The Rise of CEOs

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The Rise of CEOs

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CEOs and social media. These are two terms that we don’t necessarily associate with each other, but that shouldn’t be the case anymore.

Not many CEOs are fully embracing social media as a medium of communication to their audiences and employees. Research from shows that 61% of CEOs are not active on social media, and only 20% have their own social media accounts. CEOs haven’t yet understood the scope of benefits social media can bring to their companies, therefore casting it aside as a waste of their time and efforts.

However, the tides are changing. More and more Social CEOs––CEOs who put themselves on social media––are appearing, trying to change the current landscape in the industry.

What do Social CEOs do?

No, they don’t downgrade to posting selfies and cat videos on their social media accounts. Similar to celebrities and influencers, Social CEOs use their platforms to share their opinions and views on certain topics, letting the world in on their thoughts. However, that’s where the similarities end.

Social CEOs speak up about industry-related news and promote product launches on their profiles, whereas a celebrity might talk about their latest media appearance and events in their daily lives.

A Social CEO remains the face of the brand. They are expected to carry the brand’s name and image wherever they go, especially on social media. Therefore, they are generally more careful about what they post, keeping in mind that they have to exemplify the values and visions of their brand.

Advantages of Social CEOs

to the company

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Having a Social CEO in the company is very useful when brands want to build their reputation online. They humanise the corporation. Few CEOs are eager to take time out of their schedule to spend it on social media. Therefore, there is a lot of attention around CEOs who do, and do it so well that they convey a sense of the brand’s personality and values to consumers. By simply doing so, they’re helping their brand to gain exposure and credibility in the industry.

By realising the power a Social CEO has over consumers, brands can even leverage their CEO’s voice and centre their entire marketing strategy around them. Consumers would be annoyed if they see too much promotional content coming from the company’s page. A Social CEO’s page, on the other hand, can feature more varied content compared to the company’s page, such as sharing industry-related news and self-written articles about influencer content. (1) This doubles the marketing power that brands have.

For these reasons, companies with Social CEOs have a distinct advantage over companies that don’t.

to the employees

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A Social CEO doesn’t only affect the company’s reputation externally, but company morale internally as well. In a survey done by Weber Shandwick, 52% of executives with Social CEOs said that their CEO’s presence on social media makes them feel inspired. (2) 80% of employees had also agreed, saying that they would rather work in a company with a Social CEO.

This is mainly because social media provides the CEO an avenue to communicate directly with their employees, which is particularly difficult in a large company. Instead of ordering people around behind office walls, the CEO has the opportunity to interact with their employees and get to know them as real people. On the other hand, employees also get the chance to know who they’re working for on a more intimate level, boosting their natural desire to produce better work for the company.

to the customers

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As the saying goes, “People don’t follow brands. People follow people.” In a time where our private information can be easily compromised, people crave more authenticity from brands. Social CEOs help to put a face on a brand. They empathise and engage with their customers, and their customers gradually become more and more connected with the CEO. Eventually, when the CEO takes to their social media to promote a product, customers will be more willing to support the brand.

Customers know that they can put their faith in a human being; an authoritative figure that will take their views into account. 82% of people say that they’re more likely to trust a company whose CEO actively engages with their audience on social media. (3)

Example of a Social CEO

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The prime example for a successful Malaysian Social CEO would, no question, be Tony Fernandes, the CEO of AirAsia. The main social media platforms on which he’s active on a daily basis are TwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram. On those platforms, his follower count is 1.29M, 420K, and 262K respectively.

While scrolling through his social media pages, the reason for his success as a Social CEO becomes evident. His tweets and posts embody his persona as the CEO of AirAsia, often promoting the airline company’s services, achievements, and organised events. However, that is not all. Among those posts can be found aspects of his personality––his passion for sustainability, his love for sports, and his opinions on current world events.

It is the combination of both sides of Tony Fernandes that make him such a popular and thriving personality worldwide. He assumes the role of the CEO of AirAsia, regularly advertising AirAsia’s new changes and news, but he doesn’t forget to appear human to his followers. Through his social media platforms, consumers of AirAsia get to engage and connect with him as a person just like any other.

Social CEOs are a very common sight overseas, with CEOs such as Tim Cook (Apple), Elon Musk (SpaceX), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) leading the change and making their presence known on social media. However, back home in Asia, especially in Malaysia, you can’t even name 5 Social CEOs if I asked you to. The Asian social media landscape is severely lacking in Social CEOs, but people such as Tony Fernandes are trying to make a difference. If you’re a CEO based in Asia, why not try your hand at social media? Make your name known by engaging in the conversation when no one else is doing so.

Ultimately, it is not difficult to be a Social CEO. It’s your willingness to put in the effort that determines your success.


1. Rival IQ. The Rise of the Social CEO Infographic (2015)

2. Weber Shandwick. The Social CEO: Executives Tell All (2012)

3. Rival IQ. The Rise of the Social CEO Infographic (2015)

By Ng Li Wei @ PopConFest

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2 Responses

  1. popconfest says:

    This is very insightful, Kudos

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