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CEOs aren't leveraging their social network presence: Weber Shandwick study

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CEOs aren't leveraging their social network presence: Weber Shandwick study

A study titled Socialising Your CEO IV: The Engagement Factor conducted by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, finds that while CEOs embrace social media, they struggle to take it to the engagement level.

For this report, Weber Shandwick researched the online activities of CEOs on platforms such as company website, company YouTube channel, external CEO blogs or websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram. The audit investigated 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 defines engagement as any open dialogue between the CEO and site visitor, such as responding to comments or joining in a discussion.

The findings revealed that 92per cent of Top Public, 86per cent of Top Silicon Valley, and 76per cent of Top Private Company CEOs have online social presence. However, CEO engagement rates are lower than 40 per cent.According to the study, CEO social engagement is a must in today’s digital world. Engagement is now the pinnacle of CEO sociability, and reputations are enhanced when CEOS engage socially.

The report lists five key findings presented here:


The study found that the majority of both public and private company CEOs has a presence on at least one of the online platforms (92 per cent and 76per cent respectively). While both sets of CEOs excel in presence, the same is not true for anything deeper. However, when private company CEOs post, they usually engage. A lower level of social network usage by public company CEOs perhaps reflects a greater perception of risk, as website content creation can be more tightly managed. Clearly, public company CEOs have investors and regulators to worry about when it comes to disclosing material information.


The company website provides an indisputable opportunity for companies to enhance the visibility of their senior leaders. Both public and private company CEOs are likely to have a presence on the company website (90per cent and 66per cent respectively). Public company CEOs make good use of their company website terrain.One-third of public company CEOs (34 per cent) have a presence on the careers page of their company websites, a rate three times that of private company CEOs (10per cent).


The study found that private company CEOs are more likely than their public company counterparts to be present on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (59per cent vs. 50per cent respectively). Private company CEOs are also found on more networks. On average, they are on 2.1 platforms while public company CEOs are on 1.3.

However, CEOs, regardless of segment, aren’t leveraging their social network presence. Of those who were found to have a profile, only a portion are posting and engaging. Public company CEOs have a higher drop-off between visibility and engagement. Half of them have a social network presence, but only 22per cent engage.


Video is a powerful and cost-effective tool for enhancing the visibility of CEOs. It is engaging, shows human emotion, and turns the CEO into a visual storyteller. The study found that 40 per cent of public company CEOs and 31per cent of private company CEOs are making use of YouTube. When combined with what the study found when auditing the company website, half of CEOs (58per cent public and 52per cent private) appear in corporate video.


The study found one public company CEO and one private company CEO with their own websites (i.e., a separate entity from the corporate website), which is a platform included in the audit for the first time this year. The websites thus found share news and information about the CEO, list interviews, and feature CEO posts. No public or private CEOs were found to have their own blogs, which is consistent with findings from earlier Socialising Your CEO audits. CEO long-form journalism has not truly evolved.


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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