Real CEOs Don't Twitter -- Do They?

Artwork: Chip Taylor
CEOs at the top companies in the U.S. are dramatically disconnected from the social networking phenomenon, according to a research report released this week by UberCEO.com, an online news and discussion site that focuses on CEOs at major companies.

The study found that only two CEOs from Fortune magazine's list of the Top 100 companies have Twitter accounts and only 19 have a Facebook page. And none of the 100 CEOs were found to have a personal external blog.

"In our opinion, the top CEOs appear to be disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating," said Sharon Barclay, an UberCEO.com editor. "They're giving the impression that they're disconnected, disengaged and disinterested. No doubt, regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley and Reg-FD make CEOs cautious about communicating freely, [but] they're missing a fabulous opportunity to connect with their target audience."

The thought of a button-down type of business person twittering about his last meeting or spilling coffee on his $500 tie while being chauffeured to work might not be all that surprising.

However, an increasing number of executives at smaller firms have taken to Twittering and are staying connected with associates and customers on their Facebook pages. Zappos.com Inc. executives, for example, credit the use of such social media outlets by employees with helping to generate significant sales growth during the current economic slide. Of the online shoe and clothing store's 1,400 employees, 450 -- including CEO Tony Hsieh -- actively use Twitter to promote the company.

Analysts have noted that there's increasing pressure on companies and their executives to use Web 2.0 tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to stay connected with their customers and partners.

But it seems that message hasn't yet gotten to most of the top CEOs, according to UberCEO.com

In fact, only 13 of the top top 100 CEOs are members of the LinkedIn social network for business professionals. And of those 13, five were connected to just one other person on the site.

"Three CEOs stood out from the pack on LinkedIn, each having more than 80 connections," said Barclay. "However, they are all from technology companies -- Michael Dell (Dell), Gregory Spierkel (Ingram Micro) and John Chambers (Cisco)."

She added that executives might be missing an opportunity to positively influence how people view their companies.

"We're not suggesting that every CEO should participate in every aspect of social media," said Barclay. "That's a decision each CEO needs to make as part of an overall company marketing strategy. But we are recommending that every CEO examine their online image and reputation. With the public already skeptical about large corporations, CEOs can't afford to pretend that social media is not for them."

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