Senior moments on social media

By Jonny Gifford, (@jonnygiff), CIPD Research Adviser

Analysing survey data is a more emergent and interesting process than one might think. It’s always a mixed bag. There are the more obvious findings where your hypotheses are clearly confirmed. There’s the relationship you secretly hope exists because you have a neat little theory about it, but just doesn’t stack up. There is the theoretically void ‘fishing’ that’s always tempting – let’s correlate everything with everything else and see what comes up – but not terribly helpful. 

And then there are the most intriguing findings, which you might have been able to predict if you’d done more background reading, but here they are, slightly unexpected and looking at you expectantly, square in the face.

So for our survey Social technology, social business? to be published next month, we have the fairly predictable result that younger employees use social media more than their older colleagues do, professionally as well as in their personal lives. But we also find relationships with the other sort of seniority which point, so to speak, in the other direction.

Over half of senior leaders use social media for work, compared with a third of managers and a fifth of non-managers. And not only that, they use it slightly differently.

The overall picture is that senior leaders see greater potential in social media to build professional networks and are more externally focused. They tend to be social media ‘publishers’ more, and ‘lurkers’ less, than their more junior colleagues.

For example, senior leaders are the group most likely to use LinkedIn: half of senior leaders who use social media (52%) use this platform, compared to 36% of other managers and 20% of non-managers. They are also more likely to comment on forums and post blogs, and managers in general are more likely than non-managers to job hunt on social media and to develop ‘meaningful connections with people I would otherwise not know’.

However, senior leaders don’t seem to have seen the potential for social media as an internal leadership tool, helping them be visible to their employees, gain trust and focus employees on strategy – indeed, the data suggests they could learn a thing or two from their middle managers here.

What are your leaders doing on social media and if they are active, is their focus firmly on the external?

The survey report will be launched at the CIPD Social Media and HR conference on 4 December. Come and hear Dean Royles, Chief Executive and Director of Employment Relations & Reward, NHS, explain how to socialise your organisation’s leaders to help cascade social media activity throughout the business.

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  • Interesting piece but slightly misleading I think. I wouldn't class LinkedIn as social media, certainly not in comparison to facebook and twitter. The latter are far more 'social' in their design and execution. For sure, senior leaders are def NOT using these more social platforms more than average employees. The stats on twitter and facebook use alongside the linkedin figures would be more informative and representative.

    What is interesting and not a surprise is the lack of use by senior leaders of internal social platforms. This is a HUGE missed opportunity for organisations.