Domo’s Josh James: Fortune 500 CEO’s are invisible on social media

Social media isn’t a passing fad. The primary reason you have to be social is because that is where your customer lives. – Josh James CEO of Data startup Domo

Its hard to believe, we are at the the halfway point of 2013, and you would have thought that everyone would have been on board with social media when it comes to the boardroom right?  Wrong. There is one core group in the U.S that hasn’t joined the party: CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. According to a new study sponsored by Domo and, CEOs at Fortune 500 companies have been slow to embrace social media, but at least two social networks appear to gaining traction with the chief executives of America’s most successful companies.

The 2013 Social CEO Report is an annual study that investigates the social media habits of business leaders. It finds that only 5.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are now on Twitter, compared to just 3.6% last year, a 55.6% increase in participation. Overall, roughly 18% of the adult U.S. population is currently on Twitter according to research from Pew Internet.

Is it a cultural thing? or perhaps tied into age and a last century mindset?  There are many reasons for CEOs to join Twitter. For one thing, they tend to get legitimate followers faster, including key influencers. Its also common sense to be able to gauge public perception at a glance, especially if the company is going through something controversial. Domo CEO Josh James writing in a forbes article makes this point: 

“When we did the research for the Fortune 500 Social CEO Index, it was shocking to me that only nine CEOs in a 100-day period had tweeted. And that Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman was active only when she was running for office – but what about her 100,000 employees and millions upon millions of customers? The fact that there were only two CEOs with more than 500 friends is almost laughable”.

Its not all bad news, as 27.9% of CEOs are active on LinkedIn, compared to 25.9% in 2012. LinkedIn remains the one social media platform that is actually more popular with CEOs than the general public. Latest figures from Pew Internet report that 20% of the adult U.S. population is on LinkedIn.

“The rise of Twitter in particular really points to the need for speed among CEOs,” said Josh James. “Business leaders desire information that is quick, succinct and easily digestible. Twitter more than any other social network delivers on that.” The study found there are currently 28 Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter with a combined total of 2,126,564 followers. While some CEOs earned their following through a steady series of tweets, others simply let their star power do the talking.  The day billionaire Warren Buffett joined Twitter, for example, he gained about 1,000 new followers every minute.

The presence of Fortune 500 CEOs on Google Plus is also stagnant, with just 1% active on the network this year, compared to 0.8% last year. I think the importance of Google+ for business is going to become clearer as time goes on. Are these Fortune 500 CEOs going to be able to take advantage of this sleeping giant in time?

Key takeaways from the Study:

  • 32% of Fortune 500 CEOs have at least one profile on a social network, leaving 68% with no social presence whatsoever.
  • Of the 28 CEOs on Twitter, 19 (67.9%) are “active” Twitter users, meaning they have tweeted in the last 100 days.
  • Active Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter tweet an average of 0.98 times per day.
  • Fortune 500 CEOs gain an average of 838 new followers per day (only 68.8 followers if you exclude Warren Buffett).
  • There are 140 Fortune 500 CEOs on LinkedIn, 25 of which have more than 500 connections.
  • Unsurprisingly, the most popular CEO on Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg with 16,742,363 followers.