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Social Voices

Every CEO has a different style of communication — some prefer to put themselves out there in the blogosphere while others prefer to leave that to the social media experts. Here’s how eight CEOs feel about – and address – social media.

Here’s how eight CEOs personally feel about—and address—social media:

Steve Hanna, The Onion

The Onion

Does he or doesn’t he? The ex-newspaper editor hankers to
contribute to The Onion’s vast brand following on social networks; “It’s the way
our audience communicates with each other,” he said. But he doesn’t.

Why? “Being of Irish extraction,” Hannah quips, “I can’t even say ‘hello’ in 140 characters. Besides, I don’t believe I have anything particular to say. And I’m awash in a sea of information all day long, anyway. I want to simplify my life… On a personal level, this is not the way my social circle and my friends do things.”

Tim Hebert, Atrion Networking

Atrion Networking
Warwick, R.I.

Does he or doesn’t he? Spending about 30 minutes a day personally engaging in SM, Hebert focuses on LinkedIn because that’s where he can interact most with clients. The company ranks all of its clients on their strategic importance, and Herbert isn’t surprised to find that those clients who “friend” him on Facebook tend to be the most important.

Why? With 70 percent of employees toiling away from headquarters, networking internally as well as externally is literally existential for Atrion. Hebert wants to be there. “People like the fact that I’m very transparently the same person on Facebook and in person,” he says. “But I don’t share information that’s too personal.”

Linda Hudson, BAE Systems

BAE Systems
Arlington, Va.

Does she or doesn’t she? Hudson began blogging internally for 40,000-plus employees, and after several months acknowledged the practice as “invaluable.” She has also established a Twitter account. “It is my intent to engage on Twitter to comment on current events and o!er my thoughts on important topics.” But Hudson hasn’t started to do so yet.

Why? “While I think it’s important that BAE Systems be represented in social discourse,” Hudson says, “I don’t think that voice necessarily needs to come from the top.” Among other reasons: Her time “is limited and valuable.”

Joel Manby, Herschend Family Entertainment

Herschend Family Entertainment

Does he or doesn’t he? The company owns amusement parks, including Silver Dollar City in Missouri and Dollywood in Tennessee, and Manby was the CEO featured in the second-ever episode of CBS’s “Undercover Boss.” But he refrains from personal SM accounts for now.

Why? Manby would rather defer issues and attention to individual park managers and Herschend’s other executives. “Most things brought by customers who might approach me via social media should be handled at other levels,” he says. “And I don’t know if I could keep up with blogging.”

Miles Nadal, HMDC Partners

HMDC Partners
New York

Does he or doesn’t he? “The shoemaker’s children can’t go barefoot,” says the head of a media holding company that specializes in SM. So, yes—Nadal tweets three favorite quotes a day and re-tweets articles he likes. But he doesn’t have a Facebook page or blog.

Why? He likes Twitter because “it brings me closer to our talent pool.” But he doesn’t do Facebook because “it would have to be too personal,” and Nadal would have security concerns. “As a person running a public company, the most important persona I have is my public persona.”

Louis Provenzano, Language Line Services

Language Line Services
Monterey, Calif.

Does he or doesn’t he? His goal is five SM transactions a day, seven days a week. Hundreds of clients and potential clients—sheri!s, airport directors and others who must deal with limited-English constituencies—interact with Provenzano.

Why? “If you can take a hot topic like immigration, and humanize it with an incident, and ask what people would do, it’s an excellent way of spreading our mission,” he says. Besides, “If I’m waiting for my luggage, that’s enough time to make a statement about something that goes out an all my social-media feeds at once.”

David Sable, Young & Rubicam

Young & Rubicam
New York

Does he or doesn’t he? Sable now blogs a memo of observations and quotes that he’s sent out every Monday for 20 years. It has become “an institution,” he says, and lately draws 10,000 unique visitors a week, a 70-percent increase over two years ago.

Why? “A CEO’s job is to communicate—to be the central communicator of and for the company,” he says. “I’m just careful about what I say, and only what I want to get repeated. That way, it’s no more or less dangerous for a CEO than for any citizen.”

Julie Smolyansky, Lifeway Foods

Lifeway Foods

Does she or doesn’t she? As head of a better-for-you foods brand, Smolyansky figures pioneering consumers expect to see her on social media as well as the brand. And, in fact, her personal Facebook page is her corporate one—and vice versa. She also tweets her opinions and her finishes in 5K races.

Why? Why not? Security concerns about social media “are the biggest bunch of crap,” Smolyanksy says. “Of course you have to be smart about it: If I was having a high-level meeting, I wouldn’t be tweeting that information unless I wanted the world to know.”

About Dale Buss

Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.