Should CEOs tweet?
As the profiles and personalities of our leaders become ever more important assets in corporate reputation, the question on everybody’s lips is: should they jump into social media? Should they tweet? Or should they create and maintain any other social media profile you care to name?
The answer is yes, they should have an account. The real question is how will they use it.
The strategic rationale for every CEO to be on Twitter, for example, is that in this age of radical transparency it’s business-critical that organisations are in tune with the views of their audiences and stakeholders. And to really be in tune, senior leaders need a view that is in part unmediated (including by comms colleagues). To get a snapshot of what the world thinks, there’s no simpler way than asking them to listen on Twitter. It may be a bit of an eye-opener.
The more difficult question to answer is whether or not they ought to use the account to proactively communicate. This depends entirely on your CEO: some are born social; others can learn it. But let’s face it: some are guaranteed to become a SM train wreck. While you need your company to be represented on social to build and defend your reputation, your CEO doesn’t have to play a role in that; the important thing is to determine whether they are more likely to strengthen or weaken your overall reputation by what they do.
These are some of the things to consider when advising your CEO:
1. Are they a good communicator?
If your CEO is a good people person and a natural communicator then you’re likely to be less concerned about letting them loose online. If they already struggle to engage with employees, or spout endless business jargon every time they open their mouths then it’s a more difficult decision to make.
2. Do they like Twitter as a social media channel?
If they don’t like it, and don’t get how / why it works (even after observing for a bit) then chances are it’s a bad idea. Many CEOs take to LinkedIn very readily, given the parallels to business networking, but may struggle with Twitter. Ultimately it’s more important for your CEO to understand the social media space than to take an active individual role in your social communication.
3. Are they receptive to media training?
Just as you wouldn’t put your CEO on camera without training them, it’s a good idea to give your CEO some basic social media training before they create an account. The training is more about how to behave, talk and react on social, and how to handle criticism well (i.e. ask your Comms team for back-up!) rather than know about the underlying technicalities of social networks.
4. Will they be willing to relax and show some personality online?
Social media is a lot about personalities: the CEOs that will add something to your reputation on social are those who are prepared to be human. No one’s asking them to bare their soul to the internet, but to be an asset in social terms they will need to show some personality, or be a bit quirky.
However much time you spend talking about social media, hearing it just isn’t the same as seeing it first-hand. Ask your CEO to ‘talk normally’ on social and they may be inclined to talk like they’re in a meeting: a little bit of listening time online will show them that what you meant was ‘talk like everyone else.’
by Matthew Willis