FTSE 100 chief executives on Twitter: Why they should be on social media... even Snapchat and Instagram

Drew Benvie
Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat: FTSE bosses need to be on social media (Source: Getty)

FTSE 100 companies are notoriously quiet on social media, and their CEOs even more so.

It can be easier sometimes to bury one’s head in the board room than put it on the Twitter parapet. So when I took a look at the new data on how many FTSE 100 bosses are active on social media, which is part of a report that we published today, the findings were not entirely surprising.

First, let’s look at the company data. We focused in our research mainly on Twitter, which gives a good barometer for a FTSE 100 company’s activity on social media, as it’s one of the broadest social networks; more corporate than Facebook, more consumery than LinkedIn, and more mainstream than Instagram.

A total of 91 per cent of the FTSE 100s are on Twitter, which is a good start. This is up only slightly in the last two years. However, only 43 per cent of FTSE 100 companies have verified Twitter accounts, 9 per cent are not on Twitter at all, and a further 5 per cent who are on Twitter are posting on average less than once a month.

When you look a little deeper also, many of the FTSE 100s have been changing how they use Twitter. In the last 12 months, four of the companies we tracked switched their primary Twitter account and are now using the social network for corporate-style PLC news. The companies that did this are Travis Perkins, GKN, Wolsley and Shire. In total, 18 companies have a PLC Twitter profile, as opposed to one used for customer care for example, as their main Twitter account. This shows the trend I’m noticing across the board - that Twitter is becoming more corporate.

Read more: Mobilegeddon: The FTSE 100 winners and losers from Google's algorithm changes

So what of the FTSE bosses? Only nine are on Twitter - a startlingly low number - but an increase at least. Last time anyone looked the total was just seven, back in January this year. The CEO with the most followers is Dixons Carphone’s Sebastian James, with 30,400, and the least popular is Shell’s Ben Van Beurden, with no tweets published to date.

Why should FTSE 100 bosses be on social media at all?

Based on what we are seeing from those that are active, and from others we spoke to who have taken the leap in other global listed companies, social media is helping bosses to communicate not only with their customers, but with their employees too. In the social media age we’re living in, where broadcast, broadsheet, digital and social are all intertwined, it’s impossible to be present in one place and not somewhere else.

What comes next I think will be far more interesting, as we are seeing an increasing variety of social media in the mix, all being used simultaneously by brands. This means it’s not going to be so easy for a FTSE 100 boss to just tweet and to be on LinkedIn, which is what it’s like for most right now.

All eyes are on Instagram and Snapchat in particular. With captive audiences spanning a broad demographic, global consumer brands have jumped in feet first, so chief executives will not be far behind. It’s fair to say that with Twitter becoming more corporate, the action next year may be somewhere else altogether, so watch this space.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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