Research conducted by the blog UberCEO.com looked at Fortune’s 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs to determine how many were using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, or had a blog — and found they were mostly absent from the rapidly growing social media community.
The study found only two CEOs had Twitter accounts and 81 percent of CEOs did not have a personal Facebook page.
Only 13 CEOs had profiles on the professional networking site LinkedIn. Three CEOs stood out with more than 80 connections but they were all from technology companies — Michael Dell from computer maker Dell Inc., Gregory Spierkel from technology products distributor Ingram Micro Inc., and John Chambers from Cisco Systems Ltd.
…Not one Fortune 100 CEO had a blog. (my emphasis)
“It’s shocking that the top CEOs can appear to be so disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating. They’re giving the impression that they’re disconnected, disengaged and disinterested,” said Sharon Barclay, editor at UberCEO.com who runs executive PR firm Blue Trumpet Group.
The important thing isn’t whether they are blogging or not – it’s not for everyone – or that Facebook is critical for their job or their company. The important thing is that no knowledge – and (too) often outright hostility – to social media, the real-time web, etc. means that their understanding of the world in which they operate is frighteningly lacking. This has been a problem for time eternal for leaders of large organisations and is not specific to the advent of social media per se, but I would suggest that this time it is even more unfortunate than usual. One the speed of change and the deep structural paradigm shift that our society and economies are experiencing is more profound than normal ‘linear’ change. Secondly, their ability to ‘do something about it’ is real. In the past, I would of had much more sympathy for the corporate or political leader who said – “ok fair enough I’m a bit out of touch up here in my ivory citadel but what can I do about it”. Today that doesn’t wash. Or to a much much lesser extent.
So why are these leaders seemingly so ignorant and on the face of it disdainful of this new paradigm? Partly I’m sure it’s because they are really busy and have a never ending call on their attention: the urgent pushes out the important. This happens to all of us. More disappointingly – and here I can only speculate, I don’t know any of these 100 CEOs – I suspect that for many it is driven by fear. Not fear in a cowardly sense, but fear of looking dumb. Most people are afraid of this, and I’m sure toiling under the spotlight associated with running a Fortune 100 company only exacerbates this. These smart, ambitious, driven men and women must feel some annoyance after having spent 20 or 30 years climbing the corporate ladder to reach the pinnacle, only to find the rules of the game changed.
Here’s a suggestion. The Boards’ of these companies should ask there CEO’s to take a 1-2 month sabbatical to immerse themselves in the 21st web, preferably supported by a mentor or coach. When they came back they still might not blog. Or tweet. Or have a Facebook page. And that might be ok. But I’m certain they would have a much better understanding of why they don’t and what tools they might actually want to adopt. But most importantly they would have a better understanding of the world in which their company operates. First hand knowledge; not “Oh yeah my kid was telling me about that and tried to get me signed up. Damn teenagers!”
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