destination for CEO communications with nearly seven in 10 CEOs (68%) having a presence that includes more than just their name or standard biography page. The rapid rise in the use of company websites from 32% in 2010 and 50% in 2012 reflects the trend of companies becoming self-publishers of news and information.
Corporate video fast becoming a CEO standard: CEO corporate video usage, either on the company website or company YouTube channel, is three times as high as it was in 2010. Over half of the CEOs in the audit (54%) now appear in company video, whether that is found on the company website (44%) or YouTube (38%). CEOs shouldn’t overlook the powers of visual influence in today’s multimedia world.
2014 a record year for social networks: After two years of little growth, the proportion of CEOs in the audit with a social network account jumped to 28% from below 20% in past years. The rate of CEOs using LinkedIn nearly quadrupled since 2012, making LinkedIn the most popular social network for top executives in 2014. Twitter also contributed to the growth in social network use. It now appears that CEOs are more confident about how to use Twitter without causing alarm and reputational harm.
The most powerful women in business: Weber Shandwick also analysed the sociability of the female executives on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women (MPW) list, and found that 76% of the women in the MPW audit are social. MPWs are more likely to be on their company website (60%) than on the company YouTube channel (40%) or social networks (30%). On social networks specifically, MPWs are most likely to be on LinkedIn (26%) and Twitter (14%).
Tips for CEO social engagement
Weber Shandwick recommends that companies and their executives adopt the following strategies to optimise their online storytelling to help bolster their reputations and the reputations of their respective organisations.
1) Socialise the executive bench
Sociability starts below the CEO level. As we see from assessing the sociability of the most powerful women in business, sociability begins before taking the top job.
Those executives who have the social know-how when they step up to CEO will have an advantage over the competition and may even have brighter career prospects.
2) Choose platforms wisely
Find the right social vehicle for CEOs, especially those who are hesitant to be social. CEO sociability is inevitable, so they need to embrace it in some form.
3) Listen closely
For those CEOs still hesitant to embrace social media, listening and watching should be the first step. Monitoring the online conversation is a way to gather data on stakeholders and gauge what is being said about their companies.
4) Embrace a ‘media company mindset’
Take hold of the trend in narrating the company story and use the company website as a media platform to publish content. Feature the CEO regularly, even if it is footage from a speaking engagement or a snippet from a town hall meeting.
5) Socialise the CEO’s biography
The CEO’s biography or profile on the company website is a central place to show off a CEO’s assets. If the CEO has social networks, link to these profiles from the CEO’s bio.
Click here to view the Socialising Your CEO III: From Marginal to Mainstream report, which includes even more recommendations.
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