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Only 30% of top CEOs use social networks

Only 30% of top CEOs use social networks

High-profile execs may be hesitant to risk gaffs on sites like Twitter or Google+, analysts say

Only 30% of the CEOs at the top companies traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange are active on social media sites, gathering spots for millions of potential customers.

CEOs not using social media include some very well known high tech execs, according to a search of active social networking profiles by Augure, a maker of software for public relations professionals. The study of the profiles was conducted between Jan. 12, 2012 and Nov. 31, 2013.

"Many of the companies that make up the NASDAQ 100 are the giants of technology and global telecommunications," said Michael Jais, CEO of Augure in a statement. "It is surprising to find just 30% of the CEOs of NASDAQ involved in social media, making use of the new technology, and working on its influence as leaders of these powerful and technological companies."

According to the Augure report, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corp.; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon; Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems don't use of any of the major social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Instagram.

On the other hand, some obvious tech names are social network users.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, for instance, joined Twitter a few months ago and has accumulated more than 327,000 followers of his 18 tweets.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX uses Facebook and his Twitter following is approaching 500,000. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has a Facebook page, a profile on LinkedIn and more than 474,000 followers on Twitter, according to the report.

Facebook co-founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, has an account on his own social network and more than 291,000 followers on Twitter. Dell CEO Michael Dell has more than 566,000 followers on Twitter and more than 500 connections on LinkedIn, the study found.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said he's not surprised that so many CEOs of high-profile companies don't use social media.

"Given the ambiguity in the SEC's rules about disclosure, I'm not surprised that more aren't participating," said Moorhead. "Many companies require legal approval before a CEO can send out social media posts. CEOs can post about non-personal things, but most CEOs don't want to share that kind of information."

He also noted that a corporate executive tweeting or posting a comment on a social networking site like Facebook or Google+ could accidentally post a politically incorrect joke or something else that could offend customers.

"Most CEOs, when they see the risk of an SEC slip-up and the risk of making a mistake, opt to not participate in social media," said Moorhead.

"Participating in social media as a CEO has high risks, but also very high return. CEOs can very quickly disseminate information, opinions and even disinformation directly to millions of followers who care," he added.

LinkedIn is the most used social network, as 23% of CEOs at the top 100 firms listed on Nasdaq are members. Twitter is used by 11% of the CEOs, making it the second most popular tool.

Google+ may trail rival Facebook in overall users but when it comes to the top CEOs, it has an edge. According to Augure, Google+ has 8% and Facebook has 5%.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.

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