When it comes to Social Media, CEOs and CMOs should lead from the front


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In spite of phenomenal growth of Social Media channels and almost hysterical following this has generated among its users, it is rare to see large corporations making effective use of Social Media in engaging their Customers. Burson-Marsteller has studied Fortune 100’s use of key Social Media Tools It is evident from this study that although use of Social Media by business is growing rapidly, it is still way behind what one would expect given the level of involvement of Social Media users.

Findings of another Study on use of Social Media tools by CEOs of Fortune 100 companies
are even more shocking. It was found that among Fortune’s top 100 CEOs:

  • Only 2 CEOs have twitter account
  • Mere 13 have LinkedIn profile
  • 81% do not have a Facebook page
  • Only 2 Fortune 100 CEOs have more than 10 friends on Facebook
  • Not one Fortune 100 CEO has a blog

This shows CEOs are disinterested and are not having their eyes and ears on Social Media channels that are going to drive their business going forward. It is very important that all senior executives of business start taking Social Media initiatives seriously, especially the CEOs and CMOs. They should lead from the front when it comes to use of Social Media as survival and growth of their business rests on how effectively they leverage emerging tech tools. To start with, CEOs and CMOs should:

  • Have a Twitter account and start using it for communicating with customers and general public
  • Have a Facebook page and respond to discussion on their page
  • Monitor discussion regarding their company or brands on Social Media channels and if there are any legitimate issues, take it up with respective execs and make sure that they are resolved
  • Should use feedback gained from Social Media channels and ask right questions during review meetings. This will send out clear message down the chain that senior execs are listening to customers on Social Media and line managers or customer support staff will be more responsive to handling customer issues via Social channels.
  • Set up a Social Media Task force that will advise them on how to quickly adapt and integrate their business into emerging Social web applications

These are some of the Must Do items that every CEO and CMO of any business should tackle right away. Sooner they adopt and start using Social Media for engaging their customers and key stake-holders better for them else performance of their business will suffer. They need to make sure that their business engages customers through Social Media for building trust and brand loyalty.

What is your opinion? What should CEOs and CMOs do to effectively engages Customers on Social Media for building Trust and Loyalty? Love to hear from you …

Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.
Dr. Harish Kotadia has more than twelve years' work experience as a hands-on CRM Program and Project Manager implementing CRM and Analytics solutions for Fortune 500 clients in the US. He also has about five years' work experience as a Research Executive in Marketing Research and Consulting industry working for leading MR organizations. Dr. Harish currently lives in Dallas, Texas, USA and works as a Practice Leader, Data Analytics and Big Data at a US based Global Consulting Company. Views and opinion expressed in this blog are his own.


  1. Harish: thanks for sharing these findings. My theory is that age demographics play a role. Many of the Fortune100 are run by executives who achieved their rank using technologies that emerged long before web-based social networks.

    But the Burson-Marsteller survey you referenced offered some insight that surprised me. Despite all the online hoopla about social media’s vital role for customer engagement, among the Fortune 100, it’s overwhelmingly used as a “push” technology for communication. SSDDC–same stuff, different digital channel. I didn’t see much “bilateral” anything in the study’s pie charts. I see great risks and opportunities in that. As social-media-laggard executives retire and younger facebook-savvy executives replace them, their companies will command competitive advantages because people who grew up with all this social media stuff are comfortable using it.

    The availability of tools for engaging with customers is not the constraint. It’s the fact that habits are the enemy of innovation.

  2. Harish: To start with I think CEO’s and CMO’s should probably develop a Social CRM Strategy first. Having a Twitter or Facebook account does not per se fit into such a strategy. To build trust and transparency it may e.g. be best to stimulate “normal” employees to start blogging. They could have more credibility than the CEO or CMO.

    Furthermore I would advice not to device a Social Media Task Force. Social Media is just one of the channels, that could be incorporated into all parts of a strategy. E.g. Voice of the Customer programs should utilize more than just Social Media to collect.

    We should do whatever we can to prevent Social Media to become one more silo in an overly silo’d business environment.

  3. Hi Harish,

    Items that I would like to have covered in some detail in a Social CRM Strategy are:
    1. Customer/Consumer (from now on aka Consumer) engagement in Product Creation.

    Where, when and how can a Consumer help and get value in product creation? Where, when and how does this bring value to the Company and the Consumer? How is this managed at interface (engagement) level, and how is this managed at back-office (infrastructure/IT/Networks) level?

    2. Engagement Analytics.

    Once Company establishes a presence in Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter, and so forth), and engages Consumers in dialogue, how to analyze and process the resulting data, how to spot emerging trends, and how to (Graham Hill: sense and) respond or act in a pro-active way? Note that the ‘How to’ will require a high degree of IT/Marketing alignment…

    I am quite sure that there is no quick solution, and I have definitely left out some other interesting questions. One thing is sure IMHO: whatever model is chosen, it will need to involve IT from the very beginning.

  4. I’m a CEO who blogs and uses Twitter (@mrkwpalmer), and I “get” the value of social media – in the past few years using it, we’ve slashed marketing costs and tripled the awareness of our company at the same time.

    That said, I disagree with this article. Fortune 100 CEOs should *not* be using social media more. I’ve been an executive at a big public company with 1,000’s of employees, and with companies with a few hundred employees. The execs at big companies, as a group, are out of touch with the customer; execs at smaller companies are, comparatively, close the innovation and customer pulse. The sad reality is that the bigger a company gets, the more insular CEOs tend to get. There are obviously great exceptions to this rule – CEOs like Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, and Sam Walton who are famously in touch with their products and people. But those CEOs are the exception to the rule, and they are the kind of CEOs who should blog. But they are rare.

    All that said, business is becoming more and more social. Over time – a looong time – more CEOs will be social and connected. Indeed, one of the most popular things I’ve written is this post called “27 Twitter Lessons for CEOs”:


    Sadly, this post drew tons of interest from PR professionals who asked me: “how do I get my CEO clients to embrace social media?” A well placed question, but these lessons only work if you have a CEO who is passionate about communication and who “gets” social media. Unfortunately, in my experience, that’s a rare bird.

  5. Andrew_Rudin:

    Thanks for your comments. You are right in that demographics play a role here. Pls see my blog post on “How will you Manage in Social Media Age?” (link http://hkotadia.com/archives/781)

    And as you have correctly pointed out, as younger Facebook-savvy executives take charge, their companies will command competitive advantages.

    One critical point to note here is that change in technology and growth of Social Networking is too rapid to wait for social-media-laggard executives to retire. They will either be sidelined or will have to settle for lesser role (because of lack of Social Media skills). Better for everyone to start learning those skills right away – because it is going to matter a LOT!

    Thanks for your comments.

    Harish Kotadia

  6. wimrampen:

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with you on the importance of Social Media Strategy. But the objective of having CEO or CMO on Twitter is to send our a clear signal down the chain that Social Media channels are important and senior executives are listening to “chatter” about company’s brands on Social Media. See my blog post on how Southwest Airlines leverages Social Media (link: http://hkotadia.com/archives/745). It is very important for CEOs and CMOs to ask for right metrics on Social Media.

    Regarding Task force, I agree we don’t want Social Media to be another silo, but we need to make sure that in the “initial” days of Social Media, diffusion happens in an orderly fashion and there are no turf battles. Organizational Politics can easily derail any Social Media initiative (PR Vs. Marketing, Headquarter Vs Regional Offices for example).

    We need to have everybody on board and for that reason, I have suggested a Task Force. Once there is some traction on Social Media initiatives and owners of SM initiatives are identified, then it can be Business as Usual.

    Thanks again for your comments,

    Harish Kotadia

  7. Hi Fransvandeputte:

    Thanks for your comments. As you have rightly pointed out, IT will play a critical role in making sure that Social Media Networks are integrated into Org’s IT infrastructure in a seamless way. We are still in very early days of Social Media (r)evolution (it is happening at a very rapid pace, but is still at a nascent stage). Product creation will happen through Customer Collaboration. Pls see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP_3bpCPZaQ

    Engagement Analytics will also evolve as marketers find traditional measures unsuitable for Social Media and once we have larger data sets to analyze. I guess this will happen rapidly starting in second half of 2010.

    Thanks again for your comments,

    Harish Kotadia,

  8. Mark Palmer:

    Thanks for your comments and valuable insight given your first-hand experience in using Social Media and being an executive in a large co.

    You have rightly pointed out that most senior executives at large corporations are out of touch with the customer. In my opinion, that is the “root cause” of many of the problems faced by these companies. Social Media offers great tools to flatten hierarchy and connect with customers.

    Eventually this will happen, as rules of the game are changing. If these cos. want to play in changed environment, their CEOs and CMOs will HAVE to use new tools such as Social Media, else customers will take their business to competitors whose execs are paying attention to them. Social Media is the new competitive advantage. Either you adopt it and thrive, or perish.

    Thanks again for your comments and valuable insight.

    Harish Kotadia


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