In a world with 1.96 billion Internet users, you might wonder where to find the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations on-line.  As it turns out, many of them are shy when it comes to showing their social side.

A recent Socializing Your CEO by Weber Shandwick of the world’s top 50 companies found that little more than one-third  (36%) engage on-line through their company websites or in social media channels in any way.  Those that do share some intriguing characteristics. They are more likely to lead companies with strong reputations, to employ more than one social media channel, to represent United States-based companies; and to be well tenured (having led their organizations for at least three years).

You could say there’s a synergy here.  Our world is social, and corporations that link in—especially at the level of top leadership—are in a better position to both listen and to be heard, providing positive feedback to reputation, inspiring increased confidence and creativity in the use of social media, and maybe even contributing to longevity in office.

On the other hand, CEOs shy away from the social realm for a number of reasons: time pressure, fear of hurting reputations that are already low among the general public, caution given the lack of evidence on the return on investment, and aversion to Celebrity status.

All this is likely to change, and change fast, however.  The human face of the corporation is needed more today than ever, and there is no better place than the Internet and social media to let that face be known.  In our interconnected world, CEOs may best be socialized one step at a time.  For “six rules of the road” in socializing your CEO, you can find the press release here.

Interestingly, corporate CEOs are lagging their counterparts in the Foundation world.  As a recent report by the Foundation Center shows, about one-third of foundation executives regularly use Facebook or read blogs. However, less than 10 percent of the CEOs analyzed in the Weber Shandwick study use Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn or participated in external blogs.

However, the top leadership of both the corporate and foundation worlds have a way to go in utilizing one of the greatest social innovations of our time.

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