MTN’s Rob Shutter has been ranked the number one CEO with social media presence in South Africa with more than 4 600 followers on Twitter. Photo: Supplied

CAPE TOWN – MTN chief executive Rob Shutter has been ranked the number one CEO with social media presence in South Africa with more than 4 600 followers on Twitter.

This was revealed in a study by ECCO International Communication, which found that South Africa’s top CEOs ranked 10th for their social media presence compared to other countries globally.

The research, released on Monday, looked at the 20 largest companies per country, by market capitalisation, in 21 countries worldwide and found that 58 percent of the CEOs were active on LinkedIn. 

Of the 20 largest South African companies, 65 percent of CEOs use LinkedIn. For Twitter, this figure is 17 percent worldwide with just 5 percent for South Africa, putting the country near the bottom of the rankings. 

The South African research, conducted by Reputation Matters, ECCO’s regional representatives, found that the leaders of South Africa’s top 20 companies had fewer followers on social media in comparison. All of the CEOs with a LinkedIn presence had fewer than 12 000 followers.

The chief executive of ECCO’s UK agency Pagefield Oliver Foster said LinkedIn was becoming more and more important, while most CEOs continued 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 recognizing the opportunities this social media channel has to offer,” said Foster.

The study examined whether the CEOs themselves were active on Twitter and had 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. Satya Nadella from Microsoft leads the way on LinkedIn, with more than 6 million followers.

Managing director of Reputation Matters Regine le Roux said that this was 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.” 

Le Roux said the executives’ online presence was 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.” 

ECCO analysed 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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