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Senior execs are going dark on social media

Senior execs are going dark on social media

Senior industry figures are taking an ‘ex-directory’ network

Today's social media reaches out into every corner of the globe, and increasingly into every corner of our professional and social lives. While many argue that this makes everyone constantly connected to an online community, the hype surrounding this social media trend may not be so popular with senior professionals anymore.

Executives have always relied on personal, privileged networks where access is granted with an understanding that it will not be misused. However, now overburdened with information from social platforms, executives are now moving back to an 'ex-directory’ world where smaller, restricted networks are of the highest value.

The trend for executives to move away from social media in their professional lives is a natural and complex human reaction. It is a combination of technology, motivation, time, risk and relevance.



The rejection of new technologies is perfectly normal in hi-tech circles and has been well described by tech analysts Gartner Inc as a 'hype-cycle'.

The Gartner Hype Cycle


The Gartner Hype Cycle


First there is the excitement and uptake of a new technology. This is where the hype kicks in. However, in many cases the reality does not meet the hype. Inflated expectation is nearly always followed by disillusionment and then adoption by those whom the technology really helps most.

Web 4.0

The internet has undergone a number of major changes. Web 4.0 is set to break down the global communities set up in Web 3.0 and will instead develop more one-on-one interactions, which will be relevant, personalised and less public


Many PR firms now claim specialisation in making their executives 'thought leaders' through ghosted social media activity.  Whilst this may work well in a b2c-market mode, most executives can see through it and realise that this is not a truly personal interaction. 


Executives have limited time and rarely even read entire articles. They are, by definition, great decision-makers and therefore very good at filtering data. When one needs IT systems to control and manage all your incoming social media you know two things: there is and will be no one system to manage it all and it’s only going to get more complicated.


Executives are experts at managing risk. Therefore they often decide that they would rather say nothing than open up a Pandora’s Box of potential problems.


Paradoxically the success of many social platforms has also caused their downfall. The wider the social circle grows, the less relevant it becomes.

Professionally we know that transformational people are identified by how they influence others, not what they say about themselves.

Executives are leaders. Therefore the leadership of the executive cohort leaving social media channels in favour of discrete peer-to-peer relationships is natural. 

What is to come is a return to more personalised, privileged networks, enabled by the Internet, but not on public view and not limited to one platform. It will be a beautifully complex world that, like the world of executives, is people-driven.

The Author
Chris Molloy, CEO of the RSA Group
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