Are Asian CEOs cautious of social networks?

A new study has suggested that CEOs in Asia appreciate the value of social networking -- but keep a tight rein on how it is used.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer on

A focused study of CEOs in multi-national companies has found that although the adoption of mobile devices is on the increase, Asian business leaders are taking pains to restrict their use of social media.

Why? The dreaded idea of always being accessible.

Added Value Saffron Hill surveyed 32 CEOs for the study across Singapore, Hong Kong and India. Researchers found that CEOs "valued their privacy" and understand the potential social media has for their businesses -- but put boundaries in place to stop their work and personal lives merging.

"There are all these requests I need to accept and I just don't want to get started on dialogues," one Hong Kong CEO commented.

Internally and during working hours, social media plays a different role. Some respondents have provided space for their Gen-Y employees to offer their opinions through social media, understanding that unless a platform is provided, their employees may voice their thoughts outside of the company.

In addition, some CEOs use social networks as a B2B tool for marketing and promotion. Although this is unlikely to be effective in maintaining relationships with consumers without also creating a customer-based platform, social networking can be used for news, updates and in order to partner with other companies.

The report says that Asian CEOs are more accessible today than ever before -- mainly due to smartphone adoption, tablets and email. This does allow business leaders to respond quickly to brand communication, but unless the messages are relevant, it is unlikely they will respond. Emails were, unsurprisingly, the preferred form for messages.

CEOs appear to be pragmatic about brand communication but do expect honesty and respect. "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.

The respondents may have reservations over social media and instant communication, but mobile devices proved popular -- especially those made by Apple.

The Apple's iPad in particular met their needs in both form and function -- one preferring to use it in presentations as it "made him look like a salesman", and many choosing their iPad instead of a laptop for travel purposes. Tablets are handy when you're on the road, and being able to access news, email and files without dragging around a laptop proved popular. 

CEOs also valued the simplicity of the iPad, and found the device fits the bring your own device (BYOD) movement well.

"Given that they need to manage complexity, tablets satisfy a specific need from CEOs -- simplicity. CEOs are highly selective with their content and only consume what they perceive will add real value to their work and personal lives. Therefore, brands seeking to communicate with CEOs need to ensure that content is delivered in a concise manner and optimised to be viewed and interacted with on these devices," said Junji Sumitani, vice president in advertising sales for CNBC.

An earlier study conducted by Buddy Media found that 40 percent of Asian companies have been using social media for over two years -- but 77 percent had not considered the opportunities that mobile social media offer. In contrast, a global study conducted by IBM found that only 16 percent of CEOs are active on social networks.

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