CIOs ought to be setting the right example for their staff by engaging heavily in social media, said David Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product strategy at collaboration software company harmon.ie (based in Milpitas, Calif.) in a blog last week. "CIOs themselves must embrace social technologies to credibility as well as set the example for their fellow workers," he wrote.

Lavenda's company recently completed an interesting analysis of the social media activity of the CIOs of Fortune 250 companies, reviewing their postings and status on Twitter, SocialMention.com, LinkedIn, Google+ and Alexa. Only 10% were found to use social media at all.

Only one bank CIO — Ian Alderton, CIO Corporate Banking at Royal Bank of Scotland — made it into the top 25. Alderton has a website at which he blogs about CIO issues and trends every few weeks. He tweets every few days, mostly about his speaking engagements, awards he's received and articles he's read.

Does a CIO need to use social media to provide the right IT direction for it?

One commenter to Lavenda's blog thought not. "This is a ridiculous article. Just because CIOs don't tweet or post updates to LinkedIn or Google+ doesn't mean that anyone *not* on the list doesn't understand how social media works and the pros/cons of it," wrote this reader, who identified himself only as Tom.

Logic would suggest that the right answer to this question would depend on what's expected of IT staff. If there's a goal of getting IT people more engaged in social media, then it makes sense for the CIO to lead the way with frequent postings. But if a company decides that the IT staff are not the ones best qualified to engage with customers and the public (as some banks informally have), then the need for the CIO to be a frequent social media user is far less. Then the benefit of a social-savvy CIO would be narrowed to raising the CIO's profile and promoting the company's use of technology.

The top social-media using CIO on harmon.ie's list — a role model of sorts — was Oliver Bussmann, Global CIO of SAP. Bussmann posts messages often on Twitter, but also retweets other people's posts and answers questions on the site. His Facebook page is updated frequently with links to articles and events related to his work at SAP. His Google+ page is updated every few weeks. The value to SAP of having its CIO be ranked at the top of a social media list is high, especially since the company sells social media analytics software. For a bank, the immediate gain is harder to perceive.