Companies benefit from CEOs active on social media

More than half of chief executives of leading companies in UK, France and Germany are now active on social media

Forty-one chief executives of FTSE 100 companies posted on at least one social media platform in 2021, up from 26 just one year earlier, according to a new report.

This increase in activity – on average they posted six times per month – coincides with a change in society’s expectations of what a leader should be, and increased interest in their positions on issues that go beyond their day-to-day role.

The report, Leading from the front: the social CEO goes mainstream, produced by consultants FTI, finds that CEO-shared content receives considerably higher levels of engagement than content shared purely by a company’s own channels. For example, each post by Noel Quinn, chief executive of HSBC, receives around 1,704 engagements, defined as likes, retweets, comments and reactions.

But the benefits of such activities extend beyond pure engagement levels. FTI Consultancy also surveyed around 2,100 business leaders. Eight out of ten (82 per cent) agreed or strongly agreed that businesses benefit when their leaders are active on social media, with 85 per cent pointing to improved stakeholder relations. Nine in ten leaders also believe such activities improve employee relations.

In general, chief executives predominantly post on nine key topics, such as climate change, diversity and inclusion and supply chains. FTI’s analysis of more than 3,000 posts found that those who opine on a broad range of topics are most impactful on social media.

However, it is also clear that posts about people-related themes, whether that is colleagues, communities, or customers, have the highest levels of engagement. Interestingly, while 16 per cent of posts by active CEOs related to climate change, these fail to perform well, in part because they struggle to link this to their core business.

Andrew Williams, senior managing director, digital and insights at FTI Consulting, says that CEOs wishing to stand out on social media should ensure that they put people at the heart of their storytelling, post regularly and also make such activities a priority.

He adds: ‘The CEOs gaining the highest levels of engagement are typically those leading companies which have prioritised this form of leadership communications. They have focused strategies in place, dedicated resource to support the leader and a robust governance framework in place. Gone are the days when comms teams spend says noodling over a press release or the all-staff email, but spend no time at all on CEO engagement on social media.’