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SA's top CEOs prefer LinkedIn, MTN's Rob Shuter leads on Twitter

The ECCO International Communication recently conducted a study to determine which social media platforms the CEOs of the world prefer: LinkedIn or Twitter. CEOs of South Africa's largest companies, as listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), are more likely to have a LinkedIn profile compared to 20 other countries globally.
Image credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash.

The study also found that South Africa’s top CEOs ranked 10th for their social media presence compared to other countries globally. The research, which looked at the 20 largest companies per country (by market capitalisation) in 21 countries worldwide, reveals that 58% of these CEOs are active on LinkedIn. 

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Linked on LinkedIn 

Of the 20 largest South African companies, 65% of CEOs use LinkedIn. For Twitter, this figure is 17% worldwide with just 5% for South Africa, putting the country near the bottom of the rankings. The South African research was conducted by Reputation Matters, ECCO’s regional representatives. 

The study examined whether the CEOs themselves are active on Twitter and have a LinkedIn profile. The USA CEOs have by far the most followers, despite the country ranking only fifth for total presence on social media.

Apple‘s CEO Tim Cook continues to top the chart worldwide with more than 11 million followers on Twitter (an increase of 120% since 2017). Satya Nadella from Microsoft leads the way on LinkedIn, with over six million followers (an increase of 300% since 2017).

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The most active CEO on Twitter comes from Spain. José María Álvarez-Pallete, CEO of Telefónica, has been active on Twitter since 2010 and has published over 36,000 tweets since then. On average, that's 10 tweets per day, making him the uncontested Twitter leader among CEOs. 

Low on followers

The leaders of South Africa’s top 20 companies have fewer followers on social media in comparison. All of the CEOs with a LinkedIn presence had fewer than 12,000 followers. On Twitter, Rob Shuter, CEO of MTN Group leads with more than 4,600 followers. 

Regine le Roux, managing director of Reputation Matters, says that this is not surprising: “A number of books explain how true leaders oftentimes prefer flying under the radar to all the glamour and fame that come with a major position.” 

The CEO’s online presence is also dependent on knowing the audience and understanding what makes sense as part of his or her communication strategy. “South Africa’s private and public sectors are both still growing in their awareness of and skill with social media,” Le Roux continues. 

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Oliver Foster, chief executive of ECCO’s UK agency Pagefield, adds: “LinkedIn is becoming more and more important, while most CEOs continue to shy away from communication on Twitter.

"On Twitter, the language is often more pointed, and the risk of backlash from consumers is significantly higher. With LinkedIn, this risk is lower, and more and more CEOs are recognising the opportunities this social media channel has to offer."

ECCO analysed the following countries for the study: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.
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