While small business CEOs can learn a lot from their larger counterparts, social media habits are one area they shouldn't necessarily follow their lead, new research finds.
Despite the benefits it can bring, most top company leaders have no presence on social media at all, according to a study from Domo and CEO.com. Specifically, 60 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were not active on any of the six major social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube – last year, down slightly from 61 percent in 2015.
"Despite calls from many social media evangelists for CEOs to increase their use of social media, not much has changed since 2015," the study's authors wrote.
In a previous study by social media branding firm BRANDfog, more than 80 percent of the employees surveyed believed CEOs who engage on social media are better equipped than their peers to lead companies in today's technology-laden world. Additionally, 93 percent believe that executive engagement on social media helps communicate company values and grow and evolve corporate leadership in times of crisis.
Of the Fortune 500 CEOs who are active in social media, 131 have a presence on just one of the six popular networks. Only five CEOs – those from Walmart, PepsiCo, Netflix, Manpower and Live Nation – have a presence on four social networks. Just one, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, is active on five social media outlets. None of the 500 CEOs use all six. [Looking to become more social: 7 social media tips for CEOS]
"Social media – online video streaming in particular – has a major impact on brand reputation," the study's authors wrote. "A CEO can either participate in the discussion and influence it, or risk the implications of allowing his or her corporate image to be decided in the court of public opinion."
LinkedIn is the preferred social media outlet of Fortune 500 CEOs. The research found that 35 percent of the company leaders are active on LinkedIn.
While Facebook has nearly 2 billion users worldwide, just 40 of those are Fortune 500 CEOs. Of those 40, 32 were inactive during the last quarter of 2016.
Although there are only 36 Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter, 70 percent of those are active users. Google Plus with 33, Instagram with 11 and YouTube with three were the least popular social networks among the top company leaders.
Despite their heavy workload, the study's authors say CEOs are missing a huge opportunity to increase their customer engagement and humanize themselves as the faces of the companies they lead.
"Keeping active on select social media channels is a great way to build authority, generate awareness, and increase customer loyalty," the study's authors wrote.
The researchers suggest CEOs get help from their staff and various digital tools to make the process easier.
"CEOs can get assistance for some of their posts from their staff, though being actively involved in the process increases authenticity," the study's authors wrote. "There are also new social media scheduling tools to help manage and coordinate processes. Assigning someone the role of social listening, then making a strategic response, can pay dividends."
For the study, researchers identified the social profiles of every CEO on the Fortune 500 list across the six most popular networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram and YouTube. They then weighed the legitimacy of these social profiles against a strict set of criteria to ensure consistency in reporting.