Dave Kerpen | Memo to CEOs: Go Social or Go Home
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Memo to CEOs: Go Social or Go Home

Memo to CEOs: Go Social or Go Home

Last week, CEO.com published its 2nd annual Social CEO Report, examining in great detail the social networking presence of each of the Fortune 500 CEOs. Their findings were surprising: Most notably, 68% of CEOs have absolutely no presence on any of the major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus). Here are a few more highlights from the report (or lowlights, depending upon how you look at it):

1) About one quarter, or 28% (140) of the Fortune 500 CEOs are here on LinkedIn, the leading social network for business professionals. They include fellow LinkedIn Influencers Meg Whitman, Jamie Dimon, Jeff Immelt and John Donahoe.

2) Just 7% (35) of the Fortune 500 CEOs are on Facebook, led obviously by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with 16 million followers.

3) A paltry 5.6% (28) of the Fortune 500 CEOs are on Twitter, and just 3.7% (19) of them have active Twitter accounts.

So why aren’t more Fortune 500 CEOs embracing social media? The four reasons the report cites are:

1) Not enough time

2) Uncomfortable with transparency

3) Greater risk

4) Resistance to change

I don’t know the Fortune 500 CEOs who aren’t using social networks personally, so I can only speculate about why they’re not going social. I’d boil it down to two primary reasons myself: fear and lack of perceived value.

We fear what we don’t yet know and understand, and Fortune 500 CEOs are amongst the last demographic on the planet to know and understand social networks.

We don’t make time for what we don’t see value in – and surely these CEOs don’t see value in spending time on social networks. They think they have better things to do.

I don’t think they do. As I’ve written before, the bigger value to social media for business isn’t in the talking, it’s in the listening. CEOs can use social media to listen to their customers, competitors, competitors’ customers, and employees. They can discover new products, new markets, and new opportunities. Once they start talking, they can tell their story – provide thought leadership, and attract new partners, vendors, talent and customers. They can be the spokesperson for their companies online the same way they are the spokesperson offline.

Said Josh James, CEO of Domo, the company who sponsored the report: “CEOs who use social media are growing their businesses, attracting lifelong customers, generating exposure for their companies and closing new deals. As consumers become more social savvy, so must company leaders.”

I say to CEOs: Your employees are on social networks. Your customers are on social networks. Your shareholders are on social networks. Your nimble, startup competitors are on social networks. If you’re not on on these social networks, you not only risk looking like you’re out of touch, you risk actually becoming out of touch.

Here’s the thing: Fortune 500 CEOs are still afraid of going social – but perhaps they should be more afraid of their nimble competitors going social and quickly catching up, taking their jobs – and their spots on the Fortune 500.

I’m a CEO of one company and a Chairman of another – and I’ve found enormous value in using social media personally and professionally. But I’m running social media companies, so there’s an obvious, unfair bias.

So, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and all companies around the globe, don’t take the advice to “Go social” from me. Take it from Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch, Marissa Mayer, Ralph Lauren and Meg Whitman, who’d all likely say: Go social or go home.


Now it’s your turn: What do you think about the current CEOs who are on social networks, and not? Which CEOs do you think are doing a great job with social media? Which CEOs do you think could be doing better job? Is being involved with social media as important for a CEO as I believe it is? Please share your thoughts in

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