Nearly half (47%) of top Canadian CEOs have no presence on social media and only one in every 14 CEOs are using Twitter, a study conducted on behalf of the social public relations firm Signal Leadership Communication has found.
“When you consider the digital disruption their companies are confronting nowadays, that’s a shocking statistic,” said Signal principal Bob Pickard of the 47% finding.
The Signal Social CEO Index, conducted by Ryerson University’s Infoscape Research Lab, was based on Canadian Business magazine’s 2016 list of Canada’s Top 100 highest-paid CEOs.
Still, the study suggested Canadian chief executives may be more socially networked online than their American counterparts. It cited a 2015 report of Fortune 500 CEOs that reported 61% of CEOs had no social media presence.
The study also found 53% of the country’s top CEOs are on at least one social media platform, while only 16% are using two or more social networks.
Mining company CEOs had the highest participation on social media platforms, with 77% having at least one social media account, and 23% having more than one account. Conversely, only 36% of energy and finance CEOs had one or more social media accounts.
The study also found LinkedIn is the most popular platform for CEOs, with 45% having accounts on the site. However, only 50% of CEOs on LinkedIn have a profile picture, while just 33% have a full biography.
Despite Twitter’s popularity for journalists and breaking news, only 7% of Canadian CEOs that were researched have Twitter accounts. While BlackBerry CEO John Chen has 19,400 followers, the six other CEOs on Twitter averaged just 316 followers and only followed 65 Twitter users on average.
Twenty-five per cent of the CEOs’ Twitter posts promoted the business of their companies, while only 1% of tweets were of a personal nature and less than 1% of tweets were directed at or spoke to clients’ or consumers’ experiences with the company.
Only 17% of CEOs have Facebook accounts. Only nine CEO accounts could be viewed publicly and they had an average total of 79 friends. Most (78%) CEO Facebook posts were personal in nature (such as images of themselves and family members) and only 2% promoted business operations.
The study also found CEOs share several different types of content on social media, such as thought leadership (20%), business promotion and philanthropy (tied at 13%), mentorship (11%), and governance (9%).
It’s the latest in a line of studies launched by Signal since its launch in August. Another study, conducted by Nanos Research, found 84% of Canadians rate social media as the medium most able to damage an individual’s or organization’s public image.
The study noted there were obvious risks in CEOs using social media. “A novice and unprepared CEO risks offending communities by contravening online practices and conventions, or may simply post unedited comments by accident,” the study said.
However, silence is another important risk for CEOs, it noted. “By not engaging with social media, CEOs run the risk of being perceived as aloof, out of touch, or uncaring by their own employees, customers, or the public at large.”
Signal principal Janice Mandel noted many CEOs are afraid to use social media and it’s a shame many don’t understand its practical benefits includes the ability to be visible, connect with people and build trust and to listen to what’s being said about their company.
Pickard said the study found “little evidence of strategic social media or leadership communication campaigns designed and implemented for, or by, CEOs.”
While there is “a galvanizing PR opportunity” for CEOs to increase their digital presence, CEOs “are really only just getting started on social.”