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12/12/2012
12:24 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet

Social media matters, but that doesn't mean it's every CEO's job to participate.

8 CEOs Speak: IT Projects That Matter Most
8 CEOs Speak: IT Projects That Matter Most
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Help me with this one: Which CEOs you follow on Twitter regularly serve up must-read tweets?

I follow a handful of big-name CEOs, and I don't get much out of their tweets. And it makes me wonder if tweeting is a waste of time for most CEOs.

That's heresy to some. I'm sure it is to one CEO -- Josh James, of business intelligence software startup Domo (whom I also follow). Domo recently published a study with CEO.com that showed how little time Fortune 500 CEOs spend on social media. The study showed that CEOs at high-growth Inc. 500 companies tweeted far more often, had more Facebook friends and more LinkedIn ties.

[ Read Fortune 500 CEOs Shy Away From Social. ]

Among the findings of the study:

-- 3.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are on Twitter, while 29.1% of Inc. 500 CEOs are on it.

-- Inc. 500 CEOs have been on Twitter 56.1% longer on average than Fortune 500 CEOs (about 1.2 years longer).

-- Fortune 500 CEOs have on average of 133.45 friends on Facebook, while Inc. 500 CEOs have an average of 561 friends.

-- 25.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs have LinkedIn profiles, while 77.6% of the Inc. 500 do.

Domo's James calls the scant social media presence by Fortune 500 CEOs "mind blowing" and a "massive disservice." (You might not know Domo yet, but James founded Omniture and sold it to Adobe for $1.8 billion.) Writes James:

Social media isn't a passing fad. The primary reason you have to be social is because that is where your customer lives. Even if you are not leveraging it to close business and interact with your customers, you have to spend enough time online to at least understand the shift in the world. This lack of engagement would be similar to 50% of the world using email with F500 CEOs holding out; or 50% of your customers shopping online but no CEOs trying it.

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There's no denying that sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are now part of the daily fabric of most people's lives. And CEOs have a responsibility to their shareholders to be visible. CEOs who shun social media risk losing touch with some of their most lucrative customers, prospects and influencers. I agree CEOs need to understand social media, and that understanding it takes a certain level of immersion and use.

But I don't buy that every CEO needs to be a tweeter or be a visible and active presence on social media. To me, it's like the CEO starring in the company's commercials: It's the rare bird who does that well.

Who are the terrific big company CEO tweeters I'm missing? I'm one of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's 34,281 devoted followers, and like them, I got his first-ever tweet on June 6. I can't wait to read his second one. I'm also one of the 44,447 followers of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, who has sent 1,840 tweets, including one today taking a pot shot at Windows 8. I can't say either executive's Twitter presence has had a discernable impact on my opinion or understanding of his company.

I'm open minded; I think it's possible for a CEO to add value by tweeting. Look at Domo CEO James. He had something thought-provoking to say on Twitter, and it got my attention. But as companies get larger, specialization takes over, and the same holds true of social media. If a CEO has a passion for tweeting, maybe there's a role for it. But building a Twitter presence takes a fair amount of time, time that most CEOs would spend better elsewhere.

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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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12/14/2012 | 2:17:34 AM
re: Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet
For a $20-some billion revenue company like Oracle to grow at 50% is like it added 5+ Salesforces, David -- not bad, even without tweets! Ellison and Benioff both put on can't-miss keynote speeches at their customer events, Open World and Dreamforce. Those kind of venues are where I think their messages get out. That's where they reach their customers with very compelling storytelling there. But I don't think most CEO's storytelling voice and charisma carries through on Twitter.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/14/2012 | 2:22:36 AM
re: Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet
Great point on the importance of CEOs using social techniques internally with employees. That can be hugely effective -- in fact it's probably essential to get social network tools used widely in-house.
FritzNelson
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FritzNelson,
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12/14/2012 | 5:56:42 AM
re: Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet
What about CEOs of public companies? Can they really be on social networks, spewing whatever they want? Watch them give speeches or listen to their earnings calls -- they are bland, non-committal and their messages are nested in caveats and PR speak. I remember Cisco CEO John Chambers telling me how he has to be careful about what he says, or even the way he looks when he says something, lest someone interpret a blink or an eyebrow raise as something more than a facial tic. I can imagine a day when a vocal F500 CEO makes a stab at a Tweet and the SEC opens an investigation. OK, maybe a bit of hyperbole there, but you get the point.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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12/14/2012 | 9:13:49 PM
re: Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet
A public company CEO's lieutenants have much more freedom than a CEO to tweet, blog -- and do lots of other things. Consider @Benioff's JP Rangaswami G«Ň(@jobsworth) whose title is Salesforce Chief Scientist and who tweets and blogs about many interesting things. Certainly not with a marketing slant. At Cisco, I follow @Padmasree with interest. There are plenty of CIOs and CTOs on my follow list. The only CEOs I can think of that I follow are either 1. startup CEOs or 2. smaller company CEOs at private companies.

Did I just help Chris make his argument?

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
hyphen8
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hyphen8,
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12/17/2012 | 2:00:32 PM
re: Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet
I think CEOs - particularly those that represent very large organisations - should be wary about using Twitter too liberally. There are only so many "Richard Branson" types around that can really engage and influence through tweeting. It is after all a "social" channel of communication - hence, the impact of any message (deliberate or otherwise) delivered through it could have a profound impact on its audience. Remember - Ratner!

David Nandhra, co-Founder, Hyphen8.com
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/17/2012 | 5:15:00 PM
re: Tell Me Again Why CEOs Should Tweet
That's the first suggestion of someone to follow that I've gotten as a result of this, David! (Well, except the fake CEO above.) I'm now following Richard Branson.
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