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28 Reasons Why The CEO Is Afraid Of Social Media

Social Media 4I talk everyday to clients who want a new website and want to be found online, but the word Social Media doesn’t even enter the conversation and isn’t included in the initial brief. They do know what Social Media is, but they have all these reasons and excuses about why they shouldn’t be integrating it into their company website and include it in their marketing strategy.

So here are 28 reasons some companies aren’t using Social Media.

  1. It is detrimental to employee productivity
  2. It could damage the company’s reputation
  3. Security risk
  4. Fear of the unknown
  5. We already have information overload
  6. Don’t know enough about it
  7. So much of what’s discussed online is shallow and we have real work to do
  8. We don’t have the time or resources to contribute and moderate
  9. Our customers don’t use it
  10. Traditional media is still bigger, we will use Social Media when it is more mainstream
  11. It doesn’t fit into current structures
  12. No guaranteed results
  13. The tools to measure and analyze Social Media aren’t mature enough yet
  14. We are in B2B and who wants to hear about our boring product on a blog or twitter
  15. We will lose control of our brand and image
  16. Upper management won’t provide support
  17. Waiting on ROI (return on investment) with facts and figures
  18. We are afraid of making a mistake
  19. Lack of experience
  20. Ignorance
  21. Unwilling to be transparent
  22. Confusion
  23. No money
  24. No expertise
  25. Lack of leadership
  26. Terrified of feedback and truth
  27. The “newness” of  it, going to wait.
  28. High degree of skepticism

So they are some of the reasons and excuses… so “How do you convince a CEO to enter the 21st century and implement internet marketing?”

Well its 1.51am Sunday morning in Sydney, Australia and the answer to that question has to be done at another time.. I will keep you posted!

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • I believe most of those retorts spring from fear of the unknown, and this fear manifests itself in several excuses / barriers.

    For me personally, what decreases the resistance / increases the buy-in, is giving this example:
    When digital marketing first started, people were more susceptible to banner ads than newspaper ads. The eye learns to automatically filter out the ads.
    Now that we see more than enough “traditional” digital marketing, the eye also learned to filter it out. While using social networks, a websurfer’s guard is down, and they are more prone to glance / look / check out.

    Now with SocMed being very diverse, there’s a niche / place to utilize SocMed to reach out to target audience.

  • I SOOO Agreee.. m still tryin to figure social media out..

  • Jeff, there are these fears and also a demand for education, which is why one focus of ours is on educating business managers about social media. The other is on educating consultants in the same methods and procedures, which are totally cross-business and strategically directed to the total customer experience.

    Walter Adamson @g2m
    Social Media Academy, Australia

  • belkisnyc

    Jeff, this is a very good post. One of the things I tell owners is that social media is a good marketing tool but you will need someone with time and patience to really do some strategy on it. It’s not just about posting update. It’s about how the whole picture reflects your company. Many companies have hired people just to dedicated time for this. Honestly, this helps because while everyone else is doing their job and mainly working with their clients, a specialist is working on their online presence.


  • Hi Jeff,

    All the above are very true, and most of them are probably true when we ask ourselves ´why don´t we use some new technology to improve ourselves?’ People are creatures of habit, CEOs are similar 😉 Using 2.0 technology is just like like any new technology, the internet, mobile – everyone was skeptic at the beginning. I personally still remember the time when many of us said that we Europeans wouldn’t use the mobile as common as the Japanese – I was 20 at the time 😉

    Adopting blogging, wikis, microblogging, it’s all about changing a habit, a way of work. We humans are creature of habit and therefor find it extremely hard to change our habits, something we need to do to ‘challenge conventions’.

    As my domain is 2.0 / 3.0 I have found it still too often that people just talk about ‘modern’ web technologies / tools and have debates at seminars about why Social Media or Enterprise 2.0 does or doesn’t work.

    Many pshychology researchers (John Bargh, Tanya Chartrand, Peter Gollwitzer, John Kihlstrom and Timothy Wilson) argue that 95% of our habits is automatically and unconsciously and that only 5% of our habit is planned and conscious. Although I have been thinking about habits �” also reading the book of 7 habits of effective leadership of Stephen Covey �” I saw a Dutch researcher / speaker Ben Tiggelaar at a Health 2.0 conference talking about the theories of how we as humans have a hard time changing our habits / behavior. There is even a test http://www.solidarts.com/ddd/test to test if someone wants change, understands how to get there and understand how self-change is necessary.

    In our work, at our level, we need to have people around us who will create an innovative surrounding. At ABN AMRO they have a so called ‘Chief Dialogue Officer’, as dialogue is a basic necessity to learn and understand other perspectives / ideas. From a management perspective, the common American business culture (top-down) might be a tough environment to achieve more dialogue between the common workers, specialists and their top execs. Too often I hear consultancy agencies speak about how ’social media’ can be used to achieve a more ‘flat’ organization. Well, it’s true but the key is to have leaders who understand that they have to adjust their management / leadership habits to allow innovative thinking and to support the process of it. ABN AMRO even created a ‘Dialogue House’ for it. I guess especially within banks, they need to do a lot more to generate innovation than at IT companies. So understanding how hard it is to change habits, CEOs who are not innovative need to do more things like:
    – really create an open environment for ideas / dialgoue
    – really take part in it

    But even then activities might not generate enough results. How I push myself to be innovative:
    – Do a lot of new things, really DO them. Don’t just read reports, books, etc. Try things out for a while and understand how it works by yourself (like Twitter) and do not stop at 101s
    – Have a lot of talks / meetings / brainstorming sessions with people who can challenge your ideas
    – Give out concrete deadlines for new products / ideas and put consequences to it (less salary / no bonus / resignation)
    – And put yourself to the test, let your colleagues assess your innovation and put the consequences to it.

    But a CEO is often too arrogant due to his / her position and might often not put such hard consequences upon him/herself. It’s easier to push others than ourselves, but it’s easier to change ourselves than others.

    Some of my personal blogs about leadership / innovation:
    – hhvo.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/2009-a-crisis-always-brings-urgency-to-unite-and-innovate/
    – hhvo.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/enterprise-20-enterprise-needs-pioneers-who-get-it/

    I hope you’ll get more replies to get a decent discussion about this, as I think CEOs MUST be innovative!

    – Ha

  • Dan

    Regardless of what organisation implements social media it helps to be personal. Put a name and face to that account and dont just be corporate branding.

    The one-2-one engagement with a real person will do more to promote the company than 100 links from a logo

  • Hi Jeff,

    I liked your reasons so much that I’ve turned them into Social Media Bingo.

    I have a blog post coming out based on your comments tomorrow and here’s a link to the bingo sheet – http://www.scribd.com/doc/19105295/Social-Media-Bingo



  • I like best the first reason with employee productivity as it is sooo true. But also so much unavoidable.
    Looking at my colleagues and me, we are constantly in twitter and Facebook 😉 On the other hand we are creating buzz about our company which hopefully translates in Word-of-mouth advertising…

  • I enjoyed the a”28 Reasons” and also have heard these same stale arguments over and over while the conversations about their own brands are going on without them. CEO’s who bury their head in the sand and provide one of the 28 reasons you’ve listed here as an excuse to not do social is negligence. I also agree with Walter that the key is education to the point of brow beating. The only problem with that is that we are still teaching our clients about email marketing, PPC adverts, SEM, CRM et al. And most of middle management at bigger CPG companies tend to jump around a lot – so as soon as you see the “lights coming on” – the brand manager is likely to move on and you’re left to start the process all over again. So the education process is never ending and a marathon. I will admit though – this is the 1st year where I have not been asked to break out the “Why Digital?” Deck so there is some progress.

    I think another great way to get CEO’s to buy in to Social is to show not tell. Show how effective other companies have been by leveraging Social Media and how it was embraced by the top brass and really sell them on the fact that this is an opportunity to lead and not follow. But as you know the hard part is following up and delivering after the sale – the success of social media well rely on the final execution/results and deliverable on the goals of the program. If we get a bunch of sales people selling this in with no real support or intellectual property to back it up – Social comes off looking like widgets and iPhone apps – the fad of the moment and nothing could be more further from the truth.

  • Jeff,

    With all due respect to you and all the other social media pundits out there. Websites are marketing/advertising tools, businesses need them to display inventories/services and create online leads.

    In my opinion, Social Media is more of a networking/branding and customer retention tool. The word social to me brings forth an image of networking. There are too many people, technoids mostly who are trying to convince the business world that Social Media has made the leap as a “go to” marketing/advertising tool, in most cases it hasn’t.

    In the U.S. I see the large national concerns like auto manufacturers, etc using it successfully to create a viral networking buzz through it’s core customers, but as far as advertising/marketing it falls short.

    In local markets and smallish businesses there is only so much time, money and employee resources a company can allocate. In these insatnces a CEO might better advertise locally that they are sponsoring a community ice cream social where people meet face to face. It’s viral, social and personal, not virtual. And for me, I’ll take personal over virtual any day.


  • Jeff-

    You left out reason #29 -“Our competitors are not using social media, so why should we?”

    Obviously, this excuse is just as lame as the 28 other reasons you cited in your article. However, I think it’s a key reason why so many CEO’s are afraid of anything to do with the social web.

    As we like to say here at Heardable, “There is only one metric that means anything in business: how well you’re doing against your competition.”

    Once CEO’s realize that their competitors are engaged in social media and making real inroads to benefit both their customers and their organization, they quickly shake themselves awake and dive right in to place fast follower. However, forward-thinking leaders are not waiting to follow others. They are jumping in feet first because they know instinctively that you need to go to where your customers are, be it social media, search, or mobile, and figure out how to become part of a productive conversation.

    Heardable is a premium service for C-level executives looking to quantify online ROI by scoring a brand’s real-time digital DNA. Our actionable analytics help brand get heard…and social media monitoring & measurement is a big part of what we do. For a free trial membership, go to: http://www.heardable.com and register today!


  • Kimba Green

    Great post and so very true!

  • Sometimes it may be that the company really does have something fishy going on that needs to be admitted to and corrected before adopting an open communication approach. It can be as simple as a negative internal culture of simply not treating employees equitably. Therefore, if a company is adamant on being against social media and tries to avoid the topic by giving various excuses like those Jeff had mentioned, it is our tasks to find out what exactly the underlying problem is. (Enron, of course, would have shunned SoMe.)

    Kyle Leung @icanhaskyle
    Undergraduate (Public and Promotional Communication)
    Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
    Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

  • Vanessa

    A note of realism. A number of the concerns listed are very legitimate. Right now the excitement over social media is a bit one sided on the side of blind optimism. Typically Internet — because everybody else is doing it, not because it makes sense or this will work for my company or clients.

    For a business no matter the size, time is money and social media is time consuming long before there is an ROI. One has to make a judgment call if the proponents are a part of the money train for personal profit from the increase in social media, or really looking out for the concerns of the client. Right now there appears to be more fluff than honest delivery of a viable innovation.

    • Although the list is not entirely inaccurate, there begs to be a question of whether there is accuracy behind the 28 concerns besides the labels of “excuses”. I would be curious how many of the readers and respondents are currently or have actually been a CEO in their careers to accurately weigh in on the topic.

      I currently am a CEO and have had various executive positions over the past years and deal with this very issue quite a bit. Being in my early 30’s, you would think that I would be fluent and riding Web 2.0 as the next wave, however, I struggle often with some of these 28 reasons to not support social marketing techniques in my organization, with ROI being paramount.

      The main purpose of an organization must be to make more money than it exhausts. Simple right, but I am often surprised by the softness in US businesspeople today and their heralding of “feel good” business. Feel good without ROI and ultimately retained earnings only yield feeling good and bankrupt eventually. Employees must relearn that their time is an investment first to themselves and the organization. With this, their every effort in their work should be quickly calculated internally to make a decision of value added activity or revenue producing activities versus anything less than optimum. Simply put, I call it judgment. If populating Facebook and tweeting continuously throughout the day will yield the employee and the business a tangible result (even long term) and this result can be earned only by this activity (investment) and this gain is worth more than another activity or investment, then the obvious choice is to participate in the social marketing activity. However, if there is another activity which yields either a larger or faster (cashflow turnover is king), then the better judgment is to not participate and opt for the strategy that has the better return.

      It is obvious, or it should be.

      This then begs the second key aspect to consider: Promotion of oneself versus promotion of the company. As a hired employee, with no personal cash investment in most cases, employee time and efforts are being procured, which includes their focus each day (or 24/7 in the case of exempt status). Their role is to use judgment to promote the business, not themselves. What I have noticed on Facebook, Twitter, and other social marketing / networking platforms is the virtual impossibility for someone to separate these aspects. Time spent reading the posting a witty remark to an old friend’s Wall truly does nothing to promote the organization, but how is one to avoid this lapse in focus when they are constantly bombarded with updates from the personal world? Similarly, tweeting all day about personal thoughts and ideas will be highly unlikely to promote company growth. Again, judgment is key, with a sense of appropriate use of time while at work or on a project.

      Where it really gets sticky is in the credit department, which may be “Reason #29 Ego”. CEOs are evaluated based on the entire enterprise and their personal character and abilities are often determined by the performance of the whole organization. They will want the buzz to be about the business and right or wrong, the truth is that it is considered “their” business. Ego would be a key reason CEOs are against social networking / marketing and equally the reason employees feel it should be acceptable for them to stake their claim via whatever ways possible. Since Web 2.0 activities are not monitored or controlled very well, there is a free platform to give, take, hold or steal credit in a way to build an individual’s personal status, instead of the company’s status (i.e. CEO status). In not stating the CEO Ego is right, however, it should definitely not be a situation where the company is paying an employee to promote themselves.

      When the work is over for the day, by all means tweet, post and blog away. Tell every friend of your personal updates, what you ate for lunch, movie reviews or whatever you like. It is your life to share, just don’t spend your working time doing it.

      Here is a simple way to look at it. Think of a service that hinges on speed and quality (pick any example you wish: taking a taxi, ordering food, visiting the doctor, etc.) Imagine if your service was delayed because your taxi driver, server, or doctor was on his phone responding to a post or sending a tweet about sushi he had for lunch. My guess is that most people would be upset that they are being delayed and potentially paying more (taxi for example) because the driver felt justified to update his status that he was driving to 8th and 14th. If this would be unacceptable behavior as the driver was wasting your time and money, then how is it any different in the workplace?

      Perspectives have a funny way of changing when it is your money on the line.

      Until someone has held the role and risked the investment, I’m not certain they are qualified to critique CEO decisions on social marketing.

      • Thanks Michael for your perspective on the challenges facing CEO’s.
        Certainly the need to have in place social media policies and filters has become important in ensuring worker productivity with most major brands putting various controls in place. A post I wrote recently looks at the ROI of Social Media Marketing and might be worth a read “8 Steps To Demonstrate Positive Return On Investment For Social Media Marketing” http://bit.ly/3xDjgf
        One of the great abilities of social media to a company is its ability to amplify your companies unique content (such as blogs) out into the Web space and generate inbound links which assists your websites SEO and improves your companies chances of “being found online”. A post that might be of interest is “7 Reasons Why Companies Should Blog” http://bit.ly/ukMsO that highlights the benefits of content marketing.
        Thanks again for your interesting and insightful comment
        Cheers Jeff

        • Jeff,

          Good response. As a “C Suite” resident I empathize with Michael but respectfully disagree with a couple of his points. Primarily with the top down emphasis on ensuring that employees are not squandering resources (whether they be time based or otherwise). We certainly must measure what we manage and trust but verify what employees do but with that said social media is primarily an opportunity for employees to reach out with other mediums to individuals that are utilizing those mediums. If we recognize that as an opportunity and recognize also the diversion of attention possibilities – the answer becomes clear. Hire better people and fire those that cannot use it beneficially and productively for themselves and their employer.


  • Very good points, Jeff…all 28 of them.

    I think these are especially true for small business owners and “blue collar” type companies. After all, what is social-media worth to a local pet store, a factory that makes bottle caps, or a small upstart working out of their garage?

    These CEOs see themselves as small potatoes, or think that social media is for the tech industry only. I’ve written a post on my own blog about social media ROI, which quells some of the naysayers who have left comments here.

  • If you equate marketing to communication then social media can be as much about listening as it is about shouting your advertising from the roof-tops. In my humble opinion herein lies the value of the medium.

  • Thanks for the article. As mentioned by others, social media is more than a marketing channel for businesses; it can become whatever strategic media resource the company/brand would like it to be: corporate intelligence (including competitor products/services), lead generation (such new customer business development and sales opportunities) and customer service (dealing with unhappy/happy customers). Each organization, irrelevant of size, should leverage the power of social media to help reach their short, medium and long-term corporate goals (including marketing).

  • here here
    finally someone said something!

  • I might ask the CEO (in no particular order):

    Do you know where your ideal customer hangs out (on-line and off-line)?

    What are some fast and easy ways to build an ongoing relationship with your clients, potential clients, suppliers, and even your competitors?

    What can you offer that gives you a value-added, low-cost marketing profile?

    Have you done a social media word search to see what is being said about your company right now?

    When you do a social media word search for your company what would you like to find? How can you have the most influence over those findings?

    The truth is whether a company engages in social media or not, it is likely to be impacting their business simply because where people gather and build relationships they refer to each other about purchase decisions.

  • Steve A Furman

    All very popular reasons. All very negative. I work in a large Financial Services Firm and have heard almost all of these. I have knocked down almost all of them. It’s about getting the top guys CEO, CMO to understand it’s worth a try. That’s all. Keep it inexpensive, under the radar and under control. They will tank you for it some day.

  • Great post and very true. I used to speak to a lot of people who would sneer at the idea of Social Media and thought it wasn’t for them. Now more and more businesses are tuning into the idea that Social Media isn’t a fad. When someone tells me they think that Social Media is a fad I turn round and tell them, “that’s what they said about the Internet..”

  • Interesting post and the comments offer a good variety of thought and reasons why they are not necessarily lame excuses. As I talk to business owners most are not heavily engaged in social media. The biggest challenge is time. But there is also a lack of understanding of how to effectively use the tools.

    The learning curve for social media goes well outside our traditional business methods. The best you can do really is to ease your way in and gradually try new methods.


  • Great list. I think I covered most, if not all, of these reasons in my 30 objections/responses to social media post. Feel free to comment.


  • 17 makes the most sense based on conversations I’ve had with CEO’s – “show me the money.”

    Once we do the research for a CEO/CMO. c-suite anyway, and we show them the evidence of who’s talking about them or what their competitors are doing, the conversation usually changes to a more positive note.

    Providing some up front evidence goes a long way.

  • Hmmm… I agree and it’s true 🙂

  • In order for CEOs and a company’s management to be more inclined in investing money with regards to Social Media is always on ROI.

    Money talks and putting forward evidence and facts on how Social Media can help the company grow financially is a very strong marketing argument making every CEO and management want to prioritise Social Media.

    Ryan Eriksson
    Business Development, Marketing and Sales
    ProQure | Entremattor… för better matting service


  • ROI – surely the CEO needs to evaluate the return on involvement not investment. As he cannot work that out either – reason No 29
    Great series of posts – thank Jeff

  • Kenny Martinez

    Thanks for this one Jeff! Very True!

  • Hilarious and so true. Thanks, Kathy

  • Jeff, even with very educated and forward thinking executives, the social “activity” does not easily translate into revenue. And while I am an avid social media worker, sometimes the data is hard to come showing how my company’s LIKES and FAVS has an affect on our business. I CAN show how the LINK traffic from Facebook is higher than the PAID traffic where we do our message testing. But I need a 1-to-1 connection from the Facebook “activity” and SALES. I’m working on it, and I know I can tag and track and measure with G Analytics, but the funnel is not so clear cut.

    I love the post. Dare I show it to my CEO?

    John McElhenney

  • Ugh! True!! My (least) favorites: Fear of making a mistake and unwilling to be transparent.
    The competition won’t steal from you if you’re transparent about your processes and your clients won’t leave in droves in you make a mistake once in a while! We learn by doing, get out and do it!

  • As a Web App Security professional who has been responsible for web security for a number of Fortune 500 companies, security is a real issue, something which most social media companies like Facebook have overlooked while chasing the next shinny new feature. To integrate any e-commerce sites with something like facebook connect is pure negligence.

  • Any business that is any good at marketing will (already) know the whereabouts of the persons/businesses it its target market. There is no point, I suggest, in adding to the effort entailed in focussing on that by spreading the load thinly. If and when social media can be targeted then it would/could be useful; at present it’s too broad a medium. A bit like throwing enough mud against the wall in the hope that some of it will stick. 

  • LTS

    “Terrified of feedback and the truth” is the bottom line!

  • LOL Jeff! You added a few I had not heard yet. The biggest reason I get is, It will take too much time. It always amazes me when people will spend the time to continue to do something that is not working and say they do not have time to do something that will work.

  • The biggest reasons I get is the fear of negative comments and it takes to much time.  You can take any of the 28 reasons and what it boils down to is – They don’t understand the benefits or the how-to of social media.
    If they did they would know they couldn’t afford not to listen to their customers – good or bad – and they would know that they couldn’t afford to wait to get involved.

    Great article!!

  • Convince the CEO of ways to achieve ROI and how to develop social media guidelines within the company.

  • Tom Cunniff

    Jeff, “afraid” implies that the CEO is spineless, or brainless. What kind of CEOs have you been meeting in your career?

    Most of the CEOs I have met are terrific businesspeople who have risen to the top by consistently making smart choices and taking intelligent risks. I concede I have met some who made poor choices — but typically it was because they became arrogant and risked too much, not too little.

    Today, I think it takes more courage to say no to social media than it does to say yes. It’s *very* easy to say “sure, knock yourself out, make us a Facebook page”, knowing that some eager young staffer will trundle off and create a page that will be only visited by tumbleweeds in three months.

    Doing social right requires a solid understanding of why the brand is doing it, how it fits into an integrated marketing plan, and a budget that enables it to be done well. And since budgets are generally a zero-sum game, the funds must be stolen from some other marketing tactic — which itself is probably already underfunded.

    The agencies who have convinced clients to open their wallets for social media are those that work to understand the client’s business *first*. They sell social media only when they can demonstrate clear value.

    Calling prospects chicken is a surprisingly poor way to convince them to give you money.

  • Afraid of transparency is a big one.