Should CEOs and executives tweet?

Should CEOs and executives tweet?
May 8, 2013 Kaz Scott

While most in the business community would readily say yes, few if any put this in to practice.

In the recent edition of Boss Magazine in the AFR an article entitled ‘How to avoid social media death’ explored the reticence behind social media adoption and provided a few handy tips on getting started and mastering the art of social communication in the digital age.

According to the article, only four of the top 100 ASX listed companies had CEO or MDs who had an active Twitter presence – News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, Wesfarmer’s Richard Goyder, Bank of Queensland’s Stuart Grimshaw and Atlas Iron’s Ken Brinsden.

As the article rightly points out, social media isn’t just about brand awareness stating that “those who get involved in Twitter and other social media will reap intangible but real benefits from being closer to their customers base and ahead of the curve on emerging trends. They will also have the chance to elevate their personal brand and their company’s reputation by displaying a human face”.

So, why such unwillingness amongst Australia’s key business decision makers? The single biggest obstacle for executives looking to become more socially savvy is having the appropriate social media knowledge, time or technical skills. Too often executives will simply put social media in the too hard basket – “it’s not for me”, “there isn’t any value in it”, “I just don’t have the time to tweet”, “people don’t want to know when I’m brushing my teeth”.

A degree of reluctance is understandable. Social media is not the easiest medium to understand not least of all because of constant state of change, new and emerging tools and the omnipresent risk of doing significant organisational and personal brand damage.

As a Queensland recruiting executive recently found out, it is very difficult to divorce a personal account from your professional career. The recruiter posted abusive messages on Twitter directed at radio personality Wendy Harmer. The executive was forced to publicly apologise and his online ‘spat’ resulted in news coverage across a variety of online outlets.

Through knowledge sharing, training and a companywide adoption, CEOs can ingrain social media into their everyday business thinking and activities.

Social media training should be a mandatory requirement for executives and senior management. It does not necessarily need to be a precursor to establishing a presence but at the very least it will give those who are charged with critical decision making the basic knowledge on how social media can affect a business from sales to thought leadership and everything in between.

Those executives who have mastered the art of social media communication have usually undertaken some form of training or digital eminence course.

Executives can undertake a simple three pronged approach to better understand and utilise social media tools:

  1. Understand the landscape – who is your audience, where are they and what are they saying
  2. Create content that is relevant to the audience – what insight can I provide that will add value to the audience and properly reflect my business and position
  3. Begin to engage with the audience through informed and friendly dialogue, providing personal experience and business insight

Social media is not the natural domain of Australia’s business elite. But those who master it sooner, undertake the necessary training and seek to readily engage with the community, will quickly find a competitive advantage and some very addictive tools!

By Thomas Tudehope social@ogilvy