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Heads in the Sand: Executives & Social Media

publication date: Nov 7, 2012
author/source: Sir Richard Branson
Why aren’t more business leaders online?


Anyone who thinks new technology isn’t going to keep changing the world has got their head in the sand. We are seeing progress every day online, and businesses are doing their level best to keep up and get ahead.

However, when you get to the very top of companies, there is a surprising lethargy about using the online tools already available: social media. Embracing social media isn’t just a bit of fun, it is a vital way to communicate, keep your ear to the ground and improve your business.

So why are only 16% of CEOs currently participating in social media? IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study found that most CEOs are clearly not taking social media seriously. Only one of more than 1,700 respondents had their own blog! Some are on LinkedIn, fewer on Twitter and even less on Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere on the web.

The study indicated that within five years social media will be the number two way to engage with customers (after face-to-face personal interaction). That’s a step in the right direction, but why wait five years? The internet will have changed all over again by then, and business is in danger of being left behind.

It isn’t just CEOs that can make the most of social media. Where possible, everyone within a company should be engaged in what is happening elsewhere within their business, and in the wider world. Social media is a great way to do this. Also, it can furnish a spirit of community, not least amongst global, widespread companies.

Nevertheless, like all other areas of business, CEOs have the opportunity to set the bar. By ignoring social networks, they are potentially missing a trick.

There are lots of business leaders utilising social media, and yours truly is only too happy to be counted among them. But the beauty of the web is that there is plenty of room for everyone. Does anybody else want to join the party? There’s only one rule for entry - no ties allowed!

  • John J. Hogan,CHA CHE CMHS PhD

    John J. Hogan,CHA CHE CMHS PhDI believe this brief message states it succinctly - business success comes from addressing the evolution of best and accepted practices. In my world of hospitality and hotels, the inclination from some is to totally emerge business "everything" in high tech. The successful ones have lear...just now

  • Lloyd P.

    Lloyd P. If Sir Richard did not write this, he has the authority to require LinkedIn to remove his name from the site, so I think he authorized the words as his own. 12 minutes ago

  • Aria M.

    Aria M. I think it has to do with time and value! It's one thing to make yourself available via FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, another to actually spend the time to expand those areas from both a marketing strategy but also a business/personal strategy. I know a few CIOs and even CTOs who just dont think their time spent on social media translates into $$. Personally, I take on two as that's all time allows, FB and LinkedIn. Twitter, I'm still grappling with :O) 1 hour ago

  • Ana Lucia A.

    Ana Lucia A. Becuase they are busy LEADING! :-) 1 hour ago

  • Chris P.

    Chris P. A real breath of fresh air Richard!! - CEOs let down your guards, take of the ties and join the party.. No time is no excuse.. 1 hour ago

  • Dana S.

    Dana S. What is writen above is very thrue, time started to move very quickly in past ten years and it will run much faster, so if anybody would want to influence other people by anything - ideas, to sell products, he will have to be connected and also have a great marketing to "power" influent these people. Nowdays you can find almost anything on the internet or buy anything. It is the easiest and fastest way to get the information we want or need. That is also why the time runs faster and in the future even now is the future, we have to be in these social media if we want to succeed, otherwise we do not exist. (it is hard to realize this, but it is true) There has been Facebook, Linkedin ... but people want always something new that is why people will always be interested in new social media websites ... they think they will be "better " or "in" or have more information than the other. Mr. Brandson I am in for thinking up a "new way of thinking". 1 hour ago

  • Brian B.

    Brian B. I read your post with interest, and find some of the comments even more interesting. I don't think there's a single simple answer. As a person who has started many companies and interacted with many top level managers and CEO's in industry, it's my observation that the most any of them can do is send emails and text messages. From what I can see, Facebook is being used as a substitute for real emails, and together with twitter become some kind of online gossip arena or a substitute for a diary. If social media is so important then why isn't it covered in the educational system? The fact is that whilst many government bodies have promoted use of the internet, telecommuting, teleworking, and so on, they've got no real idea how or what to do in this area. I personally left the UK in 2002 and ran my companies in the UK for years, via Skype and email. In the past 6 years there's not a single executive I have met that I haven't had to handhold through installing Skype and using it. when I offered myself as a business mentor to Bradford business men (I won't mention to which institute in order to save them the embarrassment) they asked how could I do that if I was in Thailand. I find this attitude breathtaking. To answer your problem, there's a failing in three areas. Executives at the top, Institutions of learning (Schools and universities), and government. The problems of Britain falling behind is that many CEO's are overpaid, and nowhere near as good as they imagine. The truth is these CEO's are waiting for you and me to create new companies, and new products. To pave they way for a new business. And once we've done all the hard work, they sit down in the chair we bought and paid for, puff out their chests, and declare to us how much they are worth and how brilliant they are. All these CEO's are behind the times they're dinosaurs not prepared to evolve even though evolving is the secret to long term success and stability in business. Meanwhile, let's not miss out pointing a finger at institutes of learning. They have been morphed into cash cows squeezing every last penny they can from young people. The mentors of our young children and our future, regurgitating everything they ever read in a book, and passing it on. A few years ago I offered to give a talk on the subject of Design and Innovation, or Business Start-ups at Bangkok University. They declined my offer based on one criteria alone, which was that I didn't have an MBA. I guessed it must have slipped their mind that if I did have an MBA, I might not have manufactured and Sold 100 Million Plus GP pounds of products. Then there's the government, a fully malfunctioning ineptocracy that can't even manage a household budget, never mind a countries budget. When the anvil of hard facts is pounded by the hammer of mediocrity, the resulting mess is what we currently have in Britain. I don't pretend to have an easy answer. Anyone of those failing above is a whole can of worms, and the vested interests will fight their corner very well I'm sure. So for myself, I'll stay in Asia and run my companies from here. My team and I don't have any problems with telecommuting, even though my 71 staff are spread out over many many countries. Out here, it's the new frontier, and our only limits are the ones we place upon ourselves. 2 hours ago

  • Gerrit M.

    Gerrit M. The current business leaders spend more time on ways to cut the costs rather than to understand their clients. Social media is only the first step into a online society where shops are only to be used as pickup points for goods bought online. And they (BL) don't understand this shifting change of behavior because they are stuck in figures. Even in Africa people use twitter, facebook a.s.o. but business leaders know better... not. 2 hours ago

  • Sherry P.

    Sherry P. There is no doubt that technology is playing an integral part of our business and professinal lives. We have more instantaneous infomration at our fingertips than ever before. Our peripheral devices are connected to us 24/7 like appendages. The trick is to help leaders distill information down to a manageable level, discern fact from fluff, and select information that can help them make wise choices and take wise actions. It's what we do with information that makes the difference in our business sustainability. Without application, it's just useless chatter or random information fit for competing on a game show. 2 hours ago

  • Jaime S.

    Jaime S. Richard Branson I am an electronic engineer specialized in the electronic design of special instruments for military and industrial systems, I have spent 28 years exclusively dedicated to electronic design, with no interruptions at all, but after this experience, as a fanatic of electronics, I have a conclusion: Chile is a nightmare for developers, the designer, the developer, is in the last place, even in mining applications, the looser is always me. Recently I participated in a project to control in closed loop the size of the trillions of bubbles inside the flotation pools used in copper refining, to save water, it is a massive important project, but as usual, the managers are the winners, the guys who knows nothing of electronics, only about money and paper work, they are always the winners. I am no longer motivated by Chile and have a lot of abandoned projects, a lot of ideas, but I dont wont to remain trapped here. Please help me and I will help you x 10 times. Sincerely Jaime Soto Figueroa Electronic Engineer www matharts cl 2 hours ago

  • Susan J.

    Susan J. Skirts ok? FUN and WORK now you have my attention,if we add in how it can be linked to an increase in profit margin,increased productivity and healthy connectivity, don't forget the garlic, and "BAM" social soup may be on the business lunch menu for the new "good old boys and girls" network necessity :) 2 hours ago

  • Amin B.

    Amin B. I don't subscribe to every tool that exists. purely because I do not want my life to be arranged by these technological tools. I see at meeting people with Smartphones who are working away on them while a meeting is going on. This is frustrating for all other attendants and is rude to whoever is speaking. 2 hours ago

  • Yogesh Bahadur -.

    Yogesh Bahadur -. The old adage that business is "to do" and not "to share" is still very dominant and rampant amongst heads of business groups. It's like 'not wearing the tie' is IN......some CEOs and Owners say "leave that to the 'guys'" forgetting that the 'right way' is no more the 'proven way'. Slowly but surely, I have seen that when old "formulae" start losing their relevancy they resort to finger-pointing, finding scapegoats, reasons, increasing frequency of "meetings" to rectify and indulge in fire fighting with smallest of problems. THEY think feedback from the 'guys' too, is to be listened to, adapted, but not there and then......typically THEY shirk even from crediting their "guys". All INNOVATION, NEW IDEAS HAVE to come from them, the 'leaders'.....business and social networking puts things in "Reflective Modes" and Black & White!! These KINDS, sad to say have the RESERVES to sustain bad times, low times and dump times too.....see what happened to Vijay Mallya in India...the King of good times!! Some like Mr. Mallya suffer from overdose of ONE good thing and caring too less about OTHER Big things that matter! So.....it's a tough one to crack Mr. Branson!! Not many in your mold...but we, the Entrepreneurs....TRY!!! ;) 2 hours ago

  • Satish S.

    Satish S. The first line says it all. 2 hours ago

  • Ram B.

    Ram B. Execuative Director IRHDC/Nepal belive to change other you have to change yourself first. Please go to www.irhdtc.org.np 2 hours ago

  • Véronique P.

    Véronique P. Why aren’t more business leaders online? That’s because they are too busy with whatever. We are bombarded by information online and most people do not have the skills or discipline to weed out this information. However, if you have those skills, this is truly gold! And no, I do not neglect social networks. If used well, these are powerful tolls of communication. 2 hours ago

  • Alphonse M.

    Alphonse M. Spot on Mate! Continued Success in all your endeavors! Alphonse "International Rainmaker for Social Change" http://acquisitionist.com/?p=163 3 hours ago

  • Chris Rich

    Chris Rich I partially believe that when you reach to a CEO, Celeb, etc. that you are REALLY talking to them beyond their hired worker. I agree, more leaders need to be on social media and not just their representative when able. The consumer would like to feel connected by actually speaking/engaging with the REAL CEO, Celeb, etc. as i'm sure the majority can tell whether they have right the right one... Baby (Not talking about Coke) :) My thoughts only.... Chris Rich 3 hours ago

  • Chad B.

    Chad B. Richard is right in what he says. www.PhotoReward.com is just such a new company that will change the world. It will make the highways as safe as the Skyways. It will save peoples lives so get involved now and do good for this world. 3 hours ago

  • Peter G.

    Peter G. Maybe its because they dont want to reply to emails. 3 hours ago

  • lokesh kannan j J.

    lokesh kannan j J. Jlok export No:49 Bangaru street, Ayanavaram,chenni-23,Tamilnadu, India Skype& Official:Email:loksigi1@rediffmail.com Personal:Email:loksigi1@gmail.com Face Book:loksigi1@gmail.com Home:jlokexport.biz Mobile:+919840649293(Lokesh) Mobile:+919940471584(Office), Land ph:+914443181185(office) 3 hours ago

Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson

Founder at Virgin Group

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