Your CEO Should NOT Know Social Media

My friend Nancy Myrland has posed an interesting question on her blog, Should a CEO Be Fluent in Social Media.


Nancy’s post (which was based on a Mashable article by the same headline) makes a good point that a CEO should get social media.

After all, says Nancy, the CEO is the face of his or her company. They should be able to use the tools that allow them to have relationships with the customers.

Still no.

Okay, “no, unless.”

Unless it’s a small company, where the CEO is doing a lot of the day-to-day work, they should. Basically, if you’re a CEO, and you still have to set up your own booth at a trade show, then you need to be able to use social media to converse with your customers.

You also need to know how to run payroll, fulfill shipping orders, edit your website, balance your books, and use the photocopier. (Handling the social media is the least of your worries.)

But if your company is large enough that you barely know the names of the people who work two levels below you, then no, you shouldn’t. You have people for that. As a CEO, you’re barely fluent in how to make the products or services you sell.

Manufacturing CEOs don’t know how to build their products, their floor managers do. Automotive CEOs don’t know how to design cars, their engineers do. Entertainment CEOs don’t know how to mix albums or edit movies, their producers and editors do.

(I doubt that any of them can work their phone system or make photocopies without yelling “Jaaaaa-nettttt!! Can you fix this stupid thing?! Damn technology, whatever happened to the good old days?”)

Frankly, I don’t want these people using social media. They have work to do. They should be running the company, not worrying over every detail in accounting, HR, and marketing. And social media.

More importantly, I have seen what happens when someone who barely understands how his or her administrative assistant sends an email decides they’re going to get involved in some of the deep-level marketing decisions. (It’s just not pretty.) When it comes to social media, it takes a lot of coaching just to get them to understand the technology. Understanding why they should do it is even harder.

But most importantly, CEOs are busy. Their time is worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per hour. They make more money scratching their nose than I make in an entire day. I don’t think they should be actually operating the company Twitter account, writing a 500 word blog post about their latest product, or making status updates on Facebook (“I’m on a motherf—ing boat, y’all. No srsly, I’m taking the Bored of Directors (haha!) out on a deep-sea fishing trip. C-ya L8er, loosers!”).*

If they want to do their own Twitter account, or have time to blog while they’re traveling to and from exotic locales on the company jet (a la Sir Richard Branson), let them. But they’re the exception, not the rule.

However, you small business CEOs, this doesn’t let you off the hook. You absolutely need to know how to do this. You’re already the marketing, bookkeeping, and HR department. And as much as you think it’s going to add to your workload, this is a great way to grow your company, hire employees to take care of the marketing, bookkeeping, and human resources.

And then you can take your board of directors out on a deep-sea fishing boat. Just make sure you bring most of them back.

(*Yes, I know I spelled “losers” wrong. I did that for hyperbole and comedic effect.)

Photo credit: Stalin (Picasa)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He co-authored three social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Beth Dunn says:

      Yes, everyone has their own title on their company for a reason…I would let it go at that.

    2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erik Deckers, Mike Seidle , problogservice, indypaul, Lushin and others. Lushin said: RT @edeckers: New post: Your CEO Should NOT Know Social Media. […]

    3. For many small biz owners its about priorites…and time to task management. Much as we consolodated phone numbers years ago with a unfied communications tool, be nice to see a social media dashboard that speaks geek with all of them. . . swiping from Lord of the Rings “One ring to rule them all.” Something as easy as using Ning, but with less command layers…

    4. Jon,

      You said the magic words: “they should also have the time and space to let others do the work for them. ”

      Whether that comes in the form of someone handling their CEO’s communication on their behalf, or if the CEO is willing to let his company have a social media presence, even if he or she doesn’t get it, doesn’t matter. I think as long as the CEO is willing to try social media and not pull back on the reins just because THEY don’t get it, they’re thinking in the right direction.


    5. Jon Buscall says:

      Some great points here. I firmly believe CEOs need to understand social communications tools and, yes, use them if they have time. But they should also have the time and space to let others do the work for them.

      One of my biggest frustrations is CEOs who refuse to get it because they’re “not on Facebook.”

      IMO a great CEO is someone who is open to what’s new; able to listen and implement changes as culture changes.

    6. Hi Erik, these are great points and I like your perspective. I do a lot of coaching with veterinarians, teaching them the ways to use social media in their practices. While they are of the “small business” category for the most part, I think the biggest struggle with this new media (new to them) is that they want to farm it out to “Bobby or Sally, who works at the front desk and has been with the practice for about 6 months because they know all about Facebook”. In most cases, the veterinarian shouldn’t be running the practice’s social media—they have patients to take care of—but they need to at least choose someone in the practice who knows the core philosophies and culture of the business to be in charge of social media. Even if that person has to go out and learn all about it…like myself about a year ago;) I am recommending that practice managers (not necessarily the veterinarians) learn how to plan and run social media in their practice before training/delegating others to run it for them. I think this is probably applicable to a lot of other small businesses: choose someone who has a solid understanding of your company’s vision & values to run your social media platform!
      .-= Brenda Tassava´s last blog ..What Are the Little BIG Things in Your Practice? =-.

    7. Nancy,

      I agree with you that a CEO should USE social media, but I don’t think he or she has to be fluent in it, any more than the CFO, CTO, or COO have to be fluent in it. That’s what they have the marketing staff for.

      If the CEO of Toyota or Steve Jobs want to speak to their customers, they don’t fire up their computer and send out a tweet, or shoot a laptop-cam video. They work with their staff who does these things. In essence, they’re actors. The marketing staff is the director and crew, and the CEO becomes the actor who just reads his lines, and then the crew turns it into something that can be watched, read, or heard by consumers.

      .-= Erik Deckers´s last blog ..Your CEO Should NOT Know Social Media =-.

    8. Hi Erik…thanks for continuing this important discussion. You are right, it always, always depends. I write and speak about that often because no one company, CEO or marketer is the same as the next.

      I’m not sure I would say that CEOs should be running the firm’s Twitter account, because I don’t believe they should. The amount of attention that could be garnered because the CEO speaks to clients every now and then is huge. Just because the CEO is busy does not disqualify him/her from taking advantage of communication tools that could create huge benefits for the company. If most CEOs of large companies are still not comfortable in this relationship-building space we call Social Media, then look at the opportunities that exist to differentiate the company from its competitors. Why would you not want to be where your competitors are? If they are using these tools, they you need to discuss whether you need to be there to protect your space.

      The more this CEO has built goodwill with his/her clients, which using any communication tools can do, the more forgiving clients will be when there’s a slight, or a major, hiccup in the business. Don’t many have the impression that CEOs are too removed from the realities we face every day? If they spent a moment now and then communicating with those who have chosen to follow them, they can build this equity.

      Picture major developments, whether in business, education, non-profit or government. What did we think when their press person stepped up to the podium, or made a statement to the reporter, or put a message out on Twitter. Didn’t we just want to hear the message from the person at the top? We wish they would cut through the clutter, the noise and the positioning and talk to us directly as human beings. We wanted the CEO of Toyota to face the crowds. We wanted to hear directly from Steve Jobs when he launched a new product.

      If it builds equity, with short- and long-term retention and sale results, I still think CEOs should consider being trained in the simple tools that exist in front of them. They don’t have to manage the accounts. They don’t have to become proficient in their use. Yes, it depends. There are some who would be horrid in these spaces, but most would not be.

      Erik, thanks again for your mention, and for continuing this discussion.


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