Research into how today’s leaders use social media to engage around ESG

I recently read that a whopping 53.6% of the world’s population use social media, spending an average of two hours a day on social platforms. So, it doesn’t surprise me that an executive’s public profile is fast becoming a critical aspect of organisational leadership. It makes sense that if your audience is on social media, you should be there to meet them.

Organisations are not only operating in a fast-moving world, but business is more complex than it’s ever been. There are more stakeholders holding organisations to account, requiring executives and the organisations they lead to be more open, accessible, purpose-led, and delivering action (as well as words) on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) challenges.

As the ESG landscape evolves, organisations will need authentic and compelling sustainability stories, routed in tangible action, to keep up with ever-evolving stakeholder demands and perceptions. If used effectively, social media can be a powerful way to engage, involve and influence audiences with these stories.

I think it’s clear that executives are now waking up to the fact that having a presence on social media can no longer be an afterthought but must be a key component of their organisation’s strategic communications planning, tied to business goals. For this to be effective, role modelling needs to start at the top with CEOs who understand the strategic role of stakeholder engagement, and the role social media can play in facilitating this engagement.

At Fourtold we have started to see an increase in the number of clients asking for help to run social media campaigns for their senior executives around company vision and purpose – and especially climate action and ESG. But we know that getting such programmes up and running is never straightforward.

To better understand the role of social media in executive communications, we are joining forces with EACD to undertake research to surface key trends on executives’ use of social media – specifically in communicating ESG ambitions, vision and credentials. EACD members will be given the opportunity to get involved in the initiative via an online survey to be launched over the summer.  The results of the research will be used as the basis for a report to be released in the Autumn.

The first of its kind, we expect the report to reveal significant gaps in how executives use social media, and surface invaluable insights into behavioural or organisational barriers and how organisations are engaging stakeholder groups with their ESG ambitions.

As we move into a post-pandemic world where leaders are expected to be more visible, transparent and accessible, understanding how to leverage the power of social media will be more important than ever, with the potential to be a differentiating factor in stakeholder perceptions and organisational performance.


Matthew Willis is a Partner at Fourtold – a strategic Communications consultancy providing services in corporate reputation and issues management, political branding and employee engagement.