The study, commissioned by MEC and CNBC, surveyed 32 leaders in multinational companies across Singapore, Hong Kong and India.
CEOs told researchers that they were reluctant to embrace social media because they "valued their privacy". "There seems to be a fear of opening up access to themselves and not having the bandwidth to deal with it," observed the report.
An earlier study by Buddy Media, reported in Campaign Asia-Pacific's recent report on social media, found that while 40 per cent of Asian companies have been active on social media for more than two years, 10 per cent have never adopted social media into their marketing mix and 77 per cent still don't have a social strategy for mobile.
However, the Added Value Saffron Hill study said, these CEOs do realise the potential of using social media for their businesses. Internally, their companies make limited use of social networks for communications to provide a platform for employees to air their opinions rather than as a way to connect and engage with them.
“Clearly young people today feel they have a right to question and understand why something is working the way it is and if you don’t provide a mechanism for them to ask that questions and express themselves, they will go outside," a CEO from India told the researchers. "So it is better for us to provide that space within the organization.”
CEOs are also starting to explore the benefits of social networks as a B2B tool for marketing and promotion of their companies. So while social-media networks may not be the best way to communicate with CEOs, B2B brands have an opportunity to partner with these media brands to provide valuable, timely content for CEOs looking for recommendations.
The report also found that Asian CEOs have never been more directly reachable than they are today. Traditionally, nearly all contact has been screened by a personal assistant. But today more and more CEOs are taking direct control of their own access to communications, business performance data and industry news.
"This stems partly from being competitive, partly from a fear of missing out and partly due to an inclination to learn and develop," said the study.
This is mostly thanks to smartphones, which are always-on and allow CEOs to respond immediately to emails, as well as the rapid adoption of tablets (usually iPads). For this reason, said the report, CEOs are now more open to receiving brand communications, provided the messages are relevant.
Relevance, said the CEOs, means something new that they can act on with a clear message and delivered at an appropriate time and channel. Email was listed as the preferred method of contact, as it can be left and dealt with at a convenient time.
CEOs are pragmatic about brand communications but expect brands to respect who they are. “As long as it’s done sensibly—like an SMS with 'ADV' at the beginning of the message—I appreciate the honesty," said one CEO.
“We often forget that CEOs are human beings too—they are not a completely different breed," commented Jon Wright, head of analytics and insight, MEC Asia Pacific. "In many ways technology has made them more similar to the everyday person, where they constantly access information on the go to remain informed and be inspired. Brands need to ensure that valuable content is provided that fits in with the CEOs’ requirements, and it needs to be effectively ‘liquid’ in order to be accessible via any device.”