IBM Study: Social media is about to transform the C-Suite

connected CEO

“The most effective leaders throughout history have been great communicators, yet the vast majority of modern-day CEOs and C-Suite executives are conspicuously absent from social media channels.” Ann Charles, CEO BRANDfog

We are living in the information age. More people share information from more sources more frequently that any other time in history.  People are sharing content often and quickly by social media channels. What a perfect opportunity this is for great business leaders to use these innovative communication networks.  Yet, the vast majority of the leaders of America’s largest companies have no social presence. In a recent study, 68% of the Fortune 500 CEOs do not have a single social media account. They do not even utlize LinkedIn.

IBM released a significant report based on conversations with more than 1,700 chief executive officers in 64 countries. This is an annual study, conducted to gauge CEOs perspectives on developing trends and issues. One of the biggest surprises to me, given the lack of social media participation, was how dramatically their focus is shifting to social media. It is now high on their radar.

Why?  Because CEOs now have a better understanding of social media’s potential to disrupt and redefine their roles as business leaders.  Social media is going to remake how they relate to customers, employees and partners.

Social media is about to transform the C-Suite. It has the potential to fundamentally change how business is done.

  • Moving past the hype: Currently, social media is the least utilized of all customer interaction methods. However, CEOs predict it will move up the ladder of importance, past websites, call centers and channel partners, and become the second ranked way to engage, just behind face-to-face engagements (IBM Study).
  • Control is shifting from institutions to individuals: In a social media world, brands are in the hands of customers and employees. It will lead to a less controlled environment to a company culture that is more open and transparent.
  • Learning while leading: Many employees at all levels already understand how social media works. Even their children get it. CEOs will be in the uncomfortable position of having to lead while they learn.
  • CEOs must reinvent themselves: New skill sets will be needed to be more personally connected as a “Social CEO” and have the understanding and ability to organize this “major wake-up call” caused by the disruption of social media and rapidly changing technology.
  • Connected companies centered on people: Social media enables connections with employees at every level as well unfiltered communication with customers and better communications with partners. Social media will also provide a means for collaboration inside and outside of the company.
  • Loss of Control: It will force companies to have less of a controlling environment, be transparent and have a more open company culture. They must provide the opportunities to develop personal connections among peers at every level, not just among top executives.

We stand on the precipice of a paradigm shift into a fully connected society. We must not be afraid to embrace change. Those who can manage this will survive; those who don’t will perish.” – United States student, age 30 – Connected generation

Social media is no longer an experiment and isn’t optional. I predict that a CEOs participation in social media will become an expectation.

For further reading, here are some additional articles, reports and studies that I recommend:

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Charles Bayer says:

    Great post — unimaginable in this SM age that so many CEOs don’t get it, cheers Charles

  2. Very well written, Michael. As I was reading your second bullet point above, “Control is shifting from institutions to individuals…” something occurred to me. It would be interesting to take all of those CEOs and divide them into two groups—first, CEOs who are entrepreneurial and have either started the business in which they’re the CEO or come from an entrepreneurial background. And second, CEOs who have always worked for someone else in a corporate environment. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that entrepreneurial-minded CEOs have a much greater understanding of personal branding and the value of social media. Such things probably don’t even cross the mind of CEOs who have always sucked on a corporate teat, or hold to the notion “That’s not my job…”. Older CEOs who wake up will survive—older ones won’t. There are lots of young, up-and-coming CEOs who “get it” and will be anxious to displace them. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  3. evok ad agency says:

    Great stuff Michael – on point again!

  4. Thanks Larry! Very much appreciated.

  5. Thank you for your insights Jack. It would be interesting to see the difference of the entrepreneurial-minded CEOs vs those who came up through the ranks of the corporate structure.

  6. I agree Charles. Many have a steep learning curvey that would have been much easier had they started participating 5 to 6 years ago.

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