• The Signal Social CEO Index

New study: only half of Canada’s Top 100 CEOs are on social media

TORONTO, September 29th 2016 – Signal Leadership Communication Inc. (SLC), a social public relations firm for executives and companies dealing with digital disruption, today released the results of a new study of how leading Canadian chief executives are using – and not using – social media. The Signal Social CEO Index is based on the list of “Canada’s Top 100 highest-paid CEOs” which appeared in Canadian Business on January 4th 2016.

Conducted by Ryerson University’s respected Infoscape Research Lab, the SLC study – the first of its kind in Canada – found that a majority (53%) of the country’s top CEOs are on at least one social media platform. However, only 16% of them are using two or more social networks.

“Almost half (47%) of top Canadian CEOs have no presence whatsoever on social media. When you consider the digital disruption their companies are confronting nowadays, that’s a shocking statistic,” said SLC Principal Bob Pickard. “But it also underlines a galvanizing PR opportunity for the country’s chief executives to become ‘social CEOs.’ Communication capability in general – and digital presence in particular – are becoming must-have business assets for leaders and our study shows that CEOs are really only just getting started on social.”

The Signal Social CEO Index highlighted LinkedIn as the most popular platform for the CEOs surveyed (45% have accounts there). However, only 50% of those CEOs have a profile photograph and just 33% have a proper biography. This represents a striking underdevelopment of what could be a much more powerful social media platform for corporate and leadership communication.

Despite the fact that Twitter has become the ‘go-to’ social network for journalists and breaking news, only 7% of the Canadian CEOs researched have Twitter accounts. Not including BlackBerry CEO John Chen (who has an impressive 19,100+ followers at last count), the six remaining CEOs on Twitter averaged just 316 followers. All the CEOs on Twitter (including Chen) showed limited interest in following others. On average, they followed only 65 Twitter users.

Just 17% of the CEOs studied are known to have Facebook accounts, the study found. Only nine CEO accounts could be viewed publicly, and they had an average total of 79 friends. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of CEO Facebook posts were personal in nature while only 2% promoted business operations.

Ryerson’s Infoscape Research Lab found that the CEOs share several different types of content on social media, including: thought leadership (20%), business promotion and philanthropy (tied at 13%), mentorship (11%), and governance (9%). Strikingly, though, only 2.5% of posts promoted or lauded the employees of a CEO’s company. Fewer than 1% of tweets were directed at – or spoke to – the experience of individual consumers or clients of a company.

The Signal Social CEO Index comes on the heels of a Nanos Research poll conducted for SLC which found Canadians overwhelmingly (84%) rate social media as the medium most able to damage an individual’s or organization’s public image.

Pickard believes that fear of social media’s new power may be the key emotion explaining the disparity between the obvious potential of digital media to help achieve positive image outcomes and the limited uptake and personal involvement of high-profile business leaders. “Our study found little evidence of strategic social media or leadership communication campaigns designed and implemented for, or by, CEOs,” he said.

Ryerson’s Professor Greg Elmer explained: “There are obvious risks in CEOs using social media. A novice and unprepared CEO risks offending communities by contravening online practices and conventions, or may simply post unedited comments by accident. That said, there is another less tangible – yet equally important – risk for the CEO: silence. In other words, by not engaging with social media, CEOs run the risk of being perceived as aloof, out of touch, or uncaring by their own employees, customers, or the public at large.”

“Now is the time for leaders to invest in social leadership communication. This will serve them well, and ensure that they won’t learn about social media the hard way by making mistakes when inevitable crisis situations occur.”

Founded in 2005 at Ryerson University, the Infoscape Research Lab hosts research projects that focus on the cultural and political impact of digital code, particularly with regards to social media. The lab develops software based research tools, interface designs, and experimental research methods that seek to analyze content and use of new media platforms.

Signal Leadership Communication Inc. (SLC) is a social public relations firm for executives and organizations with images to create, issues to manage, relationships to build, and reputations to protect in a digitally disrupted era. It is the one communications consultancy expressly dedicated to serving senior leaders with PR counsel that is both strategic and social by design, informed by a deep understanding of analytics, content, communities, media, sustainability and technology.

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CONTACT | Bob Pickard | bob.pickard@signaleadership.com | signaleadership.com | @signaleadership | +1 (647) 822-1000

1 reply
  1. Ferg Devins
    Ferg Devins says:

    What a wonderful report! I find it truly dissapointing, but a great light to shine on opportunity for our CEO’s. After 30 years in business and most recently a Chief Corproate Affairs Officer for a long standing brand in Canada, I can related to this gap. In 2007 it was difficult to even convince the core marketing team that there should be engagement in social networking, but in 2016 this is surely a gap that needs managing for more participation by leaders in Canada. Thanks for exposing the “issue”. It has certainly provoked a blog post for me. Cheers !


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