Many companies have embraced Twitter as one of the best ways to communicate with customers and other types of stakeholders. However, many CEOs don’t leverage the power of Twitter to the fullest extent. The number of CEOs of large companies who are active on Twitter continues to be low. As of September 2014, only 42 Fortune 500 CEOs had Twitter accounts. Of those, only about 70% were truly active and tweeting in a meaningful way.1
One high-profile Twitter user is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. and SpaceX. Musk typically tweets numerous times a month, and his tweets sometimes contain new and exciting information. On March 30, 2015, for example, he tweeted that a new, major Tesla product line would be unveiled the following month and that it was “not a car”:
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla: Major new Tesla product line — not a car — will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thurs 8pm, April 30.
Musk’s tweet generated a lot of attention; the news wasn’t announced through any other communication outlets. And there was intense speculation about what the new product would be. (It turned out to be a battery for powering homes that charges using electricity generated from solar panels.) Many media outlets joined in the discussion.
Twitter, one of the world’s leading social media platforms,2 has more than 300 million active users. In contrast to Facebook, which skews heavily toward personal communication, Twitter is used more actively for business. As a result, brand managers, customer service agents, and other businesspeople became early adopters so that they could stay abreast of the streams of information they cared about and communicate with current and potential customers. Twitter users check their newsfeeds for real-time information on everything from business news events to sales at their favorite retailers. At a number of companies, “C-level” executives in addition to the CEO have begun tweeting. However, CEOs generally have the most social cachet and are considered the ultimate company spokespeople.
Leveraging the Power of Twitter
By tweeting, CEOs have an opportunity to initiate and influence online conversations.
1. M. Kapko, “Most CEOs Still Don’t Get Social Media,” September 23, 2014, www.cio.com.
3. Until November 2015, “likes” on Twitter were known as “favorites.” See A. Kumar, “Hearts on Twitter,” November 3, 2015, https://blog.twitter.com.
4. “CEO Social Media Survey,” 2012, www.brandfog.com. There have also been reports of hedge funds using tweets to help gauge market sentiment. See J. Jordan, “Hedge Fund Will Track Twitter to Predict Stock Market Movements,” December 22, 2010, www.bloomberg.com; and T. Durden, “World’s Largest Hedge Fund Uses Twitter for Real-Time Economic Modeling,” October 12, 2013, www.zerohedge.com.
5. A. Malhotra, C. Kubowicz Malhotra, and A. See, “How to Get Your Messages Retweeted,” MIT Sloan Management Review 53, no. 2 (winter 2012): 61-66.
6. See Kumar, “Hearts on Twitter.”
7. Malhotra, Malhotra, and See, “How to Get Your Messages Retweeted.”
8. A. Maskin and J. Schlenger, “Social Media: The New Frontier of Legal Risk Management,” www.weil.com/~/media/files/pdfs/Maskin_Scandal_Proofing_Article.pdf.
10. A. Harnocz, “Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Backpedals on Remarks About Women’s Pay: Twitter Users Outraged,” October 10, 2014, www.cleveland.com.
11. O. Waxman, “Mea Culpa! Best Twitter Apologies,” May 25, 2013, www.newsfeed.time.com.
12. R. Meyer, “Social Media, the New Press Release,” The Atlantic, October 1, 2014, www.theatlantic.com.
13. “80 Percent of North American Journalists Check a CEO’s LinkedIn Profile Before an Interview, Says New Survey by Public Relations Global Network,” March 16, 2015, www.buchananpr.com.
14. G. Moran, “The Social CEO: How 15 Top CEOs Started Using Twitter,” April 14, 2014, www.business2community.com.
15. J. Watts, A. Rachman, and E. Curran, “AirAsia Chief Tony Fernandes Takes Lead on Crash Response,” December 31, 2014, www.wsj.com.