If he/she doesn’t control the digital self, does the CEO really exist?

Just had the opportunity to read a really insightful article on socially networked CEO’s (or lack thereof).  The article comes out of my local market, but it really has broader implications.   Our own locally-based Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn appears to be one of, if not the most, web networked CEO out there.

Social is good way to communicate with employees, customers, and other constituents.  But so little adoption by corporate CEO’s begs the question, “Why have they dismissed the graph as a communications channel?”  Here are my thoughts:

– For large companies there is tremendous accountability, SOX compliance issues, and potential legal exposure.

– CEO’s are busy guys.  Using Twitter is a recent phenomenon and I think many are waiting to see the hard and soft ROI from investing the time to use such media.

– Large companies have large marketing/communications department.  Every statement (historically speaking) is controlled and polished before flying out the door.

– Most large corporate CEO’s (IMHO) are entirely oblivious to how the line between authentic and virtual reputation management has blurred.

– I suspect that many of these CEO’s are aware of LinkedIn,  Facebook, Twitter, et al.  My guess is that they see these platforms as a fad.  They will only adopt when they see critical mass.  I don’t think this will happen anytime soon.  Heck, most of these CEO’s never created a blog, even when that was so terribly fashionable in 2005.

– There are likely unperceived consequences to appearing so approachable by communicating within the social graph.  One that I could anticipate is that people feel spite or neglect if they comment to a communique tag and the CEO doesn’t respond.  [A happy customer/employee tells three people, a pissed off customer/employee tell 30 people.]

I anticipate that you’ll see more use of these new communication vehicles by corporate CEO’s, but it will take time and will need to be in a controlled environment.  Streaming/real-time communication doesn’t yet fit the nature of corporate leaders: strategic, canned, and calculated messaging.


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