The Social CEO Part One: Most CEOs Are Not Social

I gave a speech at Forrester's Marketing Forum last week in Los Angeles on "The Social CEO" -- why and how CEOs could use social. My talk answered four questions: 1) How many CEOs are social now? 2) Why are current CEOs not social? 3) Should CEOs be social? and 4) How can the CEO become social? I will answer these questions in four posts, starting with the first:

How many CEOs are social now?

Very few, at least in the pantheon of large companies. Here's the research:

1) None of the CEOs of Fortune Magazine's top 100 global corporations have a social profile. We found six defunct Twitter accounts, and one Japanese-language blog. We could discover no obvious presence for any of the 100 CEOs on Facebook or LinkedIn.

2) The CEOs of the tech companies had negligible social presences. Eric Schmidt of Google is an infrequent Twitterer and is not a blogger; Steve Ballmer at Microsoft has no blog and no Twitter account; Michael Dell is on Twitter but is not an external blogger; Mark Hurd of HP, Sam Palmisano at IBM, Steve Jobs of Apple, and Larry Ellison of Oracle have no Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or blog presences that we could find.

3) How about the CEOs of the social companies? Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is active on his platform but doesn't blog and infrequently visits Twitter. Evan Williams of Twitter Tweets several times per day and blogs, but hasn't posted in 2010. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn uses Twitter several times per week and posts to the LinkedIn corporate blog. Mike Jones, co-CEO of MySpace is on Twitter several times per week and has a blog (though no posts this year). 

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The iPad problem: where's it going to live?

As an addendum to my thoughts on the iPad...

In my many years as an analyst, I've learned to listen to those faint, intuitive thoughts that pop into my head about new technologies. They may not be rational, and they may not be entirely analytical, but they are often right. You might call it "gut" -- and in my dual jobs of CEO and analyst, it's been quite useful...

Yes, the iPad signals the future of software, but one simple question is nagging at me:

Where's it going to live?

  • It can't go in your pocket, although some may try.
  • It won't go in your media room at home -- you've already got a big screen in that room.
  • It's not going to go on your desktop at work -- you've got a company computer there.
  • It's not going to live in your office at home -- that's where your home computer lives.
  • Will it go in your backpack? I carry my Kindle and my laptop in mine. So will I pull out the Kindle (10 ounces) and replace it with an iPad (24 ounces)? No -- I'm not adding another pound for my aching back to carry around...
     

Kitchen? Not a place where you'd watch a movie. Bedroom? Yes, you'd read a book there, but you'd rarely check stock quotes or search for coffee shops. 

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Beyond iPad Yadda Yadda

The iPad signals a fundamental change in software -- and you, as CEO, should know about it.

You're going to hear a lot of conflicting babble about what Apple's new device means. Most of the talk will be about iPad's impact on the media world...death of The New York Times, blah, blah, the future of movies and books, blah, blah, will Verizon offer their network, blah, blah. You may be tempted to tune it all out. 

Don't. Because the iPad has meaning for you and your business.

Your company runs on software. Whether it's the word processor you use to write memos, or your factory's supply chain software, or your customer Web site, your company wouldn't last for 17 minutes without the stuff. 

iPad signals the future of software. There are two old software models. The first is where the software runs on your laptop -- this is the Microsoft model embodied by Office. The second is the software as a service/cloud model with the software running on a server somewhere out on the Internet -- this is the Google and Salesforce.com model. I'm simplifying, but in the former, the software runs on a local device. In the latter, the software sits out on the network.

iPad (and the iPhone before it) elegantly combines the two models.  Software on a powerful device seamlessly (that's the key word) cooperates with services available out on the network. 

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Would Henry Ford Have Been A Blogger?

At the Forrester Marketing Forum this year (I hope to see you there), I am giving a talk on "The Social CEO." I'll be analysing the state of the art (what pioneering CEOs are doing), assessing which social technologies should and should not be used by business leaders, and summarizing what CEOs and their companies can expect to gain from social.

But all of this may be getting ahead of a fundamental question:  Should CEOs be social? Or should they stay behind the scenes and let their CMO take the lead? If the CEO is not social, will the company suffer?

Would great CEOs of the past, like Thomas Edison, Henry FordAlfred Sloan, or Thomas Watson Jr. have been bloggers? Would Winston Churchill, FDR, or Stalin have used social to win WWII? Why doesn't Fortune Magazine's CEO of the Decade engage in social? Would Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln have engaged in Twitter war?

I'd love to get your thoughts. Even better would be any stories you may have about a CEO that uses social to drive the goals of his or her company. If they're unique, I'll use your quote in my speech at the Forum and give you a well-deserved shout out...

Thanks in advance for the help.