The research, which looked at the 20 largest companies per country (by market capitalisation) in 21 countries worldwide, reports that 58% of these companies' CEOs are active on LinkedIn. Of the 20 largest South African companies, 65% of CEOs* use LinkedIn. For Twitter, this figure is 17% worldwide with just 5% for South Africa, which, according to the study, puts the country near the bottom of the rankings. 

The study examined whether the CEOs themselves are active on Twitter and have a LinkedIn profile. The United States of America's CEOs have the most followers, despite the country ranking only fifth for total presence on social media. Apple's CEO Tim Cook has topped the chart worldwide with more than 11 million followers on Twitter (an increase of 120% since 2017). Satya Nadella from Microsoft is leading on LinkedIn, with over 6 million followers (an increase of 300% since 2017).

Other information revealed in the study include:
  • CEOs of South Africa's largest companies, as listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)*, are more likely to have a LinkedIn profile compared to 20 other countries globally.
  • French CEOs rank first as the highest users of social media (specifically LinkedIn and Twitter), followed by Denmark, Australia and the Netherlands.
  • United States of America (USA) CEOs lead the way with a number of followers on their social media pages.
According to the research, the most active CEO on Twitter comes from Spain. José María Álvarez-Pallete, CEO of Telefónica, has been active on Twitter since 2010 and has published over 36 000 tweets since then. On average, that is ten tweets per day, making him the uncontested Twitter leader among CEOs.

The study reveals that leaders of South Africa's top 20 companies* have fewer followers on social media in comparison. All of the CEOs with a LinkedIn presence had fewer than 12 000 followers. On Twitter, Rob Shuter, CEO of MTN group, leads with more than 4 600 followers.

Regine le Roux, managing director of Reputation Matters, says that this is not surprising. "A number of books explain how true leaders oftentimes prefer flying under the radar to all the glamour and fame that come with a major position," le Roux says.

"The CEO's online presence is also dependent on knowing the audience and understanding what makes sense as part of his or her communication strategy. South Africa's private and public sectors are both still growing in their awareness of and skill with social media," le Roux adds.

Oliver Foster, chief executive of ECCO's United Kingdom agency Pagefield, adds, "LinkedIn is becoming more and more important, while most CEOs continue to shy away from communication on Twitter. On Twitter, the language is often more pointed, and the risk of backlash from consumers is significantly higher. With LinkedIn, this risk is lower, and more and more CEOs are recognizing the opportunities [that] this social media channel has to offer."

The countries used for the study include:
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • The Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Indi 
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden 
  • Switzerland
  • USA
For more information about the study, or about Reputation Matters, visit You can also follow Reputation Matters on Twitter.

*Top 20 JSE listed companies in South Africa (by market capitalisation) as on Friday, 12 July.