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Global CEO Report: Proritizing Social Media and Collaboration

1 Comment 01 February 2013

CEO social media infographic

In the latter half of 2011, IBM met face to face with 1,709 CEOs and senior public sector leaders to better understand how the increasingly connected economy is affecting their outlook, plans, and presenting challenges. The 2012 IBM CEO Study, released January 2013,  offers clues to the future of the social business, with implications for the networked nonprofit:

1. Change in perception of the role of social media for customer insights and engagement

CEOs believe that that they must prioritize customer interaction through social media, as they believe that social media will become one of the top ways to engage customers within the next five years. They are predicting a >250% increase in the use of social media for customer interaction. 77% of CEOs in higher education predict that social media will be a key channel for customer engagement.

Unfortunately, only 16% of CEOs say their companies are using social media as a top channel for customer engagement. My sense from the study is that outperforming organizational CEOs are likely using social media for engagement, followed slowly and begrudgingly by the pack.

While I could not find any comparative studies looking at how nonprofit CEOs view social media, my gut tells me that nonprofit CEOs and Executive Directors follow these trends and statistics. In fact, I suspect that, as a sector, more nonprofit organizations are using social media as a top engagement channel than the companies in this study. The reason: nonprofit CEOs may view social media as a relatively budget-friendly means of accessing a wider audience, and more urgently, a wider donor base.

2. Large corporate CEOs are recognizing the impact that social media is having on business culture, employee recruiting, and performance.

The study found that generally CEOs, are moving their organizations away from tightening control towards more openness, transparency, and collaboration.  CEOs “anticipate demands for even more transparency, and the competitive need to open up their organization to collaborate more internally and externally.” The study shows, interestingly, that outperforming organizations (higher revenue growth and profitability than their peers) have a 30 percent higher the emphasis on openness than other organizations . Those same organizations are much more comfortable with change than underperformers (see graphic below).

Emphasis on openness is 30% higher among outperformers

Emphasis on openness is 30% higher among outperformers


Social media is also affecting employee culture: CEOs are prioritizing collaboration, communication, creativity and flexibility as critical for employee success in their firms. The CEOs interviewed are increasingly looking for employees comfortable with change, who can navigate the ambiguity of the connected economy. In an increasing social world, social values of transparency, opennenss, change, and collaboration are influencing business culture. It is refreshing to read that companies are identifying change as a real success factor in their business, which includes aspects of transparency, openness, flexibility, and hiring employees with these values.

3. The impact of the connected economy on collaboration

Interestingly, organizations that used to do everything in-house, including innovation, are looking at collaborative partnering. They seem to understand that they are now part of a connected, networked world, and are beginning to prioritize collaboration than independence. The study reveals that 53 percent of CEOs are partnering extensively to innovate. In government, education, and healthcare, more than 60 percent are doing so. Internal processes are changing, companies are collaborating internally and externally, and organizations are moving from stand-alone to partnering companies. As a result, “more than half of CEOs are making extensive changes to enable their organizations to work with external collaborators,” as the chart below indicates.


partnership change CEO study

In The Networked Nonprofit, authors Allison Fine and Beth Kanter write “Networked Nonprofits shift their focus from working as single organizations to working as part of larger social networks that exist inside and outside of their institutional walls.” These same organizations are working wikily, in which they use social media for engaging two-way conversation, take risks, trust staff to make decisions, and spend a lot of time talking with people outside of the organization. With IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study, we are the outside observer, noting the slow but steady shift towards networked organizations year over year, and rejoice in the proof of “outperformance” from these social organizations.

Resources and other reading

The infographic from the 2012 IBM Global CEO Study.

A report analysis from Shelly Kramer of V3 Integrated Marketing, highlighting other report aspects.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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