G&S News Release – Social Media & The CEO: What Does the Public Really Want?

NEW YORK – April 19, 2016 – Sixty-four percent of Americans think it’s important for senior business leaders to have an active presence on social media, but they’re not looking for personal anecdotes or business advice. That’s according to highlights from the upcoming fourth edition of The Global Street Fight Study from G&S Business Communications (G&S) and Harris Poll.

“There’s been a lot of industry buzz encouraging CEOs and other senior business leaders to engage on social media, but not much has been said about what the general public expects from senior leaders once they start posting, tweeting and sharing,” said Steve Halsey (@StephenHalsey), G&S principal and managing director of business consulting.

Despite the instant personalization that’s part-and-parcel of social media, G&S/Harris Poll found that the general public is at least twice as likely to expect business versus personal news on senior leaders’ social pages.

  • 46% of Americans equate a senior business leader’s active presence on social media with keeping others informed on their company’s business activities.
  • Only 16% equate it with sharing personal stories and anecdotes.

Of particular interest to business communicators, only 28% of Americans equate a senior leader’s active presence on social media with personally managing his or her own account instead of using a ghostwriter or marketing team.

“On social media, the voice of senior leadership and the company appear to be one and the same in the minds of most Americans,” said Carol Gstalder (@Nielsen), Nielsen senior vice president of consumer insights and co-author of the annual Global Street Fight survey. “Four in 10 Americans follow senior leaders on social media and what senior leaders communicate shapes how the public perceives the reputation of the company. This is incredibly significant from a corporate communications stand point in terms of building reputational equity, influencing stakeholder behavior, and drawing on that equity in times of crisis.”

The opportunity to bolster corporate confidence is particularly large among millennials (ages 18-34) and younger Gen Xers (ages 35 – 44). In addition to expecting business information from senior leaders on social media, these cohorts increasingly hear about what’s going on with companies through social media. They’re more likely to trust information about companies when they get it from social media, and they place greater trust in senior leaders who are transparent on social channels.

Here’s how the numbers break out:

  • 63% of millennials and 58% of younger Gen Xers increasingly hear about what’s going on with companies through social media versus other channels.
  • 53% of millennials and 47% of younger Gen Xers place greater trust in company information when it comes through social media versus channels.
  • 67% of millennials and 61% of younger Gen Xers find senior leaders more trustworthy when they are transparent on social media.

The G&S/Harris Poll survey further reveals that business news trumps personal news not only in terms of public expectation, but also in terms of public preference. Thirty-six percent of Americans want business leaders on social media to talk about their company’s vision, 35% want them to talk about their company’s products and services, 32% want them to talk about their company’s customer service issues and experiences and 25% want to hear about employee culture and engagement. By contrast, only 18% want professional development tips, only 15% want personal stories or anecdotes and only 13% want advice on running a business.

“Social media gives the public a unique opportunity to see a company through the lens of its leader and for senior leaders to listen through the lens of their stakeholders,” said Halsey. “The Global Street Fight Study tells us it’s something the public craves, but it’s not about telling personal stories and anecdotes.  It’s about building stakeholder relationships and personally delivering company news with credibility, passion, and a point of view.”

About the Survey

This survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of G&S Business Communications to glean insights into what the public wants and expects from senior business leaders on social media. A total of 2,018 adults aged 18 and older were queried online within the United States from March 24 to March 29, 2016 via Harris Poll’s Quick Query omnibus product. For complete research method, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Mary C. Buhay, G&S Business Communications.

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. Learn more at www.harrispollonline.com and follow them on Twitter, @Nielsen.

About G&S Business Communications

G&S Business Communications is an independent business communications firm with headquarters in New York and offices in Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and Basel, Switzerland. The firm’s global network extends across more than 50 countries through its PROI Worldwide partnership. G&S integrates business and communications strategies, using a full range of communications services, to build sustainable relationships for clients along the entire value chain. We inspire action that means business. Learn more at www.gscommunications.com and follow them on Twitter, @GS_Comms.

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