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Kenneth Cole, boss of the eponymous clothing brand, tweeted this blooper during the Egyptian revolution: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now online…”. Ryanair boss Michael O?Leary once infamously replied to a female questioner with: “Nice pic. Phwoaaarr! MOL” whilst Richard Branson, who has over six million followers, tweeted on the day of the fatal Virgin Galactic crash: “Space is hard – but worth it.” Yes, really. 


It is no wonder then that only 10% of the chief executives running the world?s 50 largest companies regularly tweet, as the risk of saying something inappropriate that could result in damaging their reputation is just too high for many, according to a new survey by marketing consultancy Weber Shandwick. The dip in Twitter usage by CEOs from 2010 to 2012 may have been caused by the high profile CEO slip-ups on Twitter (as mentioned above), that scared non-users away altogether. It now appears that CEOs are more confident about how to use Twitter without causing alarm and reputational harm.


Something transformational has happened on the way to 2015: CEOs have became ?socialized?. After tracking the rates of CEO online and social media presence since 2010, Weber Shandwick has learned that a new day has dawned ? CEOs have found their social footing. 


Many hurdles traditionally stood in the way of CEOs? entry into the world of social media. Top barriers cited in prior Weber Shandwick research on ?unsocial? CEOs in 2013 included: social media usage by CEOs was unusual for the industry or region, there was no proof that it returns value, there was no demand, and it was too risky. Interestingly, barriers such as legal obstruction and industry regulation were infrequently raised. Much to their credit, CEOs are overcoming these challenges and, to a growing degree, embracing the opportunities that come from being social.


Operating in an increasingly connected and transparent digital world where the general public is acutely attuned to what CEOs say and do, executives see online engagement as a prime opportunity for their chief executives to share their companies? stories and elevate the reputation of their companies. 


With eight in 10 global executives reporting that it is important for CEOs to have a visible public profile for a company to be highly regarded, online channels and social media become one set of tools for CEOs to increase their external equity. Doing so comes with reputational rewards: highly regarded companies are more than three times as likely as those with weak reputations to have a CEO who participates in social media.


The study researched the online activities of CEOs from the top 50 companies in the 2014 Fortune Global 500 rankings to see how CEOs are engaging socially. The CEO was considered ?social? if he or she did one of the following:


?        Has a public and verifiable social network account, such as Facebook or LinkedIn

?        Engages on the company website through messages (e.g., letters, quotes), pictures or video

?        Appears in a video on the company YouTube channel

?        Authors an external blog (i.e., one that is not only accessible to company employees)

The audit found that:

?      80% are social, either through their company website (68%)

?      Company YouTube channel (38%)

?      Or a social network (28%)

?      CEO online engagement has surged by 122% since 2010, when only 36% of CEOs were social

A 2014 report from and Domo found that 32% of Fortune 500 CEOs have a presence on a social network. The rate of CEOs using LinkedIn has nearly quadrupled since 2012, making LinkedIn the most popular social network for top executives in 2014. The report states that LinkedIn is the ?entry network? of choice among CEOs, and that of Fortune 500 CEOs with only one social network, 73% were on LinkedIn.