The (Anti) Social CIO?

Over the past 30 years, the role of the CIO has grown in importance and stature – and for good reason. As the preeminent decision makers in an organization, CIOs provide strategic direction to roadmap product development and innovation that can impact billions of revenue dollars.

To better understand what drives and influences CIOs, Zeno examined the social media approach and consumption behaviors of those named to the prestigious CIO 100 List, an annual collection of the most innovative CIOs. As one of the top professional honors to which IT leaders can aspire, the 2014 and 2015 CIO 100 List provided Zeno an opportunity to create a barometric analysis of how a wide collection of the most influential and forward-thinking IT leaders is influenced by individuals and organizations on social.

Twitter and LinkedIn make the cut

Through a brief audit of how CIO’s utilize social media, including online communities, message boards, blogs and other public personal profiles, what we found was slightly expected. CIOs – like many members of the C-suite – don’t have a strong reputation for embracing social media. True to form, based on overall usage, those that made the CIO 100 list have a tenuous – albeit growing – relationship with social. LinkedIn and Twitter proved to be the top places for CIOs, with 96 percent of the total 2015 list present on either network.

CIO Ecosystem on Twitter: Media Still Matters

Of the CIOs that made the 2014 list, only 37 percent had active Twitter accounts. That number grew among those that made the 2015 list, but the number was still relatively small – with only 42 percent participating on Twitter.

These numbers aren’t entirely surprising, especially given the fast pace and lack of depth contained in most Twitter feeds. However, the platform’s increased use by those on the 2015 list as compared to 2014 is worth noting. More notable still is the shift in the types of influencers that CIOs followed and engaged.

By contrast, the 2015 CIO 100 list focused more heavily on using Twitter as a news and information source, and less as a way to connect with peers. Media became much more influential, with media outlets comprising 40 percent of influencers for the 2015 list compared to 23 percent in the previous year. Not only was there a dramatic rise in the number of media outlets followed, but the nature of the outlets followed also shifted.

CIOs in 2015 paid more attention to publications that focus on business strategy and emerging mainstream technology trends as opposed to news about IT trends and technical implementations that can be found in the traditional CIO-focused publications. Another important point is that media brands dominated the influencer landscape over individual journalists. Although some individual journalists wield influence over the list, most notably CIO Magazine Editor-in-Chief Maryfran Johnson, media brands tended to get much more attention from CIOs – especially as many appear to be relying more heavily on Twitter as a news feed.

Two groups that are noticeably absent from the Twitter influencer ecosystem for both the 2014 and 2015 lists are technology vendors and industry analysts. While CIOs heavily leverage industry analyst firms for research that helps determine purchasing decisions, they appear to rarely seek analyst input on social media.

CIO Ecosystem on Twitter

2014 Top 10 Media Outlets Followed on Twitter

  1. CIO Online/
  2. The Social CIO
  3. CIO Journal
  4. CIO Magazine
  5. CIO & Leader
  6. CIO Insight
  7. Computerworld
  8. Global CIO
  9. HuffPostTech
  10. SearchCIO

2015 Top 10 Media Outlets Followed on Twitter

  1. TechCrunch
  2. Forbes
  3. CIO Online/
  4. CIO Magazine
  5. Forbes Tech
  6. FastCompany
  7. Harvard Business Review
  8. Computerworld
  9. Wall Street Journal
  10. Mashable

2014 Top Journalists Followed on Twitter

  1. Maryfran Johnson – CIO Magazine
  2. Lauren Brousell – CIO Online
  3. Clint Boulton –
  4. Joel Schectman – Wall Street Journal

2015 Top Journalists Followed on Twitter

  1. Maryfran Johnson – CIO Magazine
  2. Walt Mossberg – Re/Code
  3. Lauren Brousell – CIO Online
  4. Anderson Cooper – CNN

LinkedIn CIO Ecosystem: Not Just a Digital Rolodex

With over 90 percent usage by both the 2014 and 2015 lists, LinkedIn is by far the dominant social media platform for CIOs. Although conventional wisdom states that LinkedIn largely serves as either a digital rolodex or a job search board, this study revealed trends that show the network is also being used by CIOs as a way to gather new information and insights. One of the big surprises of the study is that CIOs primarily followed only verified LinkedInfluencers.

In addition to tech luminaries and business leaders, CIOs tended to follow influential authors on LinkedIn. Interestingly, CIOs also followed venture capitalists to a much greater degree on LinkedIn than on Twitter.

CIO Ecosystem on Linkedin

2014 Top LinkedIn Influencers

  1. Michael Dell
  2. Jack Welch
  3. Spencer Ante
  4. Meg Whitman
  5. Guy Kawasaki
  6. Don Tapscott
  7. Richard Branson
  8. Arianna Huffington
  9. Bill Gates
  10. Hossein Eslambolchi

2015 Top LinkedIn Influencers

  1. Richard Branson
  2. Jack Welch
  3. Michael Dell
  4. Bill Gates
  5. Jeff Weiner
  6. Meg Whitman
  7. Guy Kawasaki
  8. Deepak Chopra
  9. Mark Hurd
  10. Francisco D’Souza

What It Means

For technology companies looking to better connect with CIOs, this study calls out a few trends to consider.

  • Opportunity Knocks – Although CIO participation on social media is somewhat limited on Twitter, the research suggests that interest in Twitter is growing. This presents an opportunity for organizations looking to reach this audience as they embrace the platform.
  • Media Still Matters – Media outlets were a large component of the Twitter influencer ecosystem for the 2014 CIO 100 and dwarfed all other influencers on Twitter on the 2015 list. Media brands matter, and CIOs are paying attention to what they have to say.
  • LinkedIn Isn’t an Afterthought – LinkedIn tends to be ignored in many social media programs, yet is an important channel followed by CIOs. Organizations looking to reach a CIO audience should identify opportunities to include LinkedIn in social media efforts.
  • Don’t Just Follow, Converse – Forums like Quora have active participation by people in the industry, but this type of network gives CIOs the opportunity to influence others rather than be influenced by people or companies. Focusing on networks where third-parties can affect decisions and perception, for the purposes of this study Zeno instead turned to other networks where external influence was more directly measurable: Twitter and LinkedIn. However, more substantive conversations did take place on Quora and LinkedIn Groups like the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network and the size of these groups is indicative of peer-to-peer influence.

About the Study

Zeno Group examined the social media presence and engagement of the CIO 100 Lists on Twitter and LinkedIn. We created a proprietary tool to collect and analyze the Twitter users that are followed by the CIO 100. Data was collected from 2014 through 2015. CIO 100 List members with private Twitter accounts were excluded from this analysis. Dan Sorensen and Kriselle Laran led the study under corporate sponsorship by Todd Irwin, and research assistance from Katie Wood Znameroski and Risa Jensen.