Tech CEO Stars Don

CEO’s of tech giants like Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page are some of the most recognized names not only in the business world but in any field. From product launches that give consumers a glimpse into the future, to tweets, Facebook posts and interviews that are read by millions, these CEO’s have become celebrities in their own right. The ability to captivate an audience is now a critical component of the Tech CEO’s skillset.

The rise of the Tech CEO has coincided with the explosion of the sharing economy, with an increasing number of CEO’s using social channels to engage with consumers. And they aren’t just using social to discuss Tech matters but instead they pass comment on issues like the global economy and world poverty.

Last year, we used Talkwalker’s advanced social media analytics to capture the social activity of FTSE 100 CEOs. We were surprised to find that only eight made a conscious effort to develop a social reputation. To find some social trend setters, we turned to the US tech sector, and were just as surprised to find that tech CEOs are almost, if not quite, as reticent.

We chose to look at the top 10 Tech companies on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange by market capitalization and examined over 2 million results across online media and social networks from the last 3 months. Here is what we found.

(All stats are for the last three months unless otherwise stated.)

Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg Dominate the Internet


(Share of voice for top 10 Tech CEOs across all online media channels)

Looking across all online mentions it’s clear that the two CEOs of Facebook and Apple respectively dominate the conversation in comparison to their peers.

Although Cook has more mentions overall, looking at the share of mentions between the two worldwide, in South America, Europe, and Asia it is actually Zuckerberg that is generating more conversation. A sign perhaps that the Facebook chief is more of an internationally known figure while Cook is more of a domestic star.

(Share of online conversations for Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg by continent)

Examining the spikes in mentions in more detail, we see that the main drivers of social conversation around Tech CEOs were linked to Tim Cook’s comments about Indiana’s religious freedom law, Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of in India and the ensuing net neutrality debate and the appoint of Chuck Robbins as Cisco’s new CEO.

(Breakdown of causes of mentions spikes for top 10 Tech CEOs across all online media channels)

Online Only Publications Drive the Discussion

You might expect that the most shared articles about these business titans would be the major news publications and business magazines but in fact the source that generated the most engagement was the Motley Fool, a business blog/investment community. The main source of these huge levels of engagement is Facebook where Motley Fool articles routinely exceed 1 million shares.

(Top 10 most influential sources for discussion about top 10 Tech CEOs)

In fact, the only “traditional” news publication that make the top ten are the New York Times, the UK’s Daily Telegraph and Time magazine with the likes of Mashable, Gizmodo and The Verge driving more conversation.

Twitter, the Social Channel of Choice for Tech CEOs

Working in the technology sector you may think that Tech CEOs would be very social active but while many had personal Twitter feeds, few used other social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn to engage with the public.

Of the Tech CEOs we examined, 8 of the 12 had a Twitter feed, 2 of the 12 had publicly accessible Facebook Pages and 3 of the 12 had a publicly accessible LinkedIn Page. As Twitter seemed to be the main channel that these CEO’s used to engage with the public, we used Talkwalker Social Channel Analytics to compare their Twitter activity side by side to see who was the most active, who was generating the most attention and what kind of topics they were talking about.

Cook Dominates Twitter Activity, Page and Zuckerberg Absent

Looking at the total activity around the Twitter handles of Tech CEOs – i.e. their own tweets and retweets combined with the mentions and retweets they receive from their audiences – we see that this time Tim Cook dominates in a big way.

(Share of voice for discussion around Twitter handles of top 10 Tech CEOs)

One big reason for this may be that his main rival in online mentions, Mark Zuckerberg, has not used Twitter since 2012. Google CEO Larry Page also doesn’t have a Twitter profile – perhaps a sign that these two CEO’s consider Twitter to be a competitor to their own social networks as Zuckerberg does have Facebook profile and Larry Page does have a Google + profile.

Although many of the CEOs examined do have Twitter feeds, most tweet less than once every two days. The Twitter account that drove the most audience activity, @tim_cook, was actually one of the least active over the period with the Apple CEO only tweeting 13 times over the last 3 months.

(Number of tweets, replies, and retweets posted by top 10 Tech CEOs)

What these figures seem to show is that Cook is an anomaly among Tech CEOs as generally speaking, the more active CEOs – Cisco’s Robbins, SAP’s McDermott and Microsoft’s Nadella – are generating more activity than those who tweet less like Oracle’s Mark Hurd and Intel’s Brian Krzanich.

One More Thing…

And finally, here are the three most shared tweets from the top 10 Tech CEOs over the last three months (no prizes for guessing who’s number 1…)

So What Have We Learned?

There are several key takeaways from these results:

  1. Aside from Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg, the personal charm of Tech CEO’s seems relatively limited on a wide scale.
  2. Zuckerberg is the most internationally discussed Tech CEO.
  3. Most of the top Tech CEOs do at least have a some kind of social presence but most don’t use it very much.
  4. When Tech CEOs talk about societal issues it drives a lot of conversation.
  5. Internet only publications like Mashable, The Motley Fool, and Gizmodo appear to have more influence than traditional media when it comes to discussions about business leaders.

With the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn increasing their number of users every day, social media offers CEOs an opportunity to connect to the customers and clients that by their products and use their services every day. There are certainly risks, but the fact that most of the CEOs mentioned do have Twitter profiles suggests that Tech companies are thinking of using CEO star power to reach a wider audience but may still be working out the best way to do it.

Image Credit: Brian Solis, and