If You’re Trying to Connect With CEOs on Social Media, You May Be Wasting Your Time

I wrote an article recently for Econtent on CEOs and social media, considering the extent to which they are–or may not be–engaged with social media. What I learned surprised me, and may surprise you as well.

Since LinkedIn is the most business-oriented of the social media tools I’m familiar with (Google+ is quickly gaining ground), I decided to check LinkedIn to see how many Fortune 500 CEOs had LinkedIn profiles. I decided to start with the top 25 companies and their CEOs, using the Fortune list. Of the Top 25 on the list, only one–Meg Whitman–had a LinkedIn profile. She actually has two of them: one from her former position as CEO of EBay, with 6 connections, and another one for her current role as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, with 257 connections.

But that’s all I could find. Albeit, I didn’t search for every possible name variation for each of these CEOs, but neither would most people I suppose. My takeaway: they’re just not connected. At first that surprised me, but as I thought about it a little more, it actually began to make sense for a variety of reasons:

  • If you’re a Fortune 500 (or, in this case, Fortune 25) CEO so you really need to have a social media presence? Maybe you’ve already “arrived.”
  • If you’re a CEO at this level, you’re also probably too busy to be actively engaged with social media (although, of course, chances are that your staff would actually be managing your profile…)
  • If you’re a CEO at this level, maybe you don’t want people–especially people you don’t know–to be able to connect with you. Privacy comes at a premium even for “celebrities” of a business ilk.

Some more interesting “CEOs on LinkedIn” trivia:

  • Larry Page, the youngest CEO on the list at 39, and the CEO of Google (a technology company!) has a profile, but he doesn’t have a photo on his profile (a LinkedIn 101 “must do” for an effective online presence), and he only has 9 connections. A technology company CEO who’s not connected!
  • Jeff Weiner, CEO of¬†LinkedIn¬†does have a profile (thankfully!), with a nice photo and 500+ connections, almost 304,000 followers and multiple endorsements. He’s setting a good example although, again, chances are he’s not really managing his own account.
  • There are a number of Mark Zuckerbergs on LinkedIn, only one with the familiar face of Facebook’s founder, though. It’s an “odd-looking” photo, though, and he only has 21 connections. I’m assuming he has a greater presence on Facebook…

The big takeaway here–if you’re attempting to influence CEOs, especially at this level, a LinkedIn presence may not be the method to net you the greatest results. If you’re attempting to influence anyone on LinkedIn–or other social media channels, in fact–this little exercise illustrates something I tell clients, students and other audiences all the time: you’d better do some research to find out if your target audience is engaged in whatever communication channel you intend to use.

If you don’t, you may be exercising the proverbial “tree in the forest” strategy of communications: shout as loud as you want, and as often as you want, and as cleverly as you can, but if you’re sending messages and your audience isn’t there, you’re really not making a sound, are you?

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