Digital media and the executive leader

Key social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that have helped to reshape the way communication is being delivered, are embraced by CEOs like Richard Branson and Bill Gates but a new study released by KPMG said only 54% of CEOs plan on implementing a digital strategy into their communications plan in the next 12 months.

The survey, which polled nearly 500 C-suite and senior executives globally, offers insight into how, and if, social media is being used by executive leaders but one of the most interesting findings of the survey is that 75% of respondents view tools like Twitter or Facebook as a “reputational risk.”

Key findings of the 35th C-Suite Quarterly survey include:

  • 47% of companies polled report that social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) plays a very important or somewhat important role in their communications and marketing.
  • 53% of companies already using social media report that it is not helping their bottom line.
  • 33% of companies surveyed report having assigned a specific budget to social media or having shifted marketing budget from paid media to social media.
  • 55% of companies polled intend to increase their social media initiatives, with the majority of these organizations being large employers or those in the services sector.
    The C-Suite Quarterly survey is conducted by Gandalf Group and sponsored by KPMG.

Willy Kruh, Global Chairman of Consumer Markets at KPMG, discussed the survey findings on BNN and said he was surprised at the perception of social media and that CEOs should see the value in using Twitter and Facebook to engage proactively with clients and consumers.

“(Social media) is not going away,” Kruh stated. “You can’t just put your head in the sand and say, ‘This is a risk.’”

Indeed, social media has been around longer than most people realize:


The World Wide Web made its debut in 1991 while Google launched in 1998. Blogger quickly followed (Blogger was the first tool used to create blogs. WordPress wasn’t born until 2003).

Remember Napster? The failed peer-to-peer music sharing site that was eventually shut down because artists weren’t receiving royalties from their products? That rolled out in 1999 and was also considered an early form of social media due to the sharing and connections used on the site.

That year, 70 million computers connected to the internet and it was the start of a massive social connection that eventually led to the development of tools like LinkedIn (2002) and Skype (2003). These tools paved the way for what is more commonly used amongst social media enthusiasts: Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006).

So why should a digital strategy matter to CEOs?

Kruh gave an example of a CEO who said his company spent hours a day monitoring social media to see what was being said about the company, both good and bad, and that they responded to all comments within a four-hour time frame.

“(Social media) is out there,” Kruh said. “It’s available, people are talking about you and if you’re not dealing with it, your competitors will.”

The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 year age bracket.

Fred Davidson, CEO of Energold Drilling Corp., was not as convinced that social media was the right avenue for his company. Davidson, who was one of the C-Suite executives who was surveyed and consequently interviewed by BNN about the survey results, said social media isn’t an avenue that will drive his business.

“I’m not going to use social media to approach Chevron or Shell for a $15M contract.”

Davidson added that they do business in other countries where social media is not as widely used as it is in North America.

“We’re not selling to consumers buying socks. It’s a whole different marketplace.”

Social media might not drive business for Energold but Davidson acknowledges that the company does use the tools to promote the culture of the corporation.

“We do post photographs of where we work and the people we work with to provide a bit of colour but we are scrupulous in our Twitter accounts and try to limit posts to that type of content because we really don’t want to get on the wrong side of someone out there and there’s a lot of people we could get on the wrong side of.”

Although social media seems more relevant to the service sector, Kruh argues that other sectors have an opportunity to share information and educate the masses about your industry or social issues that relate directly to your industry.

“Why would you not use something as powerful as social media that hits so many people to get your message out, to talk about your company or your resource sector?” he said. Despite the daunting task of relaying a message in only 140 characters, Kruh suggests a call to action in a tweet such as a link to a video or blog would offer a bigger benefit to such a small form of communication.

200 million of LinkedIn’s 300 million registered users are outside the U.S.

One company that has perfected the art of social media engagement is Westjet. The company has been using Twitter since 2008 and has organically grown to 368K+ followers. Last year they posted their most successful campaign to date (the tear-inducing Christmas miracle video) which went viral in a matter of hours and gained more than 4 million views in less than four days. Not only did it inspire people around the world to perform random acts of kindness, it garnered international attention and multiple awards including two Cannes Film Festival awards.

Robert Palmer, PR Manager for Westjet, said the feedback was ‘overwhelming.’

“There were stories about how people felt inspired after watching it. We heard about random acts of “pay-it-forward” where, for example, someone bought coffee for everyone in line at their local Tim Horton’s that day. We have been producing videos for many years but nothing we’ve ever done has reached as many people as that one. In fact, we know from our analytics that in fact it was seen in every single country in the world, making it truly a global phenomenon.”

LinkedIn has a lower percentage of active users than Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook

Not only does Westjet successfully utilize social media to promote their brand but they have ongoing conversations with patrons and are quick to respond to complaints.

“We interact with our guests, reinforce our brand attributes and enhance the guest experience that extends beyond our check-in counters, boarding lounges and aircraft,” Palmer said. “We answer questions about a variety of issues and do our best to solve problems. We avoid lengthy or prolonged exchanges stemming from complaints, instead facilitating the resolution by connecting our guests with our Guest Relations team to resolve the issue.”

Westjet President and CEO, Gregg Saretsky, is keenly aware of the importance of social in the business world today and is a staunch supporter of Westjet’s social media efforts often tweeting from his own account and sharing on his Facebook page.

“The evolution of social media for us has been fast – very fast,” Palmer said. “Our numbers of fans and followers grew quickly, as did the ways in which we used our channels. For example, we introduced a very robust retail component (seat sales, promo codes, contesting and weekly Blue Tag sales) which has translated into significant revenue directly from social media. Yes, you can make money from social media!”

Is your company using social media? Are you? 


  • 271 million monthly active users
  • 500 million Tweets are sent per day
  • 78% of Twitter active users are on mobile
  • 77% of accounts are outside the U.S.
  • Twitter supports 35+ languages
  • Vine: More than 40 million users


  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 757 million on average for December 2013, an increase of 22% year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 556 million on average for December 2013, an increase of 49% year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.23 billion as of December 31, 2013, an increase of 16% year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 945 million as of December 31, 2013, an increase of 39% year-over-year.

200 million of LinkedIn’s 300 million registered users are outside the U.S.
Stats via

For more information on the C-suite survey click here.

by Davies Park Executive Search

Davies Park