When Warren Buffett burst onto the Twitter scene back in May, the social-media world went berserk. In less than 30 minutes, Buffett amassed over 30,000 followers; and despite having tweeted only twice since, he already has more than half a million. But Buffett’s willingness to interact with social media is a far cry from the CEO norm.
Of the 500 leaders of the biggest companies in the US, only 28 have a Twitter account, and only 19 of them actually use it, according to a report released today by Domo and CEO.com. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Buffett, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch are among the few who have chosen to engage. But luring 19 active users out of 500 CEOs puts the rate at under 4%.
And the social media shyness among CEOs isn’t restricted to Twitter. The report finds that 68% of them have no social media presence whatever—whether it be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google Plus. For those who do use social media, Facebook engagement isn’t just low, it’s falling. Google Plus? Not even worth mentioning—a mere 1%, or five CEOs use it.
The only platform the big bosses seem comfortable using today is LinkedIn. The number of CEOs on the social network for professional contacts has climbed 25.9% since last year to 140, of the top 500 CEOs. “LinkedIn remains the one social media platform that is actually more popular with CEOs than the general public,” the study said. LinkedIn’s “influencer” program, which features writing by businesspeople, has likely had a large effect. CEOs are rushing to become part of LinkedIn’s “prestigious club of experts.”
Why more CEOs haven’t warmed up to social media is a bit of a mystery, considering the audience it can give them. Buffett’s meteoric rise on Twitter may be an outlier, but even without him, Fortune 500 CEOs gain followers almost 20 times faster than average users. And leaders like Marissa Mayer have successfully used the platform to communicate with the public. But whether its time-management, public-relations concerns, a fear of getting slapped by regulators for disclosing sensitive information (as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did last year), or a general disinterest, most CEOs haven’t been tempted to tag along.