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Why CEOs should hesitate before using social media

Is Steve Jobs tweeting? Investors beware!

Is Steve Jobs tweeting? Investors beware!

I co-own a social media agency, so I obviously spend a lot of time encouraging business people to use social media to market their products and services in an effective way. Profit is the bottom line, so professionals need to understand how to incorporate social media into their overall marketing efforts.

And sure, that’s essential for marketing, PR and advertising teams, small business owners and any individual or group that’s responsible for promoting their company.

But what about CEOs of large corporations? They’re ultimately responsible for the well-being of their company. Shouldn’t they jump into personal Facebook accounts, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles and blog posts? Shouldn’t they use social media to interact with their customers and shareholders?

Well, probably not. A recent study suggests that “64% of CEOs at the world’s 50 largest companies aren’t engaging with social media.” I think that’s okay. Here’s why:

  1. A CEO’s words create too much volatility. He or she can’t just jump on Twitter and mention that the company is merging with Microsoft. And it’s going to be so much fun! What antitrust laws? All under 140 characters. The CEO of a huge company using Twitter or Facebook or a blog to spout off personal musings about the company is a PR and shareholder nightmare. No bueno.
  2. You’re the CEO of a multi-billon dollar conglomerate. You should be too busy to use social media. You have scores of marketing and advertising and, well, social media experts to do all the online marketing for your company you need. And these people can’t very well run a personal page for you, because that runs the risk of sounding phony. And phony is bad for business.
  3. If it’s a public company, the FCC’s Regulation Full Disclosure states that anytime a CEO speaks, a current or potential investor must be able to hear it. One CEO explains that the FCC has “not yet defined whether Twitter is at Reg. FD or the blog is Reg. FD or if Facebook is Reg. FD. They have said at times it is or sometimes it isn’t — it’s still not fully defined.” So a CEO must be cautious with regulatory rules before jumping on the social media bandwagon.
  4. No one expects such a CEO to be using social media. (At least not now.) No one is criticizing Rupert Murdock or Steve Jobs or Robert Iger for not updating their personal Twitter account in three days.

Of course, the above blog post does not apply to the CEO of all CEOs, Her Majesty Winfrey. All hail.

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