CEOs Worldwide In Tune with Implications & Impact of Social Media [Study]


A majority of the over 1,700 CEOs interviewed for IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study believe technology will be the number one factor to impact an organization’s structure over the next three years. Collaboration, communication and creativity were identified as the interpersonal skills most critical to employee success in complex, interconnected environments.

The report also examines how CEOs used social media to connect with customers; currently only 16 percent use it in this way, though IBM predicts that will rise to 57 percent within three to five years.

At 63 pages, this year’s Global CEO Study is not for the faint of heart, but should be required reading for management right up to the C-level in organizations of all sizes. Technology and communications today often require rapid-fire decisions and there are risks inherent to a more open environment within a business. Considering those companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness (including in social media) as a key influence on their organization, those risks may very well be worth taking.

IBM’s 3 Key Recommendations to Help Companies Outperform


The report identifies three precepts essential for companies if they plan to become outperformers and goes into detail explaining each of the following points:

  1. Empowering employees through values:
    • Replace rulebooks with shared beliefs.
    • Build future-proof employees.
    • Provide the means to collaborate at scale.
  2. Engaging customers as individuals:
    • Let “big data” reveal the customer you never knew.
    • Listen lavishly, respond with focus.
    • Be where your customers expect you to be.
  3. Amplifying innovation with partnerships:
    • Fundamentally change how you partner.
    • Make partnerships personal.
    • Break collaboration boundaries.

Of the image above, IBM wrote in their report, “The colors represent the three imperatives that emerged from our analysis: empowering employees through values, engaging customers as individuals, and amplifying innovation with partnerships. And the way the colors blend suggests the growing need to collaborate and deepen these vital relationships.”

Shift in Perception at C-Level: SM Deepens, Not De-Humanizes, Relationships

More of this empowerment, engagement and certainly amplification is accomplished through social media networks than ever before, whether forward-facing for customers, with current and potential partners, or internal. Fifty-three percent of CEOs plan to use technology to facilitate greater partnering and collaboration with outside organizations, while 52 percent are working toward promoting greater internal collaboration.

“One of the most compelling findings is how in tune CEOs are about the implications and impact of social media,” said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Business Services, in a written statement. “Rather than repeating the familiar lament about de-personalizing human relationships, this view leans heavily in favor of deepening them, and using dynamic social networks to harness collective intelligence to unlock new models of collaboration.”

2012 Global CEO Study, By The Numbers

IBM’s interviews uncovered a number of interesting trends; here are just a few.

On the leadership agenda for CEOs, three leadership traits they said they must exhibit to be successful:

  • Customer obsession (61 percent)
  • Inspirational leadership (60 percent)
  • Leadership teaming (58 percent)

Outperformers excel at acting on insights and these CEOs are after more advanced business analytics to help them mine data tracked online, on mobile phones, and in social. On acting on insights:

  • Almost one-quarter of CEOs said their organizations are below par in terms of driving value from data.
  • Outperforming organizations are twice as good as underperformers at accessing and drawing insights from data.
  • Outperformers are also 84 percent better at translating those insights into real action.

CEOs are prioritizing customer insights far above other decision areas:

  • 73 percent of CEOs are making significant investments in their organizations’ ability to draw meaningful customer insights from available data.
  • Compared to their mature-market counterparts, growth-market CEOs are pushing more aggressively to improve insights across all areas of their organizations, including customers.
  • Seven out of every 10 CEOs are making major changes in their organizations to deepen the understanding of individual customer needs.

About the IBM 2012 Global CEO Study

For this, the fifth edition of IBM’s biennial Global CEO Study series, 1,709 CEOs, general managers and senior public sector leaders from 64 countries were interviewed. The organizations range in size and span 18 industries.

According to IBM, “Sixty-eight percent are located in mature markets; the remaining 32 percent are in growth markets. Just over half (52 percent) lead global or multinational organizations; 48 percent are nationally focused. To smooth any geographic distortion, CEO responses were weighted based on actual regional gross domestic product (GDP) for 2010.”

As part of their C-Level educational initiatives, IBM is releasing CEO interview videos in the coming weeks. In this, John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic, explains how he creates an environment where employee input and shared values drive the organization.

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