So Why Doesn’t the Boss Have a Social Media Strategy?

I saw a study a couple of weeks ago that should be a wake-up call. We learned America’s most senior business leaders are out of touch. They don’t use social media. In fact, your grandmother is more likely to be on Twitter than the typical CEO.

This sobering conclusion comes from a survey of the social media accounts of the CEOs of the most successful companies in America – the Fortune 500. While the report politely notes that “more business leaders than ever are jumping into social media,” overall it paints a bleak picture. The study discovered that a “whopping 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all.” And of those who do, three out of four only use LinkedIn.

The dangers of ignoring social media

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love LinkedIn too. But LinkedIn is sane, civilized and most definitely not the real world. By confining their hands-on social activity to LinkedIn, our country’s business leaders are missing out on hearing from and talking to an entire generation. More than a year ago, Pew Research Center called social networking a “major activity for Internet users…younger adults are especially avid adopters.” In fact, 89% of people ages 18-29 say they use social media, compared to 43% ages 65+.

With participation comes knowledge

Delegating all social media decision-making to other smart people in your company may be convenient, but unwise. Sadly, just one CEO in the study, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, uses all five of the social networks in the study: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn. Just one CEO. Out of 500. Zuckerberg obviously gets it. He realizes that he can’t possibly ask his company to compete without being familiar with the game himself. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg has a ‘person’ who posts for him. But even that is better than the alternative – ignoring social media entirely.

In today’s world, hiring a CEO who doesn’t use social media is like hiring a football coach who’s never played the game.

I recently spoke to a class of junior and senior journalism majors at Columbia College in Chicago, and I took my own survey. I asked the group of about a dozen 20-somethings, “What social platform do you spend the most time with?” Here’s the rank order of their answers:

  1. Facebook (“for sports,” “the news feed has a good mix of info”)
  2. Twitter (“it’s brief, gives me the idea,” “I can decide if I want to know more”)
  3. Instagram (“love Vice News”)

In fact, some of the kids were hard-pressed to name just one platform because they use multiple ones daily. On their phones. Which never leave their side. Even when they sleep.

So my question is this: How can anyone guide a company in 2014 without truly understanding the social space and all the potential it holds for global brands? It’s time to raise the bar.

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