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Anti-Social or Out of Touch: are ageing execs driving a digital divide at the North West’s top 500?

Our clients, by and large, are a pretty web-savvy bunch. Some of that’s down to us: we’re unashamed digital evangelists and – as our name suggests – we push rather than nudge them into Tweeting, blogging, measuring and generally getting smart about doing business online. Often, however, clients come to us with already a good bit of knowledge and an eagerness to move beyond ‘newsletters and brochure-ware’ into the great uncharted realm of social media.

So it tends to come as a surprise when we meet clients who not only aren’t driving their businesses to engage with the social web, but who aren’t yet using tools such as LinkedIn or Twitter even for themselves.

In just under a week, we’ll be releasing the first fruits of some research we conducted with Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. Entitled Digital Directions: How Business Decision-Makers in the North West use the Internet, this white paper will examine how senior executives at the North West’s top 500 companies are using the Internet, and in particular how they and their organisations are engaging with social media and blogging – and it makes for some interesting reading.

One key insight from our study was that only one in three (31%) senior managers in the North West are using any kind of social networking site or application. This suggests that most executives are not yet engaging personally with social media – and that, at least partly as a result, they have not yet woken up to the opportunities these channels present for their businesses.

Indeed, it seems that the tendency for senior executives to be older – 85% of those we surveyed were aged over 40 – is giving rise to ‘digital divide’ in the North West. Younger, more web-savvy business leaders who use social networking tools such blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter themselves are also encouraging their organisations to get on board. Older executives, meanwhile, appear to be holding their companies back from reaching and engaging audiences through these powerful channels.

When you consider the Manchester region’s robust and energetic creative and digital sector, our findings in Digital Directions come somewhat as a surprise. They force us to question how effectively we as a sector are really reaching our core audience and suggest that there may be significant untapped opportunities – if only we can get older senior executives more intimately involved with the web.

Discover more opportunities to reach and engage senior decision-makers online by reading PushON’s forthcoming white paper, Digital Directions: How Business Decision-Makers in the North West use the Internet. Available Monday, September 20.

To find out how PushON research & analysis services can give your company a competitive online edge, simply call 0844 967 0565 or contact us via our form.

  • PhilC

    Good article but I am wondering whether many senior executives in a top 500 company need to be using social media? If I was the CEO or CFO of such a company, would I personally need to be involved in social media, surely as long my company is involved in social media if relevant to the business model, that would be enough?

    • http://www.pushon.co.uk Simon Wharton

      To my mind (should I write IMHO?) social media has a large element of culture about it. Without buy in through the company, it’s hard to execute a social media campaign. I dont necessarily believe that a CEO should necessarily tweet all day and friend you on Facebook, but I do think that they should have a feel for the landscape. If they are the steward of a brand, then they need to understand how and where it has impact. However, this research was not intended to state what someone should or shouldn’t do. It’s about what the ARE doing.

  • Philc

    The article does say what senior executives are doing but I also think there is an element of the article saying it needs to change which I slightly disagree with. I am big believer in everyone in an organisation doing their component part and doing what they do well. My MD is not social media savvy at all, but he trusts those of us in the company that are, to direct the companies efforts in that sphere, while he does what he does best which is run the company.

  • http://www.pushon.co.uk Simon Wharton

    However, I would argue that not engaging in the medium is potentially akin to not going outside the door; not engaging with your peer group not being seen to lead. Whilst I also accept that many will get by happily without understanding social media, I believe those that do will help establish a competitive advantage.